Trip Start Jan 16, 2007
Trip End Jun 01, 2007

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Flag of Papua New Guinea  ,
Saturday, January 20, 2007

PNG Adventures - Mt Hagen

We flew into Port Moresby on 19 January 2007, then caught the next plane to Mt Hagan. Picture arriving in Hagan airport ( a dodgy landing strip) to a cast of thousands all with their dark faces pressed up to the fencing, so many of them, i momentarily felt like a star. Chad said they love to see the aeroplanes arriving and come to the airport specially to see them - the first of many wierd experiences in PNG.  

So we are greeted by one of Chad,s dads friends from his time in New Guinea, his name is Neil, and what a character this man is.....a 51 year old white man, with a 36 year old PNG girlfriend, 3 kids and a 4th just born....the man has been busy. He is connected to the Leahys, the first men who came to PNG and discovered gold in the highlands in the 50s. He was born in Cairns and at 2 weeks old came to PNG and never left......he speaks Pidgeon )and many other dialects) better than English.  

Neil put us up at his colleagues house where Neil is staying because he is filling in for this guy whilst he is on hols.  the house is bloody amazing, a 2 storey house with polished floor boards, plasma TV, surround sound stereo, leather couches, barbed wire fenced and with 24 hour security guards.  For outside the fencing is another world - the town of Mt Hagan has 80% unemployment, and a population of 20,000, so many men particularly sitting around talking and wandering around seemingly doing nothing. The women do all the work (sounds familiar!).  

We hired a car whilst in Hagan, cost a bomb but worth it as you cant walk around for fear of being hassled, robbed raped....hmmm nasty. As it was we had to have a security guy (lovely local chap called Rom) accompany us the whole time and had a 2 way radio to call Budget rental base `should anyone be following us` - yes this is what the rental car people advised us. Once out of town though the locals are very friendly, waving and smiling, but in town, not so much. Stunning scenery, rolling hills and mountains and SO green its amazing, beautiful little huts (traditional homes) and EVERYTHING grows up there, and i mean everything, Pa you would be amazed, chad said his mum back in the 80s/90s would give the locals things like corriander, basil etc to grow and it has proliferated since, incredibly fertile

No one goes hungry or thirsty (beautiful highland clean water from taps), there is no overt poverty like starvation, but rather dirty, roughing it kind of poverty...they live very much like 30 years ago, stuck in a time warp or something, living in traditional huts etc     We went to the local market in town with Rom, it was great purchased fresh peanuts, a traditional dress which didnt fit me in the end (dirty bird for a while re that), all full of women so very peaceful (mind you i had to wear no makeup and an ugly cap and daggy baggy clothes the whole time i was in PNG for fear of unwanted attention (yes hard to belive i know).   

Chad says Hagan has changed a lot since he was there, with the roads, etc in great disrepair (dad we had a four wheel drive and man did we need it! my bones were rattling in the car just driving the main streets!! He used to do athletics on a lovely manicured field wiht a running track in the 90s - now over grown and littered with crap.   

But wierdly some things are in decent shape, like  the golf course. yes i know typical expats having a golf course. we had a game and Rom was our Caddie. I was uncomfortable with the way the locals are treated (the expats have house boys, house girls, garden boys etc) but said they are happy to have jobs for the whities...another world.   

The course was stunning with lakes and trees throughout. the roads outside of hagan are also well kept mostly sealed - this is because local council money is spent on them and the town roads which are crap are supposed to be paid for my Port Morseby money which never leaves port moresby which is very corrupt.     

Also outside of town is a 4 star resort!! bloody wierd! we drove up there (called Rogan Ridge resort) owned by Trans Nu Guinii, so fancy,perched on the hillside, stunning view, very modern, beautiful chalet accommoedation for $500 US a night!!!!!!!!!!!! chad and i had lunch up there with the girl who is managing it - a Kiwi girl aged 27 on her own up there running it!! ridiculous! she was very lonely, also very dangerous for her to be there. they had security but....easy to get through that..  

Violence is still very much a part of PNG and Mt Hagan is no exception. Chad told me that an expat pulled up outside his gated house with his son and was held by gun point as was his security guard and they asked for his keys to the house but his wife was there and he refused, they shot him point blank and threw him and his son (who was not shot) into the ditch and drove off in his car. Awful and certainly had me paranoid with being careful there. Chad didnt tell me that till we left Hagan though. Mendi, a town 400kkm away where chad lived with his family also in the 90s, is in a state of emergency with tribal warfare out of control. i tell you its another world, and yet so close to Australia!!  

Anyway, sorry for the detail but Mt Hagan was fascinating and worthy of recording it. We stayed up there 3 nights with Neil, i cooked for 2 of the nights (neil is very chauvenistic, saying his girlfriend has the right to speak once on a topic but never twice - i nearly choked on the roast chicked i had cooked!!! Neil was friendly enough but spent most of his time grilling chad for stock tips.....yeah not so good.
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