Like I said, getting there was half the fun and what could have been a disaster, turned out in the end, a good rollicking rollercoaster of a ride which as with many adventures in PNG start with a flight delayed call at
There we were, a small group of 4 sitting in Jackson’s when the announcement came over the PA, “all people flying to Wewak and Vanimo, your flight has been delayed…”, a few audible groans reverberated around the (at the time) mangy carpeted attempt of a departure lounge that serves the Air Niugini patrons in PNG’s capital. It was later we found out that this delay then meant that our pre-arranged driver in Vanimo had felt that we were not coming.
But we boarded our F100, and we were soon in the air and heading to Wewak, not a bad flight, you cruise along to the north west skirting the PNG southern Motuan coastline until you get to Yule Island, where you then start to drift inland and up and over the sort of saddle between the Owen Stanley Ranges to your right and the PNG Highlands to your left. After flying over the top of these ranges you then start to head over the
After collecting our packs, we then headed to the carpark where we were to meet our driver who would take us to the Indonesian border. Vans came and went and no-one driver seemed interested in taking us to the border, but it soon became clear that the driver wasn’t there and he had decided to go home and chew some betelnut because the plane had been delayed and he was off. It was Good Friday by the way and everyone wants their public holiday. The driver had been seen in an old red
And then, a red
The road to Wutung and the border is gorgeous, it snakes it way gently along the north coastline of PNG towards
After 90 minutes of driving, we come to the
We arrived at this house, Doug went inside and spoke to the owner, they chewed some betelnut and we watched the kids surfing just down the road. Doug came back and said that there would be a Custom agent on top of the hill and he could get us to the yellow gate but no further, we would just have to walk the remaining distance to the border. Ok we said, and off we drove again.
We got out of Doug’s Red Toyota at the Yellow gate, shook Doug’s hand and said thanks; he said “Buai” and then drove off at speed. The four of us were now standing at the bottom of a steep hill, with no transport, and no place to stay and the time was marching on. So up the Mountain we climbed, and what a steep climb it was, over 180m change of altitude in a distance of less than a kilometer. At the top of the hill, we met our two Indonesian drivers who were to get us to Jayapura, a handful of PNG policemen and a closed Customs Agency. It was Good Friday by the way.
There were more audible groans.
How were we going to spend our weekend in
We asked if the good Police officers could use their phones to call up someone in town to come up to the top of the hill and stamp us in. They tried their mobiles, no coverage, so the answer was “No”. We asked about the phone inside, and they said it was for emergencies only. This was taking time… The police officers continued to chew. We spied a small scooter and we asked if the police officers could send someone down to Wutung and pick someone up for us, the answer this time was “Yes”, but it would happen after they had chewed some more betelnut.
Sometime later, one of the police officers got on the scooter and then put-put-putted on their way down the hill. Some 45 minutes and needless to say, some betelnut chewing later, a Customs officer showed up and stamped us out of PNG. There was relief on everyone’s faces.