Saturday, April 18, 2009

Western Province

Flying over PNG whether in commercial F100s, small light fixed wing aircraft or even in a helicopter, it is amazing to look out and watch the Mountains rise and fall and the emerald green forests that carpet these peaks and valley floors. But catching a flight to Daru, and then jumping on a little plane and heading further west until you reach the border with Indonesia, the environment below looks like another country indeed. Spreading out below is a vast wetland of Melaleuca forests, acres of open grassland and not that many people.

A friend once said to me that the Bensbach River is like a place where God removed all the people and left only the animals behind. And animals there are a plenty of. When you get sick of the gorgeous view from above and you step out of the plane, there’s always a boat waiting at the end of the runway which will give you a Barramundi’s eye view of this vast wetland area. This is where you will meet all of those animals that God left behind; huge crocodiles, white breasted sea eagles in every second tree, wallabies, Rusa deer, goannas and an endless variety of birds.

But if you look closer, there are Papuans living here and the small communities of Weam and Wando are an interesting clash of cultures. There have obviously been attempts to modernise this part of PNG, many houses had tin roofs and there were cars parked in front yards around the place. On occasion a telephone tower sprung up as the tallest member of this flat wetland but thanks to a lack of follow up maintenance, the people here now no longer rely on telephones to communicate… they now have message boys and bicycles. The cars that sit in front yards no longer drive as there are no longer any roads in the province and the tin roofs are slowly rusting and being replaced by thatched grass materials.

Slowly, all attempts to bring the 21st Century to these communities are being rolled back and traditional living is looking more and more likely to be the future. It doesn’t appear to faze anyone, the people are wonderful and warm and inviting. Life on the river moves rarely faster than the river itself and it is a requirement to stop and chat to everyone you meet either on land or water.

Oh, and some of the animals were well tasty. Roasted wallaby and venison, large barramundi steaks cut from a fish caught only an hour earlier, and crocodile curry all served with locally grown vegetables made for a culinary experience that rivaled the experience of seeing such a gorgeous countryside.


Malum Nalu said...

Great stories and pictures about PNG on your blog.Keep up the good work!


Karl said...

Hi Steve,

we must preserve these beautiful lands.

Wish i knew how to email you but I am concerned with your President appointing a number of 2 dimensional economists to advise on your carbon sinks. Please read this article critiquing Oz's latest handout to polluters and later commenting on how PNG could sell the carbon sequestration rights without giving away access to the land itself. Any bets Jeffrey Sachs and co will advise to give away the land as well for a rickbottom price. Lease it as a % is our call.

Steve Bennett said...

Thanks Malum and Karl for your comments, and thanks for following.