we were told by his wife that he was on a trip and would be back that night. So the next morning he showed up and we made arrangements to go birding for a couple of nights in a lodge in the jungle. What is birding like in PNG. For all you none birders I’ll try to explain it a little. There are a few things that are a neccesity. A good guide, like Kiwan our guide, is a must, good binoculars and lots and lots of patience. How do you spot birds. Well there comes in Kiwan the guide. He hears and sees birds when you are still looking at the trees. So on our river trips he’ll spot a bird for you and instantly knows which one it is but now we want to see it as well. So look at that green tree is not enough information as all trees here are green. More exact information is needed like: see that big leafy tree, yes, next to it on the right is a small leafy tree, OK, There is a branch to the left, yep, and on it is a yellow breasted fruit dove. You keep staring and then it’s either oh yes its beautiful or oops it just flew away! But after awhile you get better in spotting the birds. The lodge where we were staying was pretty basic like the food. Its three days of tinned food and everyday the same. But we were there for the birds! So we went for a hike to look for birds and this is a whole other experience than sitting in a boat looking around. You go into the jungle and here leeches are crawling up your legs trying to find some bare skin, mosquitos are zooming around your ears while you are trying to have a good look at the vulterine parrots that are up in the trees. We tried to spot a southern crowned Pigeon but unfortunately unsuccesful but luckily we saw one on one of our river trips. The main attractions here are the birds of paradise (BOP). Now this is a little easier as these birds have specific trees where at certain times they do a display. That is if the female birds are interested. So we got to see the 12 Wire BOP in the distance only and the King BOP was hopping on a tree above us.
It didn’t do a display but we got a good look of him. Our best viewing was not a BOP but the Flame Bower Bird. Close to a village there were a few bower displays. They’ve build a viewing shelter of palm leaves to stand in, in order not to disturb the birds. So we waited and waited but no bird. It was getting hotter and hotter in the shelter and just as we wanted to give up Bob the Bower showed up! A truly beautiful bird. It was hopping around his bower inspecting it and adjusting a few things here and there. This was definitely the highlight of our trip in the jungle and worth all the waiting. Back in Kiunga we still had one birding thing on our program at that is the display of the Greater and Ragianna BOP. Like all BOPs they have a specific area where they do their display and this is at KM 17. KM 17 is the kilometer marker of the road from Kiunga to Tabubil and in the forest here there are several trees where the BOPs do their display.
So the plan was to do this early in the morning and then continue to Tabubil as we had to get some money which was impossible in Kiunga. But the car that was supoost to pick us up didn’t show up and we had to take the PMV ( Public Motorized Vehicle) to Tabubil and postpone our birding. The road from Kiunga to Tabubil only exists because a big Australian mining company is based here. They are really doing a great job here. They made sure that every fish in the OkTedi River is dead! We got to talk to a local who was on his way to Tabubil to sell the golddust he had collected. He told us some stories about the area and how people make a living around here. He told us that on the 137 km stretch of road 4 different languages are spoken and they only understand one of them. So if they want to communicate with the others it is either in Pidgin or English. In Tabubil off course the ATM was out of order but luckily we could get money on our creditcard and we could pay our bills. So we could head back to Kiunga. I guess this was our most interesting trip just to get money. The next morning we finally had transport to KM 17 for the BOP’s and man was it worth while waiting. We got to see both the Greater and Raggiana BOP doing their display in the tree. Quite an amazing sight. That was a nice bonus! Then we had to get to the airport for our flight to Mt Hagen. It turned out that the flight scedule had changed to the afternoon. We decided to wait at the airport. Well, in a shed that they call the airport. After an hour or so missionairies showed up and then locals fully dressed up in traditional clothing followed. It turned out that they were going to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Christianity in the area.
Even the Nuncius ( The representative of the pope) was going to attend. So the locals were here to greet the arriving guests at the airport. We got a free singing and dancing show while we were waiting. Another bonus. After this surprising interlude we went on to highlands, Mt Hagen, a place where tribal warfare is still a normal way of life. They told us that in Mt Hagen everybody is walking around with a manchete. So are you ready for some horror stories? Well I have to dissapoint you because we don’t have any. In Mt Hagen the only thing they were carrying was an umbrella! OK Mt Hagen is not the loveliest place and actually quite dirty and you’ll see red spit on the streets everywhere.
They love to chew on bethelnut here and spit it out when they’ve had enough of it. Everybody is doing it and they even have special bethelnut markets here. The highland provinces are the agricultural centre of PNG and that’s visible at the markets. All kinds of fresh fruits and vegetables for sale and that meant no more tinned food but fresh food. That was a relief after a week in Kiunga. During the day it is really quite safe to walk around town. The peolple are really friendly and minding their own bussines. They don’t harrass you like they do in some other countries trying to sell you something. From Mt Hagen we went to Goroka in the eastern highlands by PMV. This is how it works. You go to the busstop early in the morning and get on a bus. They will drive around the busstop to get all the seats filled up. It really is a kind of sport for them to fill up their bus and trying to convince people to take their bus. As a white person you get the best seats and they make sure you feel comfortable. So after an hour or so we were full and ready to go.The trip through the highlands was great. Beautiful scenery and quite relaxing. In Goroka they were all concerned that we would get to our hotel safely. We could use their phone to make a phonecall and they made sure we weren’t harrassed. In Goroka the people were even friendlier than in Mt Hagen. A colorful market and even an interesting museum with local crafts. We planned to do a tour here but the official tour operators are quite expensive and the local guides are hard to find. Just as we decided to skip doing a tour here a local guide found us!
So we decided to do a tour with him the next day. He took us to one of the villages in the valley where they showed us a cave that has been important for this clan over the last centuries. Altough converted to Christianity they still believe in the spirits that live in this cave and they still sacrifice pigs for them. We also went to the village of our guide where we had a typical bamboo lunch made by his wife. All in all a very interesting tour with spectacular views of the Goroka valley. Another PMV took us through the mountains, plains and tropical forests to the coastal city of Madang. Another great trip. We are glad we didn’t listen to the expats trying to convince us that traveling in a PMV is dangerous. We had a great time on our PMV trips. So we’re back on the coast. And it is hot again. We loved the climate in the highlands. Warm during the day and cool at night. We’re staying in a resort just outside the centre and it’s packed with expats. We haven’t seen so many white people for weeks. In Kiunga and the highlands we were usually the only ones walking around town.
One of the main attractions of Madang is the flying foxes that inhabit the town centre. They are everywhere! We’ve booked a flight to Vanimo. The border town with Indonesian Papua. Tried to book a hotel there but that is impossible. All hotels are fully booked as there is a conference in town. We just have to see when we get there. But that’s for next time.
Our flight to Port Moresby was cancelled so we had to stay an extra night in Tufi and enjoy our last Lobster meal. As the flight left the next morning early enough to connect with our flight to Kiunga we haven't spent any time in Port Moresby, the capital. As stories go round that it’s not the safest and most interesting place we didn’t mind spending an extra night in Tufi. When we arrived at Kiunga we hoped that Samuel our birding guide would be there to pick us up but after waiting for some time we realized that we would have to take action ourselves. The public phone was not working for years already, but some friendly people at the airport let me use their mobile phone so I could call around and see if we could get in touch with Samuel. First story was that he is still in Fiji! But when we arrived at the Kiunga Guesthouse