After my trip on the lower Sepik River near Angoram, north Papua New Guinea. I relaxed with my local friend Dony before getting ready to take a night boat to Bogia in Madang province. Unfortunately no boats were available due to rough seas and strong winds. I was low on money, and Angoram being run down and having no bank, off I set back to Wewak at 3AM to get money. I bumped and bounced for three hours reaching Wewak at dawn. I hoped to meet up with Francis, owner of the Wavi guesthouse in Angoram. He was eventually found and we had rice and chicken for breakfast. Once I had obtained money from an ATM machine with Francis’s help I took another PMV bus back to Angoram, this one taking nearly four hours in blasting heat. I arrived in Angoram in late afternoon and returned to Wavi guesthouse where Dony met me and we had a lovely dinner prepared by the lodge’s lovely staff.
Next I took the betel nut boat to Watam village at the mouth of the Sepik River. I sat on bags of nuts and tried to get comfortable. We slowly motored down stream.The six boay from the betel nut industry who were taking their product to the highlands to sell at market and me. It was another motorised banana boat, basically a long wooden canoe with an outboard engine. It took eight or nine hours to reach the mouth of the river where it meets the open sea. Here a driver change was made and with extremely calm weather, we set off across the sea to Awara on the other shore. Some four hours later we were almost ashore and roughly a hundred metres from land when the petrol ran out! Another boat brought us the needed fuel, but then the old spark plugs refused to work! The boys paddled us to shore and I rested in a small forest. A bus arrived four hours later to take us plus several villagers to the nearby villages and eventually onto Madang, the nearest city. Was dropped at Bogia, a small village on the coast. I spent one night at Anua Negu Lodge owned by Jackie, a lovely lady who lives in Madang. Charles and his wife looked after me and feed me more local food, this time fish and rice. I had a lovely self-contained room to myself and could hear the ocean lying in bed.
The following morning, Charles took me in a small banana boat to Manam volcanic island, about an hour’s cruise away. Unfortunately, we were unable to land due to more strong winds and large waves. I was soaked several times and burnt yet again by the strong equatorial sun. Later Jackie sent a car to bring me to her lovely family home in Madang. They were wonderful and treated me like family. I stayed two nights and visited a machine gun used by the Japanese army when they occupied PNG during World War II. And also a memorial to the coast watchers, who secretly gave information about impending bombings and Japanese ship movements during the war.
A day later I was collected by Joel and we took a local bus 17 km to his lovely village, Hobe. I had more local food cooked on an open fire built by stones to keep the heat. Joel took me around the village to visit local homes. The buildings are mostly made of wood with sago leaves for roofs. The kitchen is separate from the house in case of fire. Many husbands and wives sleep separately in traditional conditions. We walked down a long steep hill to where a large WWII bomb dropped by an Australian plane disguised as an American plane dropped on hiding Japanese solders. However, the bomb failed to explode and remains. We walked the forest to a Japanese fox hole, now full of water, but once used by Japanese solders to hide from the Australians and Americans. The Japanese occupied the village but treated the villagers respectfully in this part of PNG.
The following morning Joel escorted me back to Madang where I caught a PMV bus to Goroka, capital of Eastern Highlands. Unfortunately, several bridges had been washed away due to heavy flooding. A guy who was heading to Lae, a large city on the north-east coast decided to help me go to Goroka and ensured I crossed the bridges safely. I later paid for his bus to Lae. We drove for about two hours before crossing the first bridge, many rocks and two narrow pieces of wood hastily constructed by locals. We had to pay two kina, 50 pence to cross each bridge! Once over the bridge we walked through several large pools of rain water that had flooded the road. Once across we trekked for about two km along the rough road in the midday heat before tackling the next obstacle. The second challenge was climbing over a large mud landslide. The mud was thick and sticky. I was stuck on several occasions as we climbed over the large mound. Once across and after stepping over more large rocks, we re-joined the bus and continued. The third and fourth broken bridges were similar to the first but easier and more stable. I took photos of the loud bodies of moving water, one sounding like a waterfall. Once all obstacles were crossed it was back into the PMV for another 3-4 hours of bouncing and bumping up into the highlands and at last after ten hours of travel, I reached Goroka.
I had arranged to meet a couch surfer, but had been calling the wrong number, so on arrival in Goroka instead of meeting my local contact, a guy named Martin, from Asaro Mudmen village was there to greet me. As it was late, around 8 pm and dark, I travelled the twenty minute drive to Asaro. Martin’s lovely family fed me with lots of cooked veggies and some fruit before I retired to a simple but comfy bed. Early the next morning after a hearty breakfast of rice and more veg, I climbed a large mountain with the help of a lovely guide named Jona. It took me about an hour to reach the first part of the mountain where I rested before ascending to the top, nearly 3,000 metres above sea level. We visited several caves and I climbed down several very steep rock steps cut into the mountain. The Mudmen wear masks made of mud to scare their enemies and then take their land. They used to hide in caves when under attack. One cave for women and children, another cave for the men. I crawled on hands and knees into a small hall over rocks to enter the men’s cave. Once inside, I was able to stand. It was nice and cool inside. After exiting the cave again on my belly, we walked down the upper level of the mountain to the village mountain hut. The Mudmen, about five in number, eventually performed a dance in front of me, I couldn’t hear it, but they let me wear a mud mask and I had my photo taken.
In the afternoon, after rain, I returned to Goroka and met my host, Martin. A cool young guy who lives with one brother and a sister. In the evening we had a party and they all got drunk, stayed up all night playing local music, great fun. The following morning I bought a ticket to Port Moresby, PNG’s capital and early Sunday morning the guys escorted me to the airport. An hour later I was in Moresby and back to the intense heat. I relaxed with my couch surfing host Rob and in the early evening met a lovely Australian lady named Celina. She works for a hotel resort in Tuffi and helped me plan much of my trip around PNG. We visited the yacht club and had a delicious pizza, western food for a change! Next morning, Monday 23rd March, I flew back to Vanimo, met Mr Wasa the lovely funny teacher I had stayed with at the beginning of my PNG trip and after acquiring my visa for Indonesia and two days later returned to Jaypura, capital of Papua, Indonesia. Tony is now in Manokwari, West Papua.
Very glad you had a good time with Martin. I have made them a website now. http://www.asaromudmen.com