Bat with Prunes in Papua New Guinea
Originally published 15 January 2010
The massive, rusting hulk of Gold Dredger Number 6 laid anchored deep in silt by the side of the Bulolo River. It looked like an alien spaceship had crash landed into the mountainous tropical bush of Papua New Guinea, something of a coincidence since we had been travelling with a woman who looked like Sigourney Weaver shortly before. I clambered warily over its walkways and platforms and tried to imagine my father maintaining this and other of these huge metallic beasts some sixty years before.
My wife Mary and I were staying in my birthplace, the small town of Wau (pronounced Wow - something I’ve had to live with) in a comfortable guesthouse run by Tim and Danielle Vincent, one of the very few sources of accommodation that exist there. The hour’s steep drive up from Bulolo town over the narrow, rocky and muddy road that clings precariously to the side of the river gorge had been enhanced by the driver pointing to where a vehicle had gone over the week before.
It looked like an alien spaceship had crash landed into the mountainous tropical bush of Papua New Guinea.
It was an eerie feeling standing in the exact, if somewhat derelict, hospital room I was born in fifty-seven years before. However, the few other travellers in the area were, puzzlingly, less interested in my family history and more in trekking along the arduous trails used by Australian troops fighting the Japanese in the Second World War.
Not many British tour operators seem to cover Papua New Guinea and, given the blank and slightly startled reaction of friends and family when we told them of our holiday plans, this is perhaps not surprising (our PNG cook book containing a recipe for bat with prunes and cream sauce may also have helped to put them off).
The trip took us to Wau via the clipped lawns and mossy mountain forest of Ambua Lodge near Tari, home of the narcissistic but quarrelsome Huli wigmen (make-up, mirrors and an obsession with wigs but armed to the teeth and keen on payback feuds with other clans) and a more African-style wooden lodge perched above the muddy, meandering waters of the Karawari, a hot and steamy tributary of the Sepik River. In both places were saw varieties of birds of paradise, the national symbol, flaunting their extravagant tail feathers to attract mates, a habit which also means they often end up as decorative head wear.
Our final destination was the Madang Resort Hotel on the north coast, a magnet for keen divers, but also an ideal opportunity to watch children feeding eels with bacon rind in the sulphurous but crystal clear waters of a stream at the nearby Balek Wildlife Sanctuary.
Clive Harber travelled to Papua New Guinea with Audley.
Find out more about tailor made trips to the Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea is a place untouched by time, where tribal peoples live in remote spots far from regular contact with the outside world, where pristine rainforests shelter a staggering wealth of wildlife, where transport is by light aircraft or boat, and where travel truly becomes an adventure.Read more »
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