San i go dai pinis by bobfoto

San i go dai pinis

The last chapter of the great walk. Our aim was to leave PNG's highest mountain, way up in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea and walk down to the coast. A few days later we had discussed our journey with Betty and she asked how were we going to get from Brahmin Mission into Madang, and we said we'd catch a bus or grab a truck heading into town, but Betty insisted that she visit her daughter for the weekend and she would meet us at Brahmin. I remember how much she charged us for the drive from Hagen to her Lodge so I was concerned that she was just about to rip us off again. A bit of umming and erring saw Betty say to me "no charge, I'll pick you up on the way through, just remember, I will get you at 2pm, the moment you step out of the jungle and onto the road. She said the jungle will just stop, and your track will just stop, and there will be a road, and a bridge off to the right. 2pm, be there."

In the 2.5 years that I had lived in PNG up until this time, no plan like that has ever gone according to schedule. Planes are always late, canoes are always missing, engines do not start, tyres go flat, walkers get lost. We had next to no chance of being at that point at exactly 2pm and Betty had no hope of being there either. This was a pipe dream.

So we bade farewell to Sister Roslyn, hoisted our packs and still felt bitter towards Ken and his attempt to stop us staying at the Mission and his foiled plan at getting us to stay with his wantoks so we could generate more income for him and his family.

Sure enough, our porters and guides showed up at our meeting place and we prepared for the final day. Lionel was still with us and he carried GFs bilum and he was keen to see the ocean. Off we set.

Half an hour into the walk, Boss Ishmael asked if we wanted to take the 11 hour long slow march down the old highway, or the 6 hour steep descent down the bush track inside the dark dank jungle. Well seeing as I wanted to meet Betty in 6 hours, I said let's go the shortcut. The right fork it was.

An hour or so later, we came across a house, and a bush gate had been erected. I asked Ishmael what was up and he spoke to the landowner. Ohhhh I see, we had to pay a fee to trespass on this man's land. I had been forewarned that the possible road tax may be involved, so I was open for discussion, and I also let Ishmael and Ken know that if required, I was happy to walk back up the hill for 1 hour in order to walk the 11 hour longer journey if this issue wasn't resolved.

So the discussion went along the lines of "why are we paying this fee?" Ohhh for maintenance of the bush track, so I suggested that there were picnic areas, and places to rest and even a bushhut if we were tired for the day? Just like there is on the Kokoda Track? No there wasn't? So what maintenance was happening? None? I thought as much...

It was at this moment I reminded Ishmael and Ken, that the job of a guide was to clear up all land owner issues so that the trekker had a clear path from start to finish. In fact the reason why we were generous in the payment to guides when compared to what the porters were getting was to allow the guides to pay trespass fees, camping fees, firewood purchases, vegetable purchases and other incidentals along the journey. So I thought it was an opportune time to re-negotiate just how much Ken and Ishmael were being paid. I also let the landowner know that it was the guides job to pay these fees, because I was giving them quite a great deal of money to make my walk a pleasurable experience.

I also discovered that the landowner was an Uncle.

Ishmael and Ken then had a chat to Uncle, and it was decided to let us pass. I shook the Uncle's hand, said "Tenkyu tru" and then let him know that Betty will be informed of this matter.

Ken's plan to fleece more cash was foiled once again.

It was a great walk, we passed many people and stopped for a chat, and then we turned right and descended down a super steep embankment for an hour or so into the darkest jungle. Hornbills flew from tree top to tree top and the air was heavy with moisture. As steep as the climb was down, the path now climbed high up over a ridge and then down again and then up again. Susan wandered behind us, not making any fuss nor bother.

At the bottom of one such climb, the jungle just opened up infront of us and there was a huge steel Bailey Bridge, with no timber planking. Just the steel skeleton of the bridge. We had somehow made it back onto the Bundi Highway, and this 50 year old bridge still traversed a rocky roaring gorge below. We walked across the steel girders looking down between our feet at the raging torrent of water below us. One slip and it would feel as if you were about to plummet to the rocks below. But we made it safely, and there were others to come.

At one creek crossing, there was a great waterfall, so we all undressed and jumped in for a freezing refreshing bath. We were getting close to sea level again, so the air was 30ºC with high humidity and thick and warm, but the waterfall was being fed by a creek that was formed 3,000m above us back in the cold mountains. It was icy!

So after a quick tub, our bodies cool and relaxed from the massaging water, we got dressed again and then started what should have been our last hour. It was 1pm and Betty would soon meet us at the end of the jungle. There were bamboo clumps that stood 60ft high and tall Pandanus and just a forest of trees and vines and palms. We were told a story that the Japanese soldiers buried all their guns at a secret location during the war and the locals have been trying to find it ever since.

My mobile phone then rang... it was Betty and she said she was on her way and reminded me that at 2pm, the jungle will stop and that she would be there waiting.

Sure...

I looked at my watch, 20minutes to go, thick impenetrable jungle and Betty would be there? Riiiight.

10minutes to go and the Jungle was not easing, we were hot and sweaty.

5minutes to go and as far as I could see, the jungle was still continuing.

1minute to go and I had given up all hope of ever walking out of the jungle alive, ever again! Our arms and faces were scratched from lawyer vine and our feet were sore from three days of walking down hills. And then, just before 2pm, the jungle stopped.

In front of me was a sealed road, just off to the right was a bridge, complete with timber and some guy just sitting on the railing. There was a wall of jungle behind me, the sun was warm on my face.

And then, Betty and her ute came driving around the corner, across the bridge, and stopped right at my feet. The clock ticked over to 2pm. Betty beamed with her huge toothy smile and said "told ya, hop in."

So we jumped aboard, everyone happy and overjoyed that the walk had finished. And we drove to the Brahmin Mission. Ken and Lucas got out of the car, and Betty drove off yelling to Ken "Don't you steal anything this time!" and we drove down the road to the town of Madang.

I paid Ishmael his money and told him to pay the porters and Ken the amounts we agreed on. He understood. I then pulled young Lionel aside, he was excited to smell, hear and see the ocean. I gave young Lionel a generous payment and told him not to show it off around Ken or the bigger boys, because they would steal it from him. I asked what it was he would buy with it, and he told me that he would buy betelnut for it only grows on the coast and the Highlanders had such an appetite for it. He would get Aunty Betty to cargo it up the hill and he would sell it for a small fortune back at his village.

While I disprove the whole betelnut addiction of PNG, I admired young Lionel's entrepreneurial savvy.

Later, GF and I sat down at a bar, and watched the sunset while drinking a cleansing ale. Good times... good times.

Oh, this photo was chosen above the photo I took at Madang that evening. This one was from Milne Bay. Photo taken 23 November 2008.
What a beautiful memory and sunset.
November 29th, 2012  
Beautiful sunset, and yet another wonderfully entertaining tale.
November 29th, 2012  
@swguevin @fjh - Thanks Sheila and Francesca... just noticed it was photo 700 for my project!
November 29th, 2012  
wooooooow! so beautiful! :) also it´s so funny to read abut Hagen, because a city nearby is called also Hagen.... :D love this chapter of your journey! :)
November 29th, 2012  
Cool
November 29th, 2012  
It's like movie timing! Love the happy ending and gorgeous sunset too.
November 29th, 2012  
Stunning :-)
November 29th, 2012  
700 Mr Daniels.. Bravo ;) Awesome shot... simply stunning
November 29th, 2012  
Beautiful sunset scene, Jason! Terrific color and reflections!
November 29th, 2012  
The death of the sun literally? Sunset, of course.
November 29th, 2012  
A sunset photo always makes a good story ending. Very nice highlights on the choppy waves.
November 30th, 2012  
Gorgeous sunset shot. Fantastic shot. Betty really had the timing down. Unbelievable! I think I want Betty to plan out all of my trips for me.
November 30th, 2012  
@agentzuckerguss - ahh this one is Mt Hagen. There are some German names in PNG as it once was a German Territory before the war.

@johnnyfrs - thanks

@archaeofrog - and a beer!

@gemtumble - Thanks Gemma :)

@michelleyoung - thank you,

@grammyn - Cheers Katy!

@frankhymus - literally yes.

@rvwalker - it was the choppy waves that made me choose this one.

@daisy - That was a one off... no other PNGean was that close!
November 30th, 2012  
Beautiful sunset
November 30th, 2012  
oooo nice golden nessarama
November 30th, 2012  
@abhijit - *sigh* It sure was!

@houdiniem - Oh yeah!
November 30th, 2012  
700? Wow well done. Amazing story and amazing sunset. I'm not remotely savvy enough to travel like this, I really admire you and all your adventures.
November 30th, 2012  
@filsie65 - Oh thanks Phil, travelling is easy once you get past the airport.
November 30th, 2012  
gorgeous scene
I would have been so happy to have seen the back of Ken, but I think Lionel sounds like a great character
I am amazed by Betty's timing - very impressive
November 30th, 2012  
You do lead an interesting life...where do you get the time to watch cricket?
November 30th, 2012  
Nice sunset again never get bored reading your stories.
November 30th, 2012  
Sounds like a wonderful relaxing end to a great trek. Beautiful shot.
November 30th, 2012  
@lbmcshutter - to give Ken a bit of credit, it would appear that these lads had no male role model, and the only discipline was when Aunty Betty was swinging. All 4 of the lads, Lionel included, spoke English really well, and you could tell that they had received a decent education somewhere. I think with good guidance, Raskol Ken could have become a decent man... the chances of that happening? Unlikely. And yes, Betty's timing was amazing considering how far she had to drive to get to that point. Our 3 day trek probably covered 40kms yet her drive would have been around close to 300kms, through road blocks, massive pot holes, stopping at markets to say Hello and the rising Ramu River. Heavy rain high up in the mountains was threatening to flood the low lying sugarcane fields of the Ramu valley.

@steeler - I do find some downtime every now and then. ;)

@hobgoblinwychwo - Thanks John, cheers!

@geocacheking - We camped out for a few nights in a pretty decent resort with pool, bar, hot showers, comfy big beds, a choice of meals but it felt really weird after spending such honest time with such beautiful people.
November 30th, 2012  
Sam
Wonderful image .....wish i was there and not here in the cold and dark ....lol
November 30th, 2012  
@samr - certainly one of the joys of life in the Tropics is the warm weather all year round. Makes it hard though to head to cooler climes and having to adjust to wearing piles of clothes again!
November 30th, 2012  
Really pretty movement on the water
November 30th, 2012  
@5unflow3r - Thanks :)
November 30th, 2012  
That bloody Ken!

Beautiful shot.
December 1st, 2012  
@kjarn - Thanks Kathy, if you read my response to Megan Richardson, then you will see that I think Ken had a chance in life.
December 1st, 2012  
@bobfoto unfortunately a chance gone by I bet.
December 1st, 2012  
This is beautiful!!!
December 1st, 2012  
@kjarn - unfortunately you are prolly correct.

@scooter - Thanks Scooter! :)
December 1st, 2012  
A fav! Fabulous story and shot. What an interesting life you have had thus far!
December 1st, 2012  
@boatpainter - Thanks Janet... sometimes I sit back and go Wow! But I am also thinking that maybe there's some more to come ;)
December 1st, 2012  
Beautiful sunset. Love the 2pm thing. The jungle just ends. :D
December 30th, 2012  
@hellcat - Never in my 3 years of PNG did anything go so according to plan. Literally 6 ft back into the forest and one could not see the road... take 3 steps and bango! Bright sunshine and blacktop. Such a crazy moment!
December 30th, 2012  
lol. I bet your expression was priceless. They should set up a camera to catch people's faces as they step out of the jungle. :D
December 30th, 2012  
@hellcat - I remember the sunlight being really bright and glaring. Like leaving a cinema.
December 30th, 2012  
Even better! A photo of blinding light and surprise.
December 31st, 2012  
@hellcat - and blinky bill?
December 31st, 2012  
December 31st, 2012  
Springsteen... a man's man.
And agreed, better... but certainly not as cheesy as the other.
January 1st, 2013  
@hellcat - Manfred Man and his fantabulous Earth Band certainly has some edam and gruyere going on!
January 1st, 2013  
lol... I don't know why it didn't strike me that you were a foodie.
January 2nd, 2013  
@hellcat - lurve me food!
January 3rd, 2013  
That fits.
January 3rd, 2013  
@hellcat - really?
January 3rd, 2013  
yep... I had to google the cheeses... and your beer and wine shots.
January 4th, 2013  
@hellcat - omnomnomnomnom!
January 4th, 2013  
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