The PNG Chronicles: The Final Leg

In retrospect, the final leg of the walk was the easiest – probably because I had images of our clean, cosy hut dancing in my head the whole day. The plan was to walk to a place called Pongo, then once on the main road catch a PMV (Public Motor Vehicle – a privately owned utility or equivalent four wheel drive, crammed full of villagers and looking like a casualty from a Fast and the Furious chase scene) down to the river. This would eliminate a couple of hours of walking, and I was stoked to be catching any kind of public transport.

There were lots of hills again (this is getting repetitive), but there was one interesting stretch of ‘haunted’ forest that is worth mentioning. I’m not sure what the correct botanical terminology is, but the landscape was more wooded and less choking jungle than the previous terrain. The tree roots formed a woven mesh all over the forest floor, and I guess heavy rainfall over the years must have eroded much of the soil underneath, while leaf litter and other nature junk accumulated on top. The overall effect was like walking on a bouncy dirt trampoline. A step here could result in an assortment of creaks and snaps from over there, which is probably why all the locals think the place is infested with spirits. It is also a haven for leeches, and my cousin Nicole picked up most of them.

Nicole's unfortunate leech mauling.

Nicole’s unfortunate leech mauling.

My American uncle chose the Haunted Forest walk as the ideal time to tell me about some of my grandfather’s escapades during World War II. Apparently he was chosen as one of the local guides for the Australian soldiers, and one day while he and his contingent were all lying down to rest, Japanese snipers took out the blokes on either side of him. Fortunately for me (and a whole legion of descendants), Grandpa immediately bolted for the hills and never looked back.

No sooner had we reached the top of Haunted Forest Mountain than we arrived at this majestic outpost.

The house at Pongo. Just look at that thing!

The house at Pongo. Just look at that thing!

Apparently this was Pongo, and this marvellous dwelling is owned by a gentleman Nicole and I named Pastor Cray-cray. He’s a pastor, and he crazeh. Please don’t think I’m classifying all Christian zealots as insane – just this guy. This is a man who fakes epileptic fits when his wife doesn’t do what he wants. I’d previously met his 30 year old daughter in Lae, and she’s a special kind of crazy unto herself. More on her in another post. Anyway once we got to Pongo, we learned the PMV wouldn’t be along until about 10pm. It was 1pm at this point, and Pindiu was maybe a 4 hour walk away. We all just wanted to get home at that time, so we decided to walk.

Nicole and I had a burst of energy and found ourselves way in front of the group, so when we arrived at the tiny village of Silamana we sat down at an abandoned kande haus (tea house) to wait. Nicole’s wry comment “I wish it was a real candy house” sent me into stiches. Two unattended white girls suddenly materialising in a village doesn’t go unnoticed for long, and before long we’d attracted a cluster of curious folk. A lot of them knew who we were, and several turned out to be related. PNG is the original small town.

Arriving back at Pindiu was probably the biggest feeling of relief I’ve had in my life. All the kids came squealing out of the gate and clung to us like limpets – so did some of the aunties, now I think about it. It was like we’d been gone for a year, rather than five days.

If I never see a road like this again, it will be too soon.

If I never see a road like this again, it will be too soon.

The 'haunted' forest.

The ‘haunted’ forest.

Emerging from the Haunted Forest - don't we look vigorous?

Emerging from the Haunted Forest – don’t we look vigorous?

Silamana village. 'Candy house' is on the left next to the road.

Silamana village. ‘Candy house’ is on the left next to the road.

Bobby clowning around in the dirt.

Bobby clowning around in the dirt.

From left: Gersing, Inga, Nicole, Gersong and Bobby. Five cousins very happy to be home.

From left: Gersing, Inga, Nicole, Gersong and Bobby. Five cousins very happy to be home.

The entire trip to PNG changed a lot of my perspectives about life, but I think that particular five days did the most to change my perspective about myself. It took everything I’d ever prided myself on and crushed it into the mud. My positivity, my fitness, my tolerance, my kindness. I’d never felt less like myself, and it frightened the life out of me that all it took to defeat me was a little discomfort in the wilderness. Thankfully, when everything you ever thought you were is taken away, you hang onto them like hell when you eventually get them back.


Next installment: How to celebrate Christmas in Pindiu while simultaneously pissing off hundreds of Christians.


16 thoughts on “The PNG Chronicles: The Final Leg

  1. Wait … don’t all men fall to the ground and fake a seizure when their wives don’t do what they want? You mean that’s crazy?

    I’ve lost track – how many km’s total did you walk?

    • It was weird! If I hadn’t been about to drop dead I would’ve loved to explore a bit. Probably get snatched up by ghosts though.

  2. What beautiful, striking scenery and I’m sure a total @$%^^^&$##@@@ to hike. I get overheated so I’d hate to wear long clothing, of course I’d get eaten by bugs. Poor Nicole! Remind me to tell you (hopefully over coffee someday) about a BBC story where a woman gets a leech up her nose. Good times.

    “A little” discomfort? Hell, you dove head first into an unfamiliar landscape. Of course it scared you! It scares me and I’m on my damned couch reading it!

    Absolutely love that house. I can see how it can seem haunted, there and in the forest. I sort of get that from the photos. Then again I watch a lot of scary movies…..

    • I’ve had a leech in my eye twice – the joys of growing up in the tropics.

      Not so many bugs thankfully, just lots of scratchy plants and grasses and nettles. The occasional rain showers would have stopped you overheating too much too 🙂

      Aw, I miss scary movies – I stopped watching them since I’ve lived on my own. Actually I haven’t tried watching one for a couple of years, perhaps I’m braver now…any recommendations?!

      • In the eye? Bloody hell!

        Movies… depends on your style. But my favorites are the ones that do a lot with imagination rather than gore, and intelligent scary films. Not many of those. I don’t know what year you stopped watching so my apologies if these are ones you’ve seen:

        The Cell – one of my favorites. D’Onofrio is brilliant, a scary m*****F***, plus you get to admire JLo’s bootie!

        Blinky – short film you could watch……right now!

        Lexx – very good, more a sci fi series than horror. I mention it because one of the villains was also in The Human Centipede, which imo was very good. Extremely disturbing, but almost no blood or guts. The lead actor is great.

        District 9 – my personal favorite.

        • Awesome, I haven’t seen any of those! The last one I saw was….um, Shutter I think it was called? In 2008.

          I thought Human Centipede would be full of gore (I’m not big on blood and guts either – prefer creepy rather than violent). The weather is shocking here right now, so might be time for a rainy day movie marathon…

          • Human Centipede 2 is totally depraved (I heard, did not see). Cell, Blinky and Centipede would make for a killer movie marathon. I wish I could join you!!

            Maybe see District 9 on another day, it’s more of a meaningful message. Sharlto Copley’s performance is profound and beautiful. Not a bad looker either, I should say.

          • So I psyched myself up by watching Warm Bodies…not exactly scary, but really sweat (as far as zombie films go). Also, Blinky…I’m sad and creeped out at the same time, WTF!

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