The sights, the sounds, the smells - they are all so different in PNG. Miles of unbroken vistas without roads or any type of modernity; dozens of birds of paradise displaying and calling at the top of a mountain rainforest; the absolute freshest of air. Though pages and pages of descriptions above, I am sure that I have given a good enough description of the place, but I hope that these less tangible feelings also came through. PNG is, quite frankly, magical. I do not think I could recommend a trip here highly enough.
Even as we were leaving, the experiences continued. Flying from Mt. Hagen to Port Moresby, we met an older Australian gentleman and a lady who were working on setting up organic spice co-ops in rural PNG so as to establish export markets for the products. Ms. Cupcake, for obvious reasons, had been in search of vanilla beans since we arrived and was very excited. The lady was kind enough to hand over a bean that she had been given by the farmer herself out in Eastern Highlands Province. The pair said they would be happy to ship us this vanilla in the future as well.
Arriving in Port Moresby and waiting for our bags, the carousel was a veritable cornucopia of fresh produce. People checked large bags full of potatoes, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, greens, etc. Our personal favorite was the sticks of sugarcane that weren’t even in a bag! The ratio was probably about 2 bags full of farm produce to every one actual piece of luggage. Mind you – this was just a normal flight.
In PNG you can see a throwback to generations past - whether it is really generations and generations, as with the Huli still wearing traditional dress and performing ancient rituals or the Sepik initiation rituals, or just a couple generations, like the music store in Mt. Hagen that had almost only cassette tapes.
You can also see the transition to modernity. Digicel is everywhere and as PNG LNG permeates the Tari area, the Huli are bound to lose some of their customs. As a tourist looking for what is special and unique, this can sometimes not be ideal, but for the local people who will hopefully have better access to education, communication and transport, these are positive things.
Papua New Guineans take immense pride in their culture. Their gardens are impeccable and everywhere we went the villagers thanked us for our interest in their traditions. As modernity spreads, some of the old ways are inevitably lost but the people here are keen to protect all that they can. The village elders view tourism as an excellent way to keep these traditions alive and prosperous. All of them asked that we spread the message back to our friends and relatives where we came from that the old ways and traditions are still alive in PNG.
In speaking with older Papua New Guineans throughout the trip, they were pretty much universally pessimistic about their country. There is too much corruption, too much nepotism and, as a result, too much violence and too much poverty. I am going to choose to believe, as my young friend Joseph from the Hagen show did, in a more positive future. He comes from a poor family but has passed all of his exams and is off to university in Port Moresby to study law. He wants to improve the lot of the people in the country through better opportunity and less corruption. I am going to believe in him and his vision.