Plotinus in the Jungle

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A short mountain stroll


It has been my ambition since we first arrived here to hike up a clefted mountain near Good Shepherd.  I thought that I would be able to do so on Nov 23.  I arranged with a first-year seminarian named Eric to be our guide – the mountain is his tribe’s traditional territory.  I invited Sister Letina and a new priest from Poland, Fr. Andrew, to join us.  I thought I had all my ducks lined up in a row.  But then Fr. Andrew and Sister Letina suddenly went on a four-day pastoral visit to a remote valley region and were not as interested in hiking.  Then Eric said that the 23rd would not work for him because the seminarians were having a party for themselves at Joseph Goru’s place (our guide from our last hike near Good Shepherd).  So we rescheduled for the 24th.  We would go to the 7:30 mass together and leave from there.

Well, Eric and the seminarians partied a bit too hard, such that Eric went to the 9:30 mass instead.  Undeterred, we walked with him to his village, only to learn that the hike I wanted to go on would take 6-8 hours and thus there was not enough time in the day.   Eric wanted to take us up the hill we went up with Mr. Goru before, but we compromised and agreed to walk the ridge connecting that hill with the mountain of my desire.


See the clouds in the background, that is where I wanted to be!


The view of the mountain from Eric’s village, you can just make out the cleft on the left side of the ridge.


If you remember this photo, we decided to walk along the ridge behind Annie to finish at this destination.

Our guides for our hike were Eric, a catechist named Leo, a young man named Jonah who wore a slingshot around his neck, and two young boys, named Boss and I forget.  Though the land we were walking in belonged to Eric and Leo’s clan, making them papaground (a.k.a. the recognized landowners), they themselves had never been up the mountain.  Jonah was our actual guide.

We walked through Eric’s village, in which the people were excited that we were going ‘antap’ (on top).  Then we followed a small valley to very steep, but not terribly long climb.  In PNG, they tend to be direct in their trailmaking, not of that switchback nonsense.


Eric and the two children from the top of the first foothill, looking back towards the small valley we walked through.

The path took us by a solitary hut near some extensive gardens.  Inside were two children, about 8 and 5, who had walked up to the hut by themselves, started a fire, and were cooking up some lunch.  Talk about teaching your children independence.  We walked through a bit of a rain forest on a narrow track along the side of the mountain.  Soon we were on the ridge itself which was covered mostly in tall grasses.  As Eric had just spent the last four months in school, he needed to rest on the way up about as much as we did!  This was a nice change from us normally slowing our guide down.


A triumphant and wind blown CC. The mountain behind CC would be the path to the mountain of my desire.


Still windblown and still triumphant. This is the view of the valley and next mountain ranges beyond what we climbed.


Leo the catechist and the valley that we came through to get to the ridge behind him. Highlanders sometimes have light-skin, though Leo is exceptionally light for a PNG national.


Eric and Leo and a view of the Wahgi Valley. The smoke is from a field that is being cleared.

I enjoyed hiking on the ridge very much.  In some places it was only about ten feet wide, so I felt like I was on top of the world!


Our destination, the ridge curves about.


Jonah, guide extraordinaire.


The mountains to the north of us.


Walking along the ridge.


“Where the grass grows higher than the mountains . . . “


A bushman and his child.


Getting closer . . .

There was actually a sizable gap between the last hill on the ridge and the hill that was our goal that had been hidden from view before.  Jonah guided us through a bush track that was more bush than track.  I enjoyed our adventure.  We at times stumbled upon abandoned gardens and once came to a cleared and flattened spot that was one probably a place of exchange.  Eric explained that his clan had used to live and farm on the mountains, but most people now lived and farmed or grew coffee by the road.  Thus the mountains are actually wilder than they would have been fifty years ago.  People pretty much only go into the mountains to hunt, hence Leo and Eric had not been to their own ancestral lands.


Part of an abandoned garden is in the foreground. The white building in the valley is the Catholic outstation of Kallah. The ridge behind bears the home of John Nambis, Good Shepherd’s maintenance man. The waterfall we visited before is on the other side of John’s ridge.


Leo makes CC a walking stick.


The gap between the hills.


Rebecca in what was obviously once a man made clearing now far away from any human habitation. Notice the line of banana trees on the left.


Eric, the proud papaground, and a view of the ridge that we were walking on.


Looking down into the Warakar valley. The right side of the ridge across from us was what we hiked with Sister Letina.

And so we reached the top of the hill that we had hiked up before.  We sat down and had a late lunch of roast sweet potatoes and hard-boiled eggs that we had brought with and, of course, we admired the view.  As I took many picture atop this hill last time, I took none this time.  Leo, upon learning it was almost 3:00, took off down the mountain as he was supposed to be helping to lead a village meeting that was happening in ten minutes!  The rest of us went down the mountain at a more leisurely pace.


The triumphant Zimmermans. The view is of the Waghi valley behind us. The clump of trees to the left is where we were before.


The final destination.


Our way back followed this ridge down. The trail ended right at Eric’s village.

I found downhill more painful than the way up – picking one’s way down a long steep hill is hard on the toes and knees!  On the plus side, we had amazing views the whole way down.  Including a birdseye view of Eric’s village:


Notice that the pine trees are planted in neat rows on the hill behind the village? That land is being prepared for a coffee plantation. Coffee grows in symbiosis with pine trees – the trees give them shade and fertilizer.

IMG_0080IMG_0081Eric was pretty tuckered out after our hike.  He was quite grateful when we said that we could walk ourselves home.  The road took us right by the grounds of the cultural center where Anastasia became a celebrity.  Many of the people recognized her and told her to come back in January when they’ll have another sing sing. (Cultural center = place to have a singsing.)

And so our hike was only five hours instead of 8+.  Eric has offered to take us up the mountain of my desire on Dec 7.  We’ll see if on that day my joy is made complete or not . . .


1 Comment

  1. Mary Allen says:

    What a fun hike. Glad to see you all looking so well.



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