Flying from Port Moresby Jackson’s International Airport (the airstrip you see above) to Tari Airstrip in Hela Province (formerly part of Southern Highlands Province), in most seasons one takes off toward the water (into the wind; during dry season when the wind has turned to an offshore flow, one flies inland and that’s when I get to take aerial shots of the House of Parliament). This puts one over Bootless Bay, from whose surface I took the shots in this post: https://somuchworldsolittletime.wordpress.com/2013/09/26/cycles-seasons/ …just in case you’re curious enough about the geography and topography of the region to want to picture it all and how it fits together a bit better.
Thence, one turns right – sometimes offering excellent views of downtown POM if you’re seated on the right-hand side of the plane, though of late they’ve tended to cut directly over it which provides poor angles for good aerial shots (how rude, huh?…) – and heads along the coast of Central and Gulf Provinces until one cuts sharply inland to fly up into the Highlands and Tari Airstrip. Though Western Province — with the mighty Fly River — or East Sepik Province (with the mighty Sepik, previously showcased for you here: https://somuchworldsolittletime.wordpress.com/2012/08/06/along-the-sepik-river/) contain the estuaries of PNG’s mightiest and best-loved rivers, still I find the coastal estuaries of Central & Gulf fascinating to view from above. I find myself thinking about sedimentation, rising sea levels, the fertile highlands and all that soil slowly washing out to sea, and all the little fishies which I so loved viewing (you know the link…Neutrally Buoyant is what I called it…) being buried in waterborne mud.
So anyway, in this post I take you on that journey as I myself went a few weeks ago – pretty much in order, from POM to the highlands. In the shots below, look for the little bumpy nubs in the landscape. Though Hela is the only Highlands region I’ve visited, I gather it is not unlike other highlands regions in that it’s both rural-agricultural by nature, and quite densely populated. As you’ll see, there are few roads but it’s in by no means wilderness. It’s highly worked landscape which has been shaped and tended by humans for 50,000 years or more. (Cultivation of taro many thousand years ago made PNG one of those places in the world where humans independently shifted from fully hunter-gatherer to at least partially agrarian.) Sweet potato, which came here via sea routes from South America several hundred years ago, is the primary crop — and I’ve tried to catch a few shots where you can readily see the nubs and bumps of a sweet-potato crop being cultivated. They are the dietary staple for most residents of the Highlands, so far as I can tell, and if you look closely in some of the shots below you will realize how omnipresent they are. Keep in mind these are nearly all Huli familial compounds, tucked away behind the lovely, well-maintained earthen ditches and walls which characterize the Huli landscape…and which, I’m told, are not so common in other Highlands regions. (If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, look at many of my past Tari posts, such as: https://somuchworldsolittletime.files.wordpress.com/2012/08/huli-walled-compounds-on-highlands-hwy.jpg
I figure that’s enough text, and enough of a mix of topography, ethnography and photography for one weekend. We’ve just finished a major conference here, and I’m entering the last phase of my assignment here – which brings on feelings of anticipatory nostalgia since my experiences and interactions with colleagues and communities have been so very rich here. If anyone’s curious, I’ll provide two links to coverage of the conference, the first audio (yours truly) and the other textual (the Guardian):
Enjoy the photos and any of the other links you choose to view. Peace, out. :-)
Here at smw, slt we’ve spent a few weeks away from home – first helping out at the base of our new project in Port Moresby, about which you can find links in our last post, and then visiting our longstanding project up in Tari. While at the new project I was able to ride along for a sensitization outing at 9-Mile market here in Port Moresby (pics above, and many shots below). While on the flight to Tari, I was able to get some better shots looking inland at Port Moresby & the coastline around us than I recall having a chance at before. I hope you’re not all getting bored with the aerial shots of Moresby and environs. As usual, not much story here, just pics of life and what I’ve been seeing. Btw, the umbrella above is modeled on the PNG flag.
Another note: since my personal computer died, I’ve been posting from a backup which has only firefox and not google chrome. I find that these posts read much better in chrome than firefox, so if you’re finding that photos overlap and you can’t see it all very well, I suggest that you consider another browser. Not that I want to shill for the g-word-company…but I do find chrome a bit better for viewing these than either firefox or explorer, for what it’s worth.
Another note: if you wish to see links to the coverage of our new project, go to this post: https://somuchworldsolittletime.wordpress.com/2013/07/14/spiderwebs-on-a-misty-hike-and-one-dead-computer/ and if you are curious, the hike from which those photos came took us essentially from the top left corner on this photo immediately above (assuming your browser shows what I hope), along the ridge of hills you see, to just about where you see the big road hit the port in the center-right. From this angle, you’d never really imagine it could feel so remote & wild from inside it, huh?
Above: intoxicants are us at 9 Mile market (the green nut-looking things are buai aka betel nut); and below the intoxicatingly lovely highland mountains of Hela Province on a road trip I took down Komo, a district centre at the end of the Highlands highway just next to the massive PNG LNG project which has enormously affected development and the economy in most parts of PNG that I know — POM because of corporate workers etc., Lae because of the harbor which is at literally the other end of the road from what you’ll see here, and of course the highlands and especially Hela itself because…well, that’s where the LNG is physically being extracted.
When you see the big trucks carrying ocean-going freight containers over the one-lane bridge across the river which you see directly below (that river shot was taken from the bridge while it was temporarily closed to clear some planks or reinforcement of some sort or other), or the truck that’s gone off the edge of the road and overturned itself, keep in mind that until about 30 years ago there was no road here. I’ve not researched when the highlands highway reached Komo, but I sense it was roughly 30 years ago. The LNG construction started…about 3.5 years ago.
Above: any time you get off the road for a nature call, you find amazing stuff — flowers or odd other growths that you’ve never imagined before. We heard a bird of paradise calling on this nature-stop, but only one of us (not me) saw the thing. I’ve heard them several times, but not seen one yet. Sheesh. Another colleague commented he’d seen then twice and killed one once for feathers for his head-gear…to which I pointed out it’s no big surprise they hide from humans now!
I had trouble getting a good focus on these tree flowers so I tried to make art out of it. Sorry. Below: the cooks seemed happy to welcome me back to Tari this time. :-)