PAPUA NEW GUINEA
For the Serious Adventure Traveller
Adventure in Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea offers a wide variety of adventure vacations--from bushwalking through the rain forests and canoeing the island's rivers to diving the reefs of New Guinea and the smaller islands. In addition to the fascination of Papua New Guinea's extraordinarily rich and varied natural environment, the island also holds many reminders of World War Two, when it was the scene of brutal battles between the Japanese and Allied forces.
South New Guinea
The Kokoda Trail: This 60-mile trail, leading from the Port Moresby area up into the Owen Stanley Range, was first used by gold miners in the 1890's. It is best and most notoriously known, however, as the site of bloody fighting during World War Two, when Japanese forces, attempting to invade Port Moresby, were pushed back along the trail by the Australians. Hiking the trail, which begins at Owers' Corners (about 30 miles from Port Moresby), takes about five days. The terrain is rugged, with plenty of ups and downs between mountain ridges and through muddy streams.
The Highland region is composed of a long string of fertile valleys, each separated from its neighbours by imposing mountains. Although the Highlands are composed of manydistinct regions, all of which are well worth investigating, the most fascinating of them is the Southern Highland area.
Described by early visitors as the Papuan Wonderland, the Southern Highlands were among the last regions to be explored, and they are still home to some of the most fascinating tribal cultures of New Guinea. The area itself is spectacular, with lush vegetation, dramatic high mountain valleys, towering mountains, and the roaring headwaters of several rivers. The largest ethnic group are the Huli, whose Edenic territory in the Lavani Valley was discovered only in 1954. Like many of Papua New guinea's peoples, the Huli are distinguished by their unique forms of personal adornment--in this case, spectacular wigs fashioned of feathers, human hair, flowers, and the fur of the marsupial cuscus. The Mendi River, a popular spot for whitewater rafting, is also located in the Southern Highlands. Trips of two or three days can be arranged, but only for experienced rafters; the course includes 30-foot waterfalls and grade-five rapids.
The Eastern and Western highlands, while less remote, more developed, and somewhat less topographically overwhelming, nonetheless hold considerable attractions. In the Eastern Highlands lies Mount Wilhelm, Papua New Guinea's highest mountain (14,880 feet). Climbing Wilhelm is relatively easy; it can be done in two days, but three or four are recommended to allow for ample sightseeing. The trail begins at Kegsugl, in the middle of the island, and goes through a moss forest, past lakes and waterfalls, and by the remains of a World War Two-era American bomber plane. From the summit (which is usually snowy), there are spectacular views of both the north and south coasts of New Guinea. Also in the Eastern Highlands is the Wahgi River, which has earned an international reputation as one of the very finest whitewater rafting destinations in the world.
In the Western Highlands, a picturesque region of coffee and tea plantations, is the Baiyer River wildlife sanctuary. Home to the largest population of birds of paradise in the world, the Baiyer River sanctuary is a rich rainforest habitat, with an abundance of wildlife of all sorts. It is traversed by a large number of very well maintained trails, making it one of the most amiable locales for hiking in the highlands.
The Northern Coast
This extremely picturesque town is the perfect base for scuba diving expeditions of all experience levels. The coral reefs of the Bismarck Sea are home to many rare species of colorful fish and eels. Especially fascinating are the underwater wrecks of 34 Japanese fighter planes, with weapons and cargo intact.
From Madang, it's an easy boat ride to the island of Manam, formed by a still-active volcano. Trekkers can hike up the southern side of the 6,000-foot volcano, but they shouldn't expect to reach the summit--steam bursting out of the volcano's top forms an almost constant cloud cover.
This island offers a wide range of activities within easy reach. Rabaul, the capital, is on Simpson Harbor, known for its excellent swimming and snorkeling. Trails in the hillsides around Rabaul, perfect for day hikes, lead to a network of tunnels and caverns built by the Japanese during World War Two. For treks through the dense rainforest, head to undeveloped West New Britain. The town of Talasea is worth visiting for its hot thermal springs and bubbling mud holes.
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