Up close and personal in PNG

‘The villagers want to know why you came here. They think you must be bigmen from your villages,’ our guide explained. ‘Are you bigmen?’

No, we most certainly weren’t. We felt far from big at that moment, mud stains up to our knees, sweaty, sunburnt and humbled by the hospitality we’d received at this village deep in the Nebilyer Valley.

The day before we’d arrived at Haus Poroman near Mount Hagen, capital of Papua New Guinea’s Western Highlands province and stood on the edge of the lodge property, looking over the prehistoric valley, half expecting a pterodactyl to screech past. We’d be sleeping somewhere down there the next night.

I’ve been on cultural tours before. In places like Thailand and Morocco these ‘village experiences’ have a staged feel, with conveniently-placed snake charmers and kids that charge you five baht to take their picture. But this was the highlands of PNG, where there’s little tourism. The beaten track, if you could call it that, was a long way from here.

Meet the Neighbours, The Sun-Herald, March 4, 2007

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