Jonathan Atherton explores the rivers, mountains, and towns of Papua New Guinea. His journey begins in Port Moresby, the capital city which is infamous as a hive of crime andcorruption run by ‘rascals’. Certain areas are not even patrolled by police, yet Jonathan finds his way safely through the city to his lodgings. The following day Jonathan explores some of the local markets, and eats some local food, including the traditional dish of lime, beetle, and mustard.
From Port Moresby Jonathan catches a bus to Garoka to attend the famous Garoka show. The show was initiated in the 1950’s in an attempt to quell the many tribal wars that were plaguing PNG. Over thirty different tribes exhibiting their traditional dances, customs, and offering re-enactments of historical events. Jonathan stays with a group of mudmen and takes part in one of their rehearsals for the show.
Leaving Garoka, Jonathan flies to the small town of Tari. Here he is witness to a dispute over a dowry of pigs and kina shells – the shell that gave its name to the currency. In the chill of the highlands, Jonathan catches a slight headcold and is taken to see a local doctor, who treats him using herbal remedies. He then promises to bless Jonathan – and does so by beheading a live chicken plucked out of the nearby undergrowth.
The next leg of Jonathan’s journey takes him to the Sepik River. At 700 miles long, the Sepik is one of the longest rivers in the world. Jonathan hires a guide to take him up the river, and it is his guide that takes him to the Spirit House or Haus Tamaran that took 6 years to build. Papua New Guinea is renowned for its wood carving, and he is able to purchase some traditional carving. Jonathan also goes on a nighttime crocodile hunt.
Papua New Guinea became independent from Australia in 1975, and Jonathan joins in the Independence Day celebrations by launching a boat race on the Sepik River.
The hullabaloo of Independence Day is left behind as Jonathan flies to the secluded island of New Britain and, afterwards, to New Ireland. His first port of call is the town of Rabaul,famous for its volcanic volatility. Rabaul is also famous for its World War Two wrecks. Jonathan goes scuba diving off the, around the wreck of a Japanese cargo boat, and an extremely well preserved bi-plane.
A short boat ride takes him north to New Ireland and the coastal town of Konogogo. Jonathan continues to expand his hunting experience, and this time his quarry are the sharks that inhabit the two mile deep ocean surrounding the island. In a small catamaran canoe Jonathan’s guide shows how they call the sharks to the boats by replicating the sound of fish by shaking coconut shells in the water. He then explains – much to Jonathan’s surprise – how they garrote and club the sharks to death once they have come to the surface.
Jonathan hikes up a mountain near the town ofAsiki to one of the most famous ossuaries in the world. Almost 80 years ago, there was a bloody tribal war, and those that died were smoked and taken up the mountain where they were covered in clay. As a result they were very well preserved, and are open to view – unburied, a tangible family tree that allows contemporary generations to appreciate their heritage and their ancestry.
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