Sunday, November 15, 2009

This is my Simbu

I am completely impressed by this post by Barry and Malum.

The only problem is the access road to this most beautiful mountain. Once you get on one of those rusty Public Motor Vehicles (PMV), your life is hanging in the balance - you have 'one foot in death and the other in life'.

I wish the authorities could fix the road to Mt. Wilhelm 


Thursday, November 05, 2009

Magnificent Mt. Wilhelm!

Text and photographs by Barry Greville-Eyres, naturalist and development practitioner working with the Goroka-based Fresh Produce Development Agency

Sunrise Mt. Wilhelm summit
For eco-tourists and adventure-junkies the Simbu Province and in particular the Mt Wilhelm scramble offers an off the beaten track experience that is hard to surpass. At 4509m this imposing edifice flies largely and surprisingly under the tourism radar in terms of exposure, commercialisation, public interest and actual visitor numbers. Herein rests, for me personally, its greatest appeal. Its offers its own, uniquely PNG rite of passage, taken and cherished by the few. Its route is relatively pristine, unfettered and devoid of hype and controversy.
In keeping with the notion of community-based sustainable tourism, almost every kina spent circulates within and boosts the local Kundiawa - Mt. Wilhelm economy. My five day sojourn was remarkably affordable, amounting to K1.200 inclusive of transport (Goroka – Mt. Wilhelm return), accommodation and food, trekking and guide fees and in all cases I was able to meet and pay, thoroughly deserving service providers, directly. This provided a level of engagement and intimacy rarely encountered – well beyond a mere financial or service transaction. Remarkable insights were gained into the people of the area – their dignity, resilience, serenity, warmth, humility and kinship for family and others and their deep, deep connection to the soil and land. It is hoped that this inherent environmental stewardship will support and demand measured and responsible development in the face of developmental challenges currently sweeping through PNG. The self determination and efforts of local landowners, farmers, mountain guides and lodge operators, in the provision of home-grown services, fruit and vegetables, and infrastructure, are applauded.

Camp Jehovah Jireh open for business
The recently established Camp Jehovah Jireh, offering rustic yet comfortable lodge-styled accommodation, is a classic example of local PNG entrepreneurship. The establishment and associated tour guiding services are consolidated under the Mt. Wilhelm Tours company, ably and passionately managed by former school teacher, Martin Thomas. Martin is working towards a ‘stable client base and thus far has attracted an interesting blend of corporate clients (government, volunteer service organisations, and donor assisted projects), international tourists and even a Japanese film production company currently engaged in making a documentary in the area.’

L – R Martin Thomas, Mt. Wilhelm Tours, the author and Paul Sugma, mountain guide prior to tackling Mt. Wilhelm
Recollections of my experience are as varied as they are intense – all making up a rich mental and emotional montage difficult, yet necessary, to share and articulate in the written word. Even pictorial images fall short of the mark but some stories need to be told – somehow. The road trip from Goroka to Kundiawa (traversing Eastern Highlands and Simbu Provinces) is fascinating, dramatic and breathtakingly beautiful – a fantasy farmland often regarded as the fruit, vegetable and coffee basket of PNG. One can hear, see, smell and feel luxuriant growth in profusion whether strawberries, kaukau, monstrous African yams, English cabbages, countless varieties of legumes and bananas and much
more. All natural, fresh, flavoursome, nutritious – as good as it will ever get! The roadside Agro-tourism potential of the area is immense, especially with show, tell, do and taste experiences.

PNG roadside snacks on offer
Summiting Mt Wilhelm, reputed to be one of the Pacific’s highest peaks, rates up there with Kenya’s Kilimanjaro, Namibia’s Fish River Canyon and South Africa’s Otter Trail and many of the world’s iconic treks. The walk in to the lake-side base camp (from Camp Jehovah Jireh) is a comfortable three to five hour amble taking in high forest, sub-alpine forest, grass and heath lands with dense stands of enormous tree ferns. The water catchment potential of the area is self-evident with swiftly flowing mountain streams and an abundance of swampy surface water. The base camp accommodation is simple but adequate, offering stunning views over the lower lake and a natural mountain amphitheatre, both of which are traversed in order to reach the summit.
The Mt.Wilhelm climb is exceedingly tough, bewildering, uncompromising and with a midnight ascent, lasting between four and seven hours, requires a moderate level of fitness and highly recommended conditioning at altitude. As with any remote, high altitude adventure there is a definite risk element involved and moderate on-trail care (steep ground security) and backup precautions should be taken. Our descent was far more sedate – close on eight hours, even at sub-zero temperatures, benefiting from daylight and panoramic views. Pockets of miniature alpine vegetation punctuate the austere yet intriguing moonscape and scree-slopes, clinging to a timeless existence alternating between daily freezing and thawing. Paul Sugma, my expert mountain guide and I were held in morbid fascination, for hours, by the wreckage of a large aircraft littering the slopes above the upper lake.

Upper lake en route to summit
We finally stumbled onto our base camp where interim relief was sought, for aching muscles and creaking joints, in the icy waters of the cobalt blue lower lake. Little did we know that, shortly before our departure, magnificent Mt. Wilhelm was about to offer up one final extravagance to crown a truly unforgettable experience.

Hooked - John proudly displays his sizable rainbow trout

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Another of the Bizzaire SANGUMA stories

Death in a Simbu village brings sadness as well as fear .

The person that has passed away is gone, but the family still feel connected to the cadaver. Because of this connection, they fear for what may happen to the body once it is buried.

The common belief is that the spirits of the 'Sanguma' world will remove the body in the dead of night for a cannibalistic feast. This fear is so strong that a temporary shelter is built by the fresh grave side and up to twenty young men armed to the teeth with weapons and electric torches keep a vigil every night for a whole week. Anything - animals, night birds, insects, domestic animals, humans - that is caught in the vicinity (say 100m radius) is killed.

After the week is over, they think that the body is decomposed enough not to provide a cannibalistic feast for the evil sanguma spirits, so end their vigil.

Maybe, anyone of you out there that reads this will laugh at it as we are now in the 21st century and people should be more civilized. But what I have written here is so real for the Simbu people and this behaviour still exists.

If the stories about the Sanguma spirit intrigues you, do con tact me through this blog and we will see about some more discussions.


Monday, October 12, 2009

Another post on the Sanguma Spirit and a bizzare and unbelivable testamony

Friday 09th October, 2009
Witch suspect brutal murders
By DAVID MURI in Goroka

FOUR people, three sisters and a brother, were brutally murdered in a gruesome fashion in the jungle at the Northern outskirts of Goroka town yesterday.

An eyewitness at the killing scene told this reporter that their bodies were severely mutilated and dumped off a cliff at Zauka. The elderly siblings were suspected of killing a young mother through sorcery at Komiufa village on Sunday.The four were killed when 26-year-old woman, Joki Robin, who was severely interrogated at a kangaroo court, testified that she witnessed the siblings sharing the young woman's heart
at the village.

Those who died included Mrs Robin's own mother. I saw them eat the woman's heart and told villagers when they tried to kill me. They spared my life when I admitted what I saw, said Mrs Robin. When asked if she really saw her mother partake in the heart party, Robin replied: Yes, I saw her with her brother and sisters sharing it. They boiled it and ate it at a hut in the village, said the severely beaten woman, who lost her entire family in the tragedy. Her three little children were also missing. I don't know their whereabouts now, she said.

The witness said the four people were rounded up by the dead woman's relatives at midnight and led to the jungle where they were executed. 
The young woman died at the Goroka Base Hospital on Sunday, allegedly from labour complications after delivery.
But her relatives immediately sought advice from a witchdoctor who pinpointed her death to have been caused by the family. The killing, being perpetrated by many in the village, took place after the young mothers body was laid to rest on Wednesday afternoon.

Provincial police commander Augustine Wampe was not aware of the multiple murders when contacted late yesterday. We've received no reports on the killings,he said.
Highlands divisional police commander Simon Kauba said he could not verify the reports but added that he was stunned by the attack on the four people. I am alarmed about this report. Police in Goroka are there to enforce the law and whoever saw what happened should have reported and those responsible should be arrested, Mr.
Kauba said. He called on community leaders in the area to help police apprehend those responsible for the barbaric act of genocide.

This was reported in the Post Courier (one of the two national news papers in Papua New Guinea) on 9th October. One can make his/her own judgment after reading it.

Thursday, September 17, 2009



Rita now lives in one of the squatter settlements surrounding Kiunga town. While she lives in a settlement her life is not as bad as other people in the same settlement, as her husband and herself are both formally employed and they rake in up to K600 ( Au$243.06 , US$207.60) between them each fortnight. It can be said they are doing as well as can be expected of an average Papua New Guinean family. The unfortunate thing is, they could be doing better than this if only they had had some self discipline in their earlier life at the Seventh Day Adventist Sopas Nursing college.

After completing year 12 in 1996 at Rosary secondary school in the Simbu Province, Rita got a placing at Vunapope St. Mary’s Nursing college Rabaul, on full NATSCHOL sponsorship. However, something went terribly wrong and by the beginning of the new year there was no travel warrant sent to her. After enquiring with both the Office of Higher Education scholarship branch and the Vunapope Nursing College the following were discovered:

· Vunapope Nursing college had decided to award most of its spaces to East New Britain students, so many other students in PNG who qualified, like Rita, were dropped from the list.

· OHE could not give a travel warrant to Rita as she had no placing at Vunapope Nursing college. However, OHE promised that they would give her a placing at a nursing college the next year.

So the devastated Rita spent a year in the village with her parents.

In January 1998 Rita enrolled in the diploma program at the Sopas nursing college as a self-sponsored student, as OHE did not provide scholarship. The whole family contributed for fees that year.

The first year went without incident, but Rita did not make the required GPA set by OHE to attract any sponsorship. It fell upon here brother who was a primary school teacher to find the money for her second year fees. He did that with a loan from the TISA Savings and Loans Society.

Rita’s teacher brother came home to the village one weekend in June 1999 and found Rita in the company of a young man who was a stranger to him.

He soon found out that both of them had been expelled from Sopas as Rita was two months pregnant, and it was beginning to show. It was a blow to the teacher and the family who tried hard to get Rita educated from primary school to a tertiary level. As it was, there was nothing to be done. The teacher asked for a refund of the remaining fees, and from the two thousand plus fees he had paid, he was given back K127.28, with the college citing lots of things they had to deduct money for, including unreturned books by Rita and her man.

The teacher then gave them part of his land to cultivate for food and handed over his two coffee blocks to them. They were told to make money by selling the coffee as well as raising funds by marketing to pay for their air tickets to Kiunga. After two years in the village, the two and their daughter, flew to Kiunga where they now live.

Had they exercised a little bit of self-discipline they would have better paid jobs as nurses in one of the hospitals or health centers in PNG. They would then have the chance to go on to do their degrees in nursing.

They were in a nursing school and all forms of family planning methods would have been available to them. One finds it hard to believe that they could not use any of them, if they wanted to have premarital sex.

As it is they seem alright now, but what will happen after OK Tedi ceases operations? Will they still have their jobs.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

For a measly K6000 a life turned useless

Yer is his name.

Yer is a tall handsome 20 year old Simbu lad. He completed his year 12 at the Kerowagi Secondary school in the Simbu province at he end of 2008.

A few weeks into the Christmas vacation an offer of a place at the University of Vudal arrives. There is great joy and celebration among the family, as one of them has won a placing at University, a result every rural parent looks forward to for all her/his children.

But hang on, there is a catch! The Ministry and Office of Higher Education Science and Technology is unable to offer a sponsorship as Yer's Grade Point Average (GPS) is 0.1 point below their requirement at 2.4, and they require 2.5 or above . The parents find that they have to come up with all the tuition, board and lodging, and travel to and from the University of Vudal, a total just over K7000.00 (US $2400, Au$1800).

Well, the parents while at first taken aback, are not daunted. They dig up there meager K1200 savings over the last three years, and go looking and asking among their relatives, friends and 'wantoks' in the hope of raising the remaining K6000. Yer, their son goes to the Simbu Provicial Administrator for assistance, as he is a family friend.

At the end of three weeks, just before the University of Vudal opens its academic year, they have raised just K300, bringing the total to K1500 - only 22% of the total requirement.

So while many of his school and class mates fly off to their new tertiary institutions, young Yer with all his dreams and ambitions goes bush. He left his family home, telling his parents not to look for him or to even think of him. The parents suspect he is living with his uncles in another part of the Simbu Province, but they have respected his need to be alone by not looking for him. They have not seen or heard from their fist born for nine months now. They are working hard to save enough to send him on in the coming year. But will they have enough by the time Vudal opens for 2010?

Is Yer's case a rare one for families in Rural Papua New Guinea, I ask?

Why are only a few people in PNG 'filthy rich' while the bulk or masses struggle to make ends meet?

Where is legal justice?

Where is natural justice?

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Rice and fish farming by a Simbu man

I publish this story in my blog in the hope that someone will help assist this hardworking man with finance and farm machinery.

The pictures: Top two pictures show the farmer(L) and is wife(R); (centre L) shows main fish pond; (above left) shows the work of one man, using only his muscle power to set up an integrated rice and fish farm over eight years; (above right) shows the man, his wife, and his family of six children

The full story of the man and is work is published below.



EARTH POSITION: Gera is home to a humble soft spoken man in is late forties. His name is William Ulka. He lives and works his land as a way of living; in a typical example of a Papua New Guinean being self-employed. In an age when educated people decide that paid employment is the most attractive way of living, Mr. Ulka decided otherwise. He is a graduate of the University of Technology (1983) as a qualified Surveyor. After a short stint with OTMIL he decided that home and his father’s land were more attractive then a paid job, and bossy bosses telling him what to do and what not to do. He came home to Gera at Christmas 1983.

Ulka’s First Project:

The first project he undertook was a coffee plantation. He organized his immediate family and other clan members to begin on one of the most ambitious ventures - that of setting up the biggest coffee plantation in the rugged terrain of Gera. It took sweat, guts, and an iron will, but after five years William was able to Launch his Company - Krumba Mambuno Business Group Ltd - and also the one and only biggest coffee plantation in Simbu Province - well over 20 hectares of Arusa and Blue Mountain Arabica Coffee. Prominent leaders in attendance at the launching at Gera included the then Opposition Leader and Member for Western Highlands, Hon. P. Wingti, and the then Deputy Primer of Simbu Province, Hon. John Endemongo Bola.

The Company then went on to build a big warehouse near the Highway, which also housed a well stocked canteen, and bought a small Suzuki vehicle to transport parchment coffee from its K4,000 wet bean processing plant to the highway, where bigger transport would lift to coffee mills. The plantation was off to a profitable start, raking in up to K45,000 each coffee season, and employing up to one hundred seasonal laborers. A dream come true for the soft spoken William.

However, events took a turn for the worse, and the plantation ceased operations.

The Plantation’s Demise

William’s family and his clan members had never seen so much money in their lives. While they were happy that their hard work was paying off, they began to question Williams management and entrepreneurial skills and his right to be in control of the plantation and associated businesses. His three younger brothers mobilized and pressured William to hand over the management reigns to them. And so around 1996 the group began to fall apart and the plantation failed.

Eventually in 1998 William reluctantly relinquished management of the business to his younger brothers and their supporters in the hope of salvaging the business. It did not take long for the business to die. William’s dreams of making it big in the coffee business also died.

Why did the business die?

This is a question that would require a discussion into many aspects of business, management , and management of people. However it will suffice to say here that it is very difficult to educate illiterate village people on the inflows and outflows of money in a business. They only seem to look at the total inflow at the end of the financial year and will not/refuse to believe that most of the money goes to GST, loan repayments, and to operations to keep the company going. They then form the opining that the incumbent manager is tricking them out of money - in this case it was, unfortunately, the hard working and soft-spoken William.

William could have easily given up his village and land, after the business failed, but he decided to turn his energies to another self-help project. He decided to grow rice - a new crop just introduced into the Simbu Province by an English man (Peter Craddock) from the VSO in the nearby Rosary Secondary school. He also began digging ponds for inland fresh water fish.

William’s Current Project:

We have read of, and seen pictures of Asian rice paddies and the fish they grow with the rice in the paddy’s water. As far as I am aware paddy technology has not been introduced to PNG by the Department of Primary industry. However, William has experimented and successfully grown rice in paddy fields for almost four years (2005 –2008)now. He produces enough rice to feed his family all year round, and also sells some of the surplus for cash to other village people. The cash he makes, combined with the coffee trees he keeps help to pay school fees for his children, as well as other needs for the family, including travel and electricity bills to PNG Power.

All his paddy fields have been dug out of slopping hillsides at Gera where there is hardly any flat land. William provided most of the labor himself, with some help from his wife and older children. A few of his friends helped him for a few days early on when he began his project. He is blessed with an excellent source of water - a spring that spouts out of limestone in the centre of his property.

Apart from his paddy fields he has dug one big fish pond, and two smaller production ponds. He began with looking after common Golden and Cantonese carp, but has since replaced these with super tilapia, which he reckons have more meat and are tastier.

Apart from all these William keeps a few pigs to meet family obligations, where pigs are considered most valuable in all customary activities. He has tried his hand at rabbit rearing which he gave up after awhile, saying the small animals seemed to eat forever which meant spending a lot of man-hours organizing feed for them. He has also raised cassowaries imported from the coastal lowlands.

However, at the moment William concentrates largely on his paddies and fish.

Concluding remarks

This is the story of a remarkable man.

Only he himself will be able to tell you the pain and suffering he endured when he watched the demise of his first business. No one except himself will be able to describe the effort, the labor in man hours, the pains of manual labor, and the sacrifices involved in his second and ongoing project.

What he needs now is financial aid to complete the project he has stared and perhaps someone out there can help him with enough finance to mechanize his activities.

Williams Contact:

C/O Mr. Gabriel Goye, The University of Goroka, PO Box 1078, Ph 675 7311811/675 72194593

Compiled by: Gabriel Goye

Just a line - on evil powers

Over the weekend I took a trip to my beautiful home in Simbu.

I caught up with news et cetera with my elder brothers and uncles. They were, as usual, happy to see me. On Saturday evening we sat down to an excellent and highly nutritious village meal consisting of sweet potato, tapioka, eating banana, highlands greens, all spiced up with bimoli oil, fresh birdseye chili, fresh ginger, and garlic. This was topped off with a few cups of strong sweet PNG No. 1 tea.

With full stomachs, we lazed around the evening fire in the communal men's hut and just talked about things - Christianity, politics, the latest deaths in the community, and the 'Sanguma' belief endemic in the Simbu Province.

I will talk about politics in a later blog post. Now just a little about the 'Sanguma' 'belief.

Many people in PNG express verbally that they do not and will never believe in the dark or evil supernatural powers, that supposedly exist in the jungles, river gorges, mountains, caves, and villages all over Papua New Guinea.

While, these are based firstly on common sense, then on Christian beliefs, there are some unexplained phenomena that need investigated. I will just share one real story. You can make up your mind on what you think, would like to think, or would not like to think.

In Simbu there is a bird called ' medondi' in the local tongue. The Simbu people believe that this bird is a vehicle used by the evil Sanguma spirits to visit people in the spiritual realm and bring sickness and death. These birds are usually not nocturnal - and if they are heard at night it is only very rare when another bird, or snake, or a falling branch disturbs their night roost.

My mother was visited by one of these birds at night over a period of ten weeks in 2005. This bird literally lived in a mango tree with thick foliage near her house. Over the ten weeks it would call - and its call while not too loud is blood chilling - the whole evening for about three hours and again in the early morning from about 4:00 AM to 6:00 AM. In the past, our fathers would know what was happening and call in a medicine man to stop the bird and subsequently the death of my mother at an early age, but this did not happen due to my brothers and I losing touch with the beliefs of the evil world. Because of this ignorance my mother passed away early.

After the shock and grief of my mother's passing was over, I decided to call upon a kid of about 18 years, who claimed to have the supernatural evil powers of the Sanguma, that lived in another village about twenty kilometers away from mine. I wanted to satisfy my curiosity about the bird and my mother's death.

As son as the kid came to my village we went immediately to my mum's house. Without wasting time or any prompting questions, the kid pointed at the mango tree and told me that one of my own older cousin brothers and his mother had taken up residence in its foliage and over time had slowly caused my mum's death. They had used the 'mendondi' bird as their vehicle for operations. Then he told me details of how they went about killing my mum and that they were now planning on killing some more of us, as the more they killed the more powerful they would become in the spiritual world. Do remember that this kid was not a relative, nor had he visited my village before, or had heard any stories about my mother's death. He just seemed to know what had happened.

It is now eight months since my family strongly convinced my older cousin brother and his family to leave our village and live in another part of Simbu.

If you are intrigued by this story you can contact me through this blog and we will see what else we can discuss.


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

These are images from Simbu.

Even a Japanese tourist got attracted to the Simbu traditional festival dress. Looks like she likes it

Then you see four young men on the trek to Madang province from Simbu - they are near the 'Mondia Pass' the highest point one reaches on the Simbu-Madang trek. They could be standing at about 6000 meters above sea level. The trek can be negotiated by four wheel drive during the dry season, and by foot or trail bike during the wet. The trek goes trough total bushland and if you are a nature lover, this is the trek of your dreams.

Will post more comments and maybe pics in the next post.

Have a nice day!


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

About Simbu

About Simbu

Simbu is a province in the highlands of Papua New Guinea, a country in the Pacific north of Australia. It is located at an altitude of around 7000 meters above sea level with its highest peak at 14000 feet. The climate here is spring like all year round.

The country side is rugged with deep V-valleys, fast flowing rivers, breathtaking waterfalls, and high mountains. While it is rugged, its beauty is astounding. One needs to see it believe it.

The people are among the friendliest in the world. While their living standards do not compare with world stands, and poverty is rampant, they are a happy people. Yet again one needs to meet some Simbus to experience their friendship.

The township is called Kundiawa, with population of some 7ooo inhabitants. A small town but a very busy one serving the almost half a million people of Simbu. All business houses and the town market are easy walking distances (literally next door or across the street) from the three major hotels.

There are three hotel that cater for tourists or other travelers and visitors. The Mt. Wilhelm Tourist Hotel, the Kundiawa hotel, and the Kundiawa Premier Hotel. All offer competitive rates and comfort and cuisine at international standards.

Some pictures are added for your pleasure.