Difference between revisions of "Highlands (Papua New Guinea)"
Revision as of 16:27, 16 November 2006
The Highlands is a region in Papua New Guinea.
There are two big towns in the highlands. Mt. Hagen in Chimbu Province and Goroka in the Eastern Highlands other than that, it is mainly comprised of small villages and scattered houses across the plateau.
The Highlands were discovered by Australian explorers delving into the unexplored interior of Papua New Guinea in search for gold in the beginning of the 20th century. They were amazed to discover a whole nation of people living in a fairly advanced agricultural society that had had no previous contact with white men.
The Highlands has the most people of all of Papua New Guinea. Highlanders are comprised of a number of different tribes scattered across the Highland plateau surrounded by mountains. Traditionally they live in clans which comprises a group of families living in small agrarian communities and protecting each others interests not uncommonly by fighting small skirmishes with neighbouring clans (which usually doesn't result in casualties as the clan in that case has to pay a severance to the family of the deceased). The largest tribe are the Huli wigmen, who are famous for their tradition of growing ornamental wigs from their own hair.
As always in Papua New Guinea there is the problem with language. The staff in hotels and some stores will probably be able to speak a rudimentary english but as soon as you get out of the cities people will probably only speak pidgin, or Tok Ples (Which is a generic term for the tribal languages). Therefore it's highly reccommended for any traveller to bring along a guide that comes from the area.
There are flights leaving from Port Moresby to most places in The Highlands and if there isn't. Air Niugini has flights to many destinations and otherwise there are the smaller airplanes that fly supplies to basically every part of the island.
There are basically two ways to get around in the Highlands: Flying or walking. There are rudimentary roads but they are a) Slow and generally in a very bad shape (think, muddy sludge) and b) dangerous because of the occurrence of holdups along some stretches of the road. The reccommended way to get around is to fly to the closest airport to where you want to go and trek from there. There is an abundance of tiny airstrips and its usually possible to talk to the pilots of small aircraft and get them to make slight detours to their itinerary (for a fee of course)
The Highlands is an agricultural society and they do not consume much meat (the pigs are usually saved for weddings and great feasts to show off the wealth of the clan.) The local diet is bland and very starch-intensive. Taro, Kau-Kau (sweet potato), imported rice and other vegetables are the daily staple diet for most people. The villagers generally do not use spices, so it's best to bring some salt and pepper along just in case. In the towns of Goroka and Mt. Hagen there are some restaurants (usually at the hotels) which serve good food, but they are few and far between. The coffee from the Highlands is famous for its high quality, make sure to buy some coffee beans to bring home.
One should always be careful with alcohol in Papua New Guinea, and particularly in the Highlands. The locals tend to become quite rowdy when drinking and have difficulties controlling the amount they consume.
It is said that the Highland people go to war over three different things: Women, Land, and Pigs. So as long as one stays away from those three things one should be safe. It is important to consider especially when trekking in the Higlands that every inch of land there is owned by one or other clan who fiercely protect it. It is customary to give money to the people that own the land you are traversing. Therefore it is always best to have someone experienced set up the deal with the locals before one sets out. It can also be extremely helpful to have a guide from the area with you to avoid any misunderstandings (sometimes a few are needed since not all of them can safely travel through other clans land.) The payback skirmishes that happen occasionally is nothing for the tourist to be concerned about. There are even instances when tourists have been able to witness ongoing struggles between families without any harm coming to them, but as always, its better the err on the safe side and stay away from those areas.