Papua New Guinea, Land of a Thousand Tongues
Papua New Guinea is a pristine land in the most literal sense of the word. It has almost no infrastructure in place to facilitate tourism, and that is one of its most attractive attributes. The unmarred landscape is host to a multitude of unique species of animals and plants that can’t be found anywhere else in the world or anywhere outside their specific valley or mountaintop. The incredibly unforgiving mountain landscape locks people groups apart and has spawned over 800 unique languages and cultures all in a relatively tiny country.
We arrived in Port Moresby, and the first thing that struck me was the incredible heat and humidity. This shouldn’t be a huge surprise to anyone who has been in a tropical climate before, but for me it was quite the shock. We were going to visit my uncle and aunt who were working as missionaries in the Highlands, so we left the city behind and traveled by truck on a road that quickly became a dirt track with immense potholes.
The people are dirt poor and shockingly generous in spite of it. It is to be a point of pride to be a good host, and many locals will go out of their way to make sure you get what you need. However if you go off the standard Tourist track it is not uncommon to run into people who have never seen white skin or a beard before and you shouldn’t be overly surprised if people randomly try to touch your face. If you see people missing joints from their fingers it is because in some parts of the highlands it is custom to bite or cut a piece of your finger off when a loved one dies and then to wear the lost digit around your neck as a sign of mourning. Not doing so is thought to invite the wrath of spirits. Rugged interior of the island supports hundreds of isolated tribes, each with their own unique language. Because of the nearly impassable terrain it is not rare for some groups to have no contact with the world outside of their small valley for years at a time. Even plants and animals are often unique to a tiny area with no way to expand out of their isolated areas. Trying to understand how people got there in the first place without the use of modern technology boggles the mind.
The staple at lower elevations is the treated rubbery pith of Sago palm trees. It tastes like nothing and is virtually impossible to chew raw. It’s definitely not delicious, but it beats going hungry. Fortunately there are also many other food choices available including the freshest of the fresh in bananas, pineapples, ad sweet potato. One day we had a special communal type of dinner where a bunch of people got together and brought food that was packed into banana leaves and then buried in a pit lined with rocks that had been heated in a fire.
Go out of your way to know about local disputes before you go hiking around in the highlands. There is nothing quite as eerie as running into a group of heavily painted men with bows and spears heading the other way and cheerfully chatting with you only to let you know a few minutes into the conversation that they’re going down to the town you just came from to start a war!
Papua New Guinea is absolutely the trip of a lifetime.
About The Author: Lydia B is a travel blogger who has a passion for visiting new places and meeting new people. She currently blogs about <a href=”http://londontravelhelp.
Photo Credits: #2, 4, Lydia B, #1, 3, Flickr:eGuide Travel