In March 2014, my team mate (Richard Johnson) and I (Patrick Hutton), are planning on crossing Papua New Guinea by human power, a six month jungle and mountain expedition.
The build up to the project (which we have imaginatively dubbed ‘Papua New Guinea expedition’ or ‘PNG Expedition’ for short) has been a long time coming. From conception to realization it’ll have taken four months to plan each month out there. Two years of meticulous plotting for a task that some hysterically yet unfairly describe as a death wish.
The idea was born immediately after finishing an expedition in the Gobi Desert, Richard and I had successfully walked 1000 km across the vast open expanse with three camels. Inevitably the question was asked….’What shall we do next?’. After a few ideas were thrown around, the pair of us decided that we’d done our fair share of ‘work experience’ expeditions. Now it was time for something bigger, badder and more dangerous. There it was, with a route at 1500 km Papua New Guinea just about fit ‘bigger’, unrelentingly rough limestone terrain makes it fit ‘badder’, and a jungle full of snakes and sinkholes means it’ll fit more dangerous.
So, for the last two years we have been dutifully saving up, acquiring sponsors, reading books, pouring over maps, training, contacting people with ‘PNG experience’, obtaining camera equipment, researching cultures and a whole plethora of other bits and pieces. It has saturated our families with worry, and our thoughts with pondering questions. From an outsiders perspective it must seem absurd that Richard and I have placed so much of our time and treasure on a dangerous task that could so easily go sour. On day one and we could be subjected to one of the country’s notorious groups of ‘Rascals’, that’ll brandish a weapon before trotting off into the sunset with our kit and cash. I have to admit though, the country will be worth the risk, with it’s stupendously beautiful landscapes and bizarre home grown rituals that can only be the product of centuries of former isolation…… I can’t see who wouldn’t want the opportunity. Besides, in my experience it is only bad press and hysteria that get folk scarred. PNG has certainly been tarnished more than it deserves.
Our starting position is the most northerly point of mainland Papua New Guinea, the town of Vanimo. From there we will walk south, firstly through the little known Bewani mountain range, before slowing to a crawl as we descend into the jungle proper. All the usual dangers of the jungle will be topped with communication difficulties in tribal areas (there are over 800 languages in PNG), undulating jungle terrain, old maps and poor rations of taro and sweet potato. A second razor sharp limestone mountain range beholding only the functional name of ‘Border mountains’ (and that shock horror, doesn’t even posses a Wikipedia page on it) will hamper progress, before another jungle descent and subsequent re-ascent into the majestic ‘Star Mountain Range’. At an average of 3500 meters the tropical discomforts will mercifully cease and give way to the possibility of exposure, sinkholes, falls and rain……. lots of rain. It is believed that if someone were to measure it, it would become the ‘wettest place in the world’. After rolling back into the humid warm jungle, the next task will be to obtain a canoe that enables us to paddle south, on a tributary of the Fly river before the Fly itself, all the way to the mouth in the south. However, with a lack of towns or villages, the south west coast will offer no comfort… we’ll have to paddle on to the small island (and regional capital), Daru, which will finally mark the end of our biggest expedition yet, and Christ it is going to be an awesome one!
Patrick Hutton and Richard Johnson are two young Brits who loves adventure and do follow them on www.pngexpedition.com