Saturday, February 04, 2006

Mt Wilhelm

Well we're back in Australia... but I thought I should cover our last weekend in PNG. Ricky (an employee at CRMF), Tim (a engineering graduate volunteer at CRMF) and I decided to have a shot at climbing Mt Wilhelm - tallest mountain in the Pacific at 4500m. As it turned out however, just GETTING to the mountain was the hard part.

We took a PMV to Kundiawa, simple enough 2 hour drive. However from there to Kegsugl (at the foot of Wilhelm) was a little harder. In the dry season it's a 2 hour drive. In the wet season it's probably a 4 hour drive at least. The day we tried however there was an added complication - some locals, unhappy with a counsel election result decided to rip out a bridge in protest. We were told this in Kundiawa, but decided to give it a shot anyway. After waiting for 3 or 4 hours to get a lift, we finally ended up in the back of a 4WD ute heading in the general direction.

2 hours later we reached the bridge - and started walking. We had hoped to meet a vehicle of some descroption on the other side. Instead we walked in the rain for 5 hours until we finally made it to a hut above Kegsugl where we slept. The guys who's hut it was are guide's on Wilhelm and are building their own guesthouse there.

Since climbing to the summit of Wilhelm involves a midnight start from 'base camp', 3 hours higher than Kegsugl, it was out of the question for us that evening. So the next day we climbed up to base camp - a beautiful place in it's own right with Alpine lakes, rugged mountains, waterfalls and an old Japanese plane crash.

I had the privelege of being shown around a trout farm, run by 'Betty', a local personality. I bought a few trout to share with our hosts for dinner. I think they were more disgusted by the price I paid than happy about eating them though... stupid white man!

After another night spent with torch in hand ready to shine at rogue rats, we headed home - an hour walk down the mountain followed by stints on about 4 different PMVs (several of which broke down... one at a very opportune moment next to a village in the midst of a special celebration).

I can't pretend that even if we HAD time I would have made it up Wilhelm - I really don't know. Nevertheless, I LOVED the weekend!

On the road to Kegsgul from Kundiawa


The bridge (or lack of) that foiled our chance to have a shot at Wilhelm

Tim, Ricky and myself at 'base camp' - somewhere above 4000m

Looking down from the upper lake.

Dinner - trout from Betty's (K7.50 each (about $3)... I thought that was ok!)


Self-portrait on the back of a PMV

Local village celebration
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