This is an article I have written for submission to a ‘Reader Stories’ contest in Australian Outdoor magazine. They are actively seeking submissions describing your own outdoor adventure – these need to be around 500 words, plus photos if available.
Mooseboy and I were holidaying near Madang, on the north coast of Papua New Guinea.
Apart from scuba diving, game fishing, golf and drinking by the resort pool, there is not a great deal to do to fill in the days. (It’s a hard life!)
Our Lonely Planet guide indicated there was an abandoned WWII Japanese airstrip at nearby Alexishafen, so we decided to drive the 16km out there and take a look.
We had expected the airstrip would be well signposted and easy to find; however the unofficial motto of PNG, expect the unexpected, came quickly into play.
After several unproductive trips up and down the highway in what we assumed to be the vicinity of the air strip, we resorted to interrogating the bemused locals in our very poor Pidgin English, “Mipela lukim ples bilong lapun balus.” (“We’re looking for the place where the old aeroplanes are.”) Finally we were directed towards a small village, where we were met by Moses, a local tribesman who offered to act as our guide.
Brandishing a massive bushknife (machete), Moses headed off confidently into the jungle, with Mooseboy and I following in hot pursuit. We were gradually joined by a dozen or so other villagers, all brandishing bushknives, who had decided to tag along uninvited. The path we were led along was obviously rarely used, and was overgrown and difficult to penetrate.
After marching for about 15 minutes, we were starting to get a little worried that our guides may have had some motives in mind other than the promotion of local tourism. Our hire car was parked off the road, our wallets were bulging prominently in our shorts, and we hadn’t told anyone where we were going. Mooseboy and I shared a few nervous glances as we hacked our way through the thick undergrowth. The humidity was overwhelming, and soon our shirts were soaking wet. The numerous persistent insects only added to our discomfort.
Finally we arrived at a relatively flat piece of land. Moses stopped and proudly announced, “Ples bilong balus.” We were skeptical – it was almost inconceivable that a clearing for an airstrip could ever have been fashioned out of such a setting. Our guides started hacking away at the undergrowth and then suddenly we heard a distinct metallic ‘clunk’ from deep within the foliage. Within minutes the villagers had stripped away the undergrowth and we were left to behold the amazing site of a 60-year old aircraft sitting in plain view.
We were surprised that the villagers would even know that the aircraft was there, given the thickness of the jungle and the distance of the airstrip from the road. Moses explained that a large fire in the area several years before had exposed the aircraft, much to the surprise of the local community.
Our guides joined us for some souvenir photographs with the aircraft, and then we made our way back to the village, with a great story to tell our friends.
To view more photos from our PNG adventure, click here.
Some of my other photos from flying in PNG are here.