Story by Satish Moka. Photos by Satish Moka (SM) and Mathias Glass (MSG, cover photo)

The series of flights crisscrossing the country would eventually bring us back to our base at Mt Hagen only by about five o’ clock, the usual time for afternoon showers. Having been forewarned to prepare for an overnight stay, in the not so unlikely case of bad weather, I was ready for a packed schedule of flying with Pilot Mathias Glass. Flying in the co-pilot’s seat as an observer is part of MAF’s in-country introduction and training process to eventually transition to the left-hand side controls of the aircraft. So, on completion of the flight planning and associated paperwork, we got off to a delayed start, the last thing we wanted on such a packed day, because of some fuelling issues. 

Fairly confident of making up the forty minutes delay with few quick turnarounds, we headed off north to the village of Simbai. Descending down into the bowl surrounded by towering hills, Mathias skill-fully manoeuvred his plane along the narrow valley as I frantically searched for the elusive airstrip. As we came around a spur, I could finally see the narrow strip and I was wondering how we would be able to land, as we had quite some height to lose. Following the established procedure, the pilot turned the plane away from the airstrip and into the valley, losing height in the process. Creating space for himself he turned the plane around in the narrow valley and I was getting a glimpse of what true bush flying was. As we were perfectly positioned on short final, Mathias’ call, “Committed to land” indicated that it was a one-way strip and there was
no turning back from this point onwards. 

Simbai – with hills all around (SM)

We touched down smoothly and taxied uphill along the bumpy slope of this airstrip and managed to unload the passengers and the cargo of blankets and trade store goods. It was indeed a quick turnaround and I could see the smile of satisfaction on Mathias’ face as we had cut down our deficit by a good twenty minutes.

The lovely blue sky with puffs of cumulus made for perfect flying as we were headed out to the highland town of Goroka. Enroute, we had a rare glimpse of the majestic Mount Wilhelm, the tallest mountain in Papua New Guinea, normally covered in clouds. I was lost in awe, struck by the sheer rocky faces of these towering mountains, while Mathias was busy on the radio coordinating with another aircraft. We finally saw the tiny speck of white, red and blue crossing us at 9 o’ clock low; a fellow MAF plane from Goroka heading to Simbai. Now we could descend safely through the Asaro pass into the valley ahead. 

Stony face – Mt Wilhelm in the background (SM)

 

Preparing the aircraft for a casket meant the removal of two double seats and refitting a single seat after loading the casket. This reconfiguration work and delay by the passengers meant we were back to square one with respect to our time schedule. As often happens in such situations, we were further delayed on the ground because of other air traffic. No wonder, as soon as we were airborne and set for cruise, we were busy doing mental calculations about time in hand and options available. We worked out that we were still in a safe zone provided we had no further delays.

The weather was still holding and that was a good sign. The leg to Kawito would be the longest leg today and within half an hour we were flying over a blanket of white clouds. The HF call to our base gave us the information that the weather was good enough for landing at Kawito. As we approached closer, we picked up a hole in the cloud-layer, descended through it and finally got a glimpse of the Aramia River which flows next to the airstrip. We positioned the aircraft and landed at the grassy airstrip at Kawito to a big gathering of villagers prepared for the traditional mourning called “haus krai”. Unloading the casket to the wails of the mourners did not distract us from the primary work of refuelling and reconfiguring the aircraft. We did manage a very healthy turnaround at Kawito, courtesy of the smart work of the ground team led by Billy Melesa.

Unloading the casket at Kawito (SM)

 

We quickly got airborne again and stayed at two thousand feet below the layer of low clouds on our way up north to Kiunga. The fact that we had about fifteen knots of tailwind brought cheer to us as we flew above the lowlands of Western Province, whilst being acutely conscious of the headwinds that awaited us on our return trip. 

The lowlands are predominantly flat, with brown muddy rivers winding their way through the endless swamps and forests. Once in a while, a ribbon of red mud cuts through this carpet of green leading to a river, the dirt tracks created by the lumber industry, but not a single road – either paved or unpaved.

Tracks left by lumber industry (SM)

 

The clouds seemed more ominous as we approached Kiunga. It seemed even the weather wanted to add to our woes. We flew around the patches of rain and worked our way towards Kiunga, just to land before the heavens poured down. As if the weather wasn’t enough, the drivers of the fuel bowser were missing in action and this meant further delays. A small respite in the rain and we were energetically hand pumping out fuel into the plane, still hoping to make it in time. Rumginae based pilot Steve Eatwell was to accompany us back to Mt Hagen along with the passengers to Kawito. We made the most of the window offered by the rain and were soon airborne heading back to Kawito.

Rivers – vital for transportation (SM)

 

The return trip was a battle against the winds and clouds. We climbed up to five thousand feet which gave us lesser headwinds but we were forced back down to three thousand feet because of the clouds. The IFR (Instrument) pilot in me was beginning to understand the struggles of a VFR (Visual) pilot who needs to keep clear of clouds. Radio messages to Kawito, weather updates from Mt Hagen and our continuing mental math revealed that a thirty-minute turnaround at Kawito would still give us a safe window to fly back to Mt Hagen. A smooth touchdown on the grassy strip and I was all set for a quick departure. 

As we were slowing down, the composed voice of Mathias stating that we probably have a flat tyre was the first indication of an issue at hand, to a surprised me. He tried clearing the aircraft away from the runway. But when he shut down the engine we still had the plane’s tail jutting onto the runway. We quickly unloaded the plane with the help of some villagers. Using engine power and the now lighter condition, we managed to move the plane just clear of the runway, thus enabling another body charter to land on the field. Mathias’ quick thinking in keeping the airfield open is so essential in these parts of the world, as often the runway is the only link for any further rescue, even for our own aircraft. 

Having secured the plane for the night, as we walked along the airstrip towards the base, it was time for a hearty laugh at the turn of events. The unplanned end of today’s flying at Kawito meant that three MAF pilots would be spending an evening together (a rare occurrence in PNG because of the flying activity and dispersed locations over which MAF operates) with nothing to disturb, even cell phones. We experimented with our culinary skills to turn the little food we had into a proper meal and then had a near candlelit dinner (to avoid the swarms of lowland flies) before we retired to sleep after an exhausting day.

MAF plane parked off the runway giving safe space for other aircraft to land (SM)

 

 

The next morning, our rescue aircraft was in the form of an Airvan with Pilot Tim Neufeld, the ever dependable Engineer Lazarus Nuleya and the pleasant face of Reji Yosuvaraj, our Flight Scheduler and Logistics Officer making use of the available space in the Airvan. Having handed over the tools and the new tyre, the Airvan departed with Pilot Steve and leaving Lazarus with us for the repairs. 

Our new tyre arrives (SM)

 

The art of changing an airplane tyre at an airstrip I realised, amongst other things, also involves substantial spadework (literally). After a couple of hours in the lowland sun and with smears of grease and mud to prove our efforts, we had the plane ready with a brand new tyre. The ever-willing villagers were present all along and fetched us a few green coconuts even without having been asked. After a few hours in the sun, I must admit that it was the sweetest coconut I have ever had.

Spade, timber, jack and ingenuity (SM)

 

As Steve my pilot on “The Double Rescue Act” queried, “What is it with Satish and flat tyres?“

Read the story about the Double Rescue Act HERE.

Story by Ann Hallett, Director of Nursing & Midwifery Services at the Enga Baptist Health Services at Kompiam District Hospital. Photos by Ann Hallett (AH) and Mandy Glass (MG)

 

Thank you to MAF for being so willing to partner with Kompiam District Hospital to make outreach visits to the remotest parts of Papua New Guinea possible. Our recent visit to Malaumanda included a team of six, two medical students, our pastor, our dental technician, our midwife and myself. We were warmly welcomed by the people of Malaumanda. It is such a blessing to provide health care to a people who are so grateful to receive it. Enga Baptist Health Services vision is “Believing God and Serving Holistically.” This regular clinic flight initiative with MAF allows this vision to be expanded and fulfilled.

On the 31st of July, we were greeted by many people who live at Malaumanda. People from nearby continued to come well into the night and the next morning.

Many people welcomed the medical team at Malaumanda (MG)

Public Health Awareness and Immunisation

Public Health Awareness was given by Sr Anneth Pykali, Kompiam District Hospital Officer In Charge of the Maternal Child Health Program. This included discussing hand hygiene, general hygiene and Immunisation.

Sr Anneth Pykali, Kompiam District Hospital Officer In Charge for the Maternal Child Health Program (MG)

 

Receiving immunisation is valued by the people of Malaumanda. Measles is endemic in PNG. Vaccination levels are low, and there are regular outbreaks of this preventable disease. Ideally, immunisation for measles begins under the age of one year. Timely measles vaccination was given to 27 children under the age of one year. Catch up measles vaccinations were given to 135 people over the age of one year.

Two cooler boxes containing all sorts of vaccines, ready to be loaded to the MAF aircraft for (MG)

 

Tetanus boosters were given to 168 people. Tetanus is not spread from person to person and there is no protection through herd immunity. The bacteria are found in soil and human and animal faeces. The bacteria may contaminate puncture wounds such as animal bites, cuts, burns and complicated fractures. It’s the only vaccine-preventable disease that is infectious but not contagious.

Ann Hallett preparing for immunisation (AH)

 

Vitamin A is essential for eye health. Therefore, Vitamin A supplementation was given to 206 children.

Worms are also endemic in areas of Papua New Guinea. One of the most common side effects of worms is anaemia, thus worm tablets were given to 168 children.

On top of that, 135 routine immunisations for preventable diseases such as whooping cough, pertussis, diphtheria, tetanus and polio were given to children under one.

Dental Technician, Mr Peter Poko, and Pastor Lawa in-front of a health awareness poster (AH)

Antenatal Care

Ten women came for antenatal care. Five of these women were in their last four weeks of pregnancy. This was their first antenatal visit. Some had complications of pregnancy and were encouraged to come to Kompiam District Hospital for birth. There was space on the charter to bring one woman in her last two weeks of pregnancy with her seventh baby. She also was being treated for TB and had an extensive skin disease. All six of her previous baby’s were born at home.

The local Village Health Volunteer assisting with weighing babies at Mangua Clinic (AH)

The following week, after the clinic, one of these antenatal women, with a breech presentation came to sit at the Kompiam District Hospital’s waiting house. Women who had barriers to coming to Kompiam were given antiseptic, clean gauze, a pair of gloves and a sterile blade. The local Village Health Volunteer who is trained in the “Safe Motherhood Program,” was refreshed on the skills required for assisting mothers to birth their babies. Now that we know that there is a Village Health Volunteer at Malaumanda, on our next visit to Malaumanda with MAF, we will bring the birthing kits supplied by Birthing Kit Foundation Australia. They will be given to the Village Health Volunteer to assist with a clean and safe birth.

 

Medical and Spiritual Care

There were 110 other people seen for medical care. Common diseases included malaria, anaemia, malnutrition and skin disease.

Our Dental Technician, Mr Peter Poko, assisted many villagers with toothaches.

Dental Technician, Mr Peter Poko, with his pre-packed sterile dental kits (MG)

 

Mr Peter Poko assisting a villager with a toothache (AH)

 

Pastor Lawa spoke at length with the people of Malaumanda about the Christian faith. They chatted back and forth for some time in the evening and again the next day.

Pastor Lawa (AH)

 

The time of our visit was gone all too soon. As the plane landed the next morning we were finishing the last of the child health checks and immunisations. Women were asking for access to long-acting contraception. MAF pilots waited patiently whilst two women received access to an implant under their skin which provides five years of contraception.

Community members asked us to “please” stay two days next time and not to forget about them. We assured them we would not forget about them and their delightful welcome. It was a pleasure to provide health care to such a grateful community.

Happy encounter upon arrival at Malaumanda: Ann Hallett meeting a mother with her new born child whom she assisted a couple of months ago at Kompiam hospital (MG)

Story Mandy Glass. Photos Mathias Glass (MSG), Mandy Glass (MG) and Tony and Lynn Fry (TLF)

Flourishing Trade Stores

The airstrip at Simbai serves more than 25.000 people and marks the centre of the Simbai station. You might want to call it CBD, the central business district. However, most of the people live a long way out and have to walk many hours to the station.

Along the wide footpath, some people sit in the shade of the trees selling kaukau (sweet potato), betel nut and dried tobacco leaves. Betel nut and tobacco don’t grow in Simbai. People walk for hours over the mountains to bring it in from the lowlands.

Along the walkway parallel to the airstrip are about ten trade stores, each more or less selling the same. They are open when the owner is around. The shelves are full. All goods are flown in and are correspondingly expensive. A few examples: 1 kg rice sells in Mt Hagen for about K4, in Simbai it sells for K10.00; 1 kg flour in Mt Hagen is K5, in Simbai it costs K18.00; a 425 g can of tinned fish in Mt Hagen is K5.60, in Simbai, K8.50; a 200 ml can of various soft drinks in Mt Hagen is K2, in Simbai, K5. For your comparison, 1 Kina is worth around USD 0.30.

It’s mainly the money earned through coffee farming which gets spent in these trade stores.

 

Michael Gena, middle, mingling with the locals (MG)

Michael Gena, MAF PNG’s IT Officer, who grew up next to the Highland’s Highway at Minj, shares some of his observations from his Simbai visit: “They had food supplies in there. That was okay. And I think they were okay. But they need some kind of education like in terms of their diet. The people need to include more protein so they can stay healthy. I’ve heard from the locals that they mainly bring in rice and noodles; that is no protein at all. I think they need education to do that. Even though they have schools they need more education.“

Walking through the station past the trade stores, we spotted a little bush house offering provision of loans up to 10.000 Kina. 25% interest though! Michael, an entrepreneur himself and with his forward thinking and business ideas instantly sees room for doing it better. He would encourage the community to set up BSP Rural Banking. After the weekend at Simbai, he even went to BSP Mt Hagen inquiring what needs to be done to have this service set up at Simbai. “I am keen to bring the information to Simbai, to Vincent or one of the local business owners, who could set up the BSP Rural Banking. I think this is something they really need to do for the community.“

 

One patient only at the local Health Centre

Panorama view of the Simbai Health Centre (MG)

Support for people in the remote areas is very limited, and people generally get by with little government help. Eighteen months ago, the Health Centre received their last medicine supplies. By the beginning of this year, the Health Centre run out of most medicine. Handwritten notes at the doors of the outpatient clinic and administration office announce the misery, both in Tok Pisin and English. Six months later, the medical staff are still waiting for new supplies. Apparently, medicine supply boxes are sitting at Madang, one of the nurses said. They don’t know why it can’t be flown into Simbai.

Note at the Health Centre’s Admin Office (MG)

“I think services of the government have not reached them or has reached them before. But now, like with the health supplies… “ reflects Michael. “We went to the haus sik (hospital). They run out of supplies and the only thing to do was to wait and to look after the health of the people with what little they had. I was sad to see that. For us, for like where I come from, from the Hagen side, we go out and have access to health care and we have money and we can help ourselves. We have connections to get around. But for this people, it was very sad for them.“

The boy with the broken leg (MG)

At the time of our visit, only one patient was admitted to the local hospital ward. A 16-year old boy fractured his lower leg playing in a soccer tournament. The accident happened the day before. We were hearing the noise from the sports field after we arrived the day before and when we were on our way to the Anglican church ground. Without x-raying, the leg was restored to shape and splinted. At least, the hospital had some painkillers to give the young boy. He is a 6th-grade dropout, but keen to get back into soccer when his leg has healed. 

Mandy, knowing about space on MAF’s flight out of Simbai the very next morning, inquired with the nurse on duty about a medical evacuation flight to take the boy to a better-equipped hospital. However, the nursing officer who authorises medical transfers had a few days off and went to his village, a several hour hike away. No one can blame him. But there was no way of reaching him to get things organised for the boy straight away. 

 

The High School’s Performance

Overflying Simbai station on our arrival, the high school was easy to recognise. Standing out however, were the six huge water tanks in the middle of the school ground. The school has been waiting for weeks for the plumbing to arrive so that the water tanks can be installed at the class rooms and finally fulfil their purpose.

Simbai High School from a bird eye’s view (MG)

Graduates from 18 primary schools (up to Grade 8) can continue their education in Grades 9 and 10 at Simbai High School. In 2017, 5 out of 56 students from the local primary school made the leap to high school. Of the 200 tenth graders, only 18 students have passed the exam. Some of this bad reputation is explained by the lack of teachers being present to prepare the students for their final exam because of the 2017 General Elections.

 

Road Access for Simbai – A good or a bad thing?

Currently, the government is trying to connect the central highlands of Papua New Guinea through the Baiyer Valley via Simbai with the coastal town Madang. Michael Gena talked about this with one local: “I asked an elder about the road project from Simbai to Madang which hasn’t made it to Simbai yet. “What about building a road and trying to help yourself?“ They already have a road link, at least a section from decades past, which they could improve and reconnect to bring cars in and all that. But they are scared, they don’t like any road link he said. Because it brings trouble and raskols (criminals) to the village; they don’t like to have accidents or wide access to alcohol. They are good with the plane going in and going out. It’s more controllable. They are good with walking. But I thought, you take a risk, build a road and you can have access to other services. I was trying to talk him through but he said ‘We are good with what we have right now.’“ 

Evidence that Simbai was once connected to a road system (MG)

Being under one roof 

Michael made another observation: “One of the other good things that I saw there was that they stay together in community, they respected the leaders. They participated well in community and church organised activities and they were always under one roof. They work together and that is a good thing. Unlike us here [in town], we only come together when there is a compensation or when there is trouble. But we are not always together in one. We do our own business, we do our own things. They stay together and that was a very good thing.“

Sunday Service at the Anglican Church (MG)

The Missionaries

Our hosts for the weekend were Reverend Lynn and Tony Fry from the UK, now teaching at the Anglican Vocational School. They opened their little village house for us to squeeze in, took us around the village and introduced us to several people.

They live a very basic life, do their cooking like their local neighbours in a haus kuk (kitchen), over the fire. This takes time. Time to talk, reflect on every day life, experiences and relationships. It was delicious! Banana pancakes for a late evening snack or crunchy bread for breakfast. Lynn shares, “Life is slow here, and slow is often where we find contentment. We learn to live with ourselves and be happy. I have the time to experiment with local foods, make bread and read as much as I like. Currently, we are loving pumpkin and sweet potato crisps.“

Tony cooking pancakes over the fire (MG)

Michael was impressed to observe Lynn and Tony’s life style. “One of the things that was interesting and what fascinated me was Tony and his wife. They had that village haus kuk and they cooked on the fire. They tried to do some gardening and lived close with the people and that was really amazing. Because in town, we are in our own compound. We go out to the people but our life style is different because we have access to supermarkets and vegetables. But for Lynn and Tony living in the village and having a fire place and a river close by to do fishing was very different to living their life back in the UK. I think this is good and they learned it from the people. I think it won’t be difficult for them to propose on any development or what they want to do. They’ll be respected.“

Reverend Lynn and Tony Fry standing on their front porch (MG)

 

We as MAF love to see isolated people physically and spiritually transformed in Christ’s name. We are pleased to observe that the life of communities like Simbai improve thanks to the dedication of missionaries living within the community. But also seeing the blessings of MAF’s flights in and out of communities like Simbai really making a difference for the rural communities, no matter if we are flying passengers, building materials, trade store goods or their cash crops to market.

Story Mandy Glass. Photos Mathias Glass (MSG), Mandy Glass (MG) and Tony and Lynn Fry (TLF)

People’s Lives totally depend on Coffee

Vincent Kaniemba, a local from Simbai, has the vision to secure the future of Simbai’s many coffee farmers and to improve their income. A few years ago, the trained accountant with a degree from the Divine Word University at Madang, stumbled upon a newspaper advertisement: The PNG Government, in association with the World Bank, was seeking Papua New Guinean investors to professionally develop local coffee and cocoa production. Vincent partnered with the region’s Anglican Church, came up with a concept and won a bid. Today, he is the Project Coordinator for five agricultural corporations in the Highlands.

The multi-purpose building next to the parking bay is visual evidence that things are moving forward at Simbai. Near the bottom end of the airstrip, a coffee processing plant is being built.

Vincent is aware that besides the investment into the local infrastructure, he also needs to invest in the farmers, to enrich and encourage them. With the help of the World Bank grant, the farmers were given tools like spades, bush knives and secateurs, pulping machines and sacks, but also consistent training to upgrade their coffee farming skills.

“During coffee season, we see hundreds of people carrying these heavy coffee bags on their shoulders past our house down to the airstrip,“ says Tony Fry, who with his wife, Reverend Lynn, teaches at the Anglican Vocational School in Simbai. “One of the main coffee plantations is at Kaironk, a 4½ hour hike from the airstrip! Coffee is the only form of continuous cash income for the people here.“ 

“People’s lives here at Simbai totally depend on coffee picking and the local coffee industry totally relies on the airstrip,“ reinforces Vincent. “During coffee season, the farmers camp in their coffee gardens and help each other to pick the cherries.“

By hand, or with manually operated pulping machines, the farmers remove the red and juicy cherry skin and pulp from the seed or bean which is then sun dried. The bean is then flown out from Simbai as coffee parchment quality, which is dried but unhulled coffee beans, packed in sacks of 50 kg each.

Coffee buyers like Ray Bruk, also a local from Simbai, and who owns a trade store there, frequently charters MAF aircraft to take trade store goods into Simbai and coffee out of Simbai to sell it to the coffee roasting and packing facilities in Mt Hagen. He pointed out that he totally relies on MAF’s air service: “Sapos MAF i no stap na servim mipela mi no klia. Tasol MAF is stap na servim mipela ol tarangu manmeri long ples na wokim servis bilong mipela ol tarangu lain long ples. Mipela tok tenkyu long MAF helpim mipela insait long ol remote areas. Tenkyu long MAF kapani i save helpim ol trangu manmeri long ples.“ (“If MAF wasn’t there to serve us I don’t know what. But MAF is there and assists us underprivileged people providing service to us village people. Thank you MAF for helping us in the remote areas. Thank you to MAF for the continuous service for us under resourced village people.“)

Coffee buyer Ray Bruk (MG)

Vincent sees the potential for more development and wants to expand the local manufacturing process. His vision is to see export-ready products flown out of the village: high-quality, organically grown Arabica coffee from Simbai, roasted and ready for the customer. He calls it ‘Tree to cup policy’ and is looking for oversea markets and export partners.

Therefore, the next step for the project is to see green beans leaving Simbai instead of only parchment quality. Parchment coffee price is currently K4.50 to K6.00 (a Kina is about 30 cents US) but the freight cost of K2.80 per kilogram reduces the margin to the grower. The further processing to „green bean“ stage will increase the price to K8 to K12 per kilogram.  The new processing unit will also enable byproducts such as aromatic soaps to be produced

Thanks to Reverend Lynn and Tony Fry and their support to the Kaironk Coffee Cooperative, Simbai grown and processed coffee is already available. On the 24th of July 2018, Lynn posted on Social Media: “We are pretty happy with this. We have been helping the Kaironk Coffee Cooperative with these coffee bags and labels. No fertiliser or pesticides, hand picked and hand roasted over the open fire. Proper sustainability. Coming for sale in Mt Hagen very soon.“

The package reads, “Produced in Kaironk, Madang Province, PNG. Made from Highlands Arabica beans grown without chemicals or fertiliser and hulled and roasted by hand by the Kaironk Coffee Cooperative.

The Kaironk coffee will be sold at the Sweet Spot Coffee Shop and Restaurant at central Mt Hagen. 

The Donkey Trail

A few people run guesthouses for tourists and so create some income. But this industry is far from flourishing and providing a stable income for the people. Currently, the extended Wengi family of Simbai and the two communities of Alvan and Kaironk are hard on the go to establish the Simbai-Dusin Donkey Trail, a walking and cultural experience in the mountains between Simbai and Dusin.

The Donkey Trail can be walked in 4 days, but a  7 days itinerary with a rest day at each guest house, giving the opportunity to enjoy Simbai hospitality. Each of the guest houses has designed a programme of activities to learn about and experience the life and culture of the Kalam tribe. 

And with it comes the hope of generating a sustainable income. It is a joint collaboration between the three communities, each providing accommodation but joining together to promote the Donkey Trail, hopefully for the benefit of all. Each community will be providing different activities.

The inspiration for the trail comes from some local family history, in 1967, Michael Courage, a missionary working in Simbai, had the vision of bringing donkeys to help the Kalam tribe. Unfortunately, those donkeys who managed to survive the long journey from Lae via Madang to Simbai, never bred. Today, only the story of this unique initiative remains. Recently, the idea was born to establish a hiking treck in memory of Michael Courage, linking the homes of the two men who helped him on his journey. The two are remembered by their nicknames Banana and Donkey. Steven Wengi, Donkey’s son, did never see a real donkey. He is the owner of the Wengi Guest House, situated on a small ridge overlooking Simbai, a 45-minute walk from the airstrip. 

The start of the Donkey Trail at Simbai: Wengi’s guesthouse (building on the right) next to the host’s haus kuk (kitchen) and a haus win overlooking the Simabi valley (MG)

The English guided trek takes the hiker to Songvak Resthut, a guest house in the small settlement of Alvan, a steep climb out of Simbai along a bush track, doable in about 3 hours. 

Walking another 2 to 3 hours along the old donkey track, crossing rivers and gullies, the next stop is at the Kaironk village. Beautiful, unspoiled mountains with coffee gardens hiding under the canopies of the forest are waiting for the keen adventurer. This is a unique experience of the life and routines of the Kalam people and their sustainable lifestyle in this remote part of Papua New Guinea. At the different guest houses, the Kalam people will present the interested tourist their traditional life skills like cooking in bamboo, bark and gourds, carving arrowheads, killing sticks and shields, making bamboo flutes, a vine swing or rope from natural fibres. The Kalam people are also well known for their traditional dress with huge and impressive looking beetle headpieces. All this will make the Donkey trail an unforgettable memory.

Kalam tribal life (TLF)

 

Both, the local coffee processing plant as well as the Donkey Treck, definitely are projects that show great local ambition and will strengthen the coffee farmers and Kalam people in the vicinity of Simbai. But both projects totally rely on the airstrip – having produce and people flown in and out the community. We wish that both will become stories of great success and sustainability!

 

Bartholome, the Anglican Church’s Treasurer, displaying a glimpse of the traditional dress when welcoming the three MAF visitors (MG)