Day 6: Mount Hagan tribes, day 2 – Papua New Guinea

This morning I sat on my patio and watched the sunrise over the valley and mountains while drinking 2 cups of coffee and 2 cups of tea. Since it was still a bit chilly I took a hot shower afterwards to warm up. I skipped breakfast because I already had too much to drink this morning and my stomach feels really full.
First stop, The melpa people mogi tribe, different village. This morning they are demonstrating a funeral procession.
The man of the tribe came out to build a fire. At the bottom he placed big dry leaves, followed by thin dry tree sheddings. Then he showed me this larger branch that had a split down the middle of one end with a rock between the break of the branch to hold it open. He then took a long thin piece of bamboo and put it under the branch and rubbed it back and forth quickly producing a spark. With the spark he added more dry material and blew on it. Then he transferred it to a larger area with other materials. He placed it on the center and kept the smoke going, creating a nest around it. It created a stream of smoke that would become the smoke signal that would indicate a death in the family to others in visible distance of the smoke.
Then they circled around grieving for a bit, then they lifted the body up from an enclosure that looked like a mini hut and brought it to be buried. They placed it in a hole in the ground and covered it with large bamboo pieces, followed by dirt, then they added a baby plant surrounded by 5 rocks. As the plant grows the rocks move with it so that they can find it again in the future.
I noted that the mother carried her baby on her back with a strong bilum bag. Then hung the bilum bag on the structure of the town.
Afterwards I bought a little something from them because I appreciated the time that they spent with me. It\’s an arm band for 20 kina, about $6.50 usd.
Next we headed to the jika tribe to see a demonstration of how tribal warfare escalates from a minor land dispute into killings and resolution. They speak the Timbuka language which is very similar to the melpa people language. To get there I walk past a garden that had many different kinds of flowers, all beautiful. One section is for orchids.
There was a quick demo done by kids in traditional dress, with one kid fully naked. First one is working the land then a second boy came out to plant a tree. An argument between the two follows with fist fighting. Then each tribe comes out to fist fight, then they attack each other with spears. One kid \”dies\”. Then someone comes out and ends the fighting through negotiation.
This whole tribe is affected by the city culture. The adults do not take part because they are essentially moving on from traditional tribal life. Although I also note that I have not seen many adults take part in demos yet, there have been a few like the first one from this morning.
The impacts of mount Hagan City are clear throughout each demonstration I see. I\’ve been questioning how much is here for tourists only and how real things appear. From what I see some tribes have more dedication to traditional life than others. While I want more authentic experiences I think that will come later in this trip. Right now I\’m having a good introduction and enjoying each tribes unique practices. As a solo traveler I\’m surprised that they do Therese demonstrations just for me but I appreciate learning about their way of life.
Stopping for lunch, but my stomach still hurts so I\’m just snacking on a little fruit and potato. Ug the pain is constant low in my belly. Maybe it\’s not from drinking too much tea and coffee this morning?
I tell my guide and driver that I\’m not feeling well but that I want to see the last activity of the day. My guide says that explains why im not as jolly as yesterday.
Luckily we are already on location. We are going to go see the chief and his 5 wives – kusumb (koosum). They speak both languages that I\’ve learned but the entrance is a bit of a walk. My stomach it\’s not liking it. I get to the entrance and see some chiotckities I can buy but ignore them. I enter the camp and am introduced to a mute man who will show us around. He grunts every now and then and seems quite friendly. my guide interprets what he thinks the man is trying to point out. I see a large flat space where they usually put on a show for tourists, but certainly not for just one tourist.
Then I see an area where they have weapons and items. I see bows and arrows, shields, huli wigmen hats that are made from Homan hair, kina shells attached to something larger, something that makes it worth even more money. And kudu drums in a hut that is bigger than the ones that people sleep in.
My guide and the mute man pick up a shield and a weapon, my guide selecting an arrow and the mute man selecting a spear. And they play like they may fight.
Next up there is a medicine man hut. I\’m told how medicine men love away from camp and are blessed with healing abilities that make people immediately feel better. At this time I wish for a medicine man to make me feel better. I see a bunch of stone tools and some animal heads which represent thanks from locals. Once you go to the medicine man they will take some time to gather ingredients, then either have you eat, drink, or have it rubbed on a piece of your body to make you feel better.
Then onto a final landmark that contains human skulls! The skulls are past chiefs of the clan. When they die, they let their bodies decay a bit then pop off their heads and place them in this hut. It\’s a sign of respect.

This area had many landmarks and many valuable tribal pieces. That along with 5 wives must mean that the husband is rich.

Everything is so cool, but I don\’t feel well. It\’s time to go.
First they are going to line up the wives for me to see. Only two are there right now, the first wife and the forth wife. They are accompanied by a man holding a spear pointed at me. I told my guide that he must be there to make sure there\’s no funny business. He agrees. After learning about their dress, and I guess the lack of dress over there boobs, we head out.
Each step makes me feel nauseous. I\’m looking to my left and my right to determine if I were to throw up which side would I choose? What walking locations would be least offensive for me to puke at?
Back at the vehicle the driver and guide both understand that I am ill. We are going to pick up the arrows from town and head back to the hotel. This will take about an hour and 20 minutes. I Google map it do that I can monitor how close we are.
Ok, this next bit is strategy anyone who has been ill has considered deeply. Bear with me.
Vehicles drive on the left side of the street in PNG. If I sit on the left side and throw up out the left window then it\’s likely that it will happen very close to someone walking on the side of the road because in png there\’s always someone on the side of the road. If I throw up out the right side of the vehicle then I will throw up into the street, the people on the right side on the street will be in no danger of getting puke on them but I have to watch for oncoming vehicles that are too close.
I choose the right side.
The ride back was a blur. I keep thinking to myself that I can control it. Just like how when I went to Amsterdam for work I was able to not throw up until I just made it into my room after getting I\’ll early in the flight. The road is extremely bumpy. The road is in fact a dirt road the entire way because that\’s PNG. The road is churning my stomach. I start visualizing Garth from Wayne\’s world when he says \”I think I\’m gonna hurl\” and Wayne says \”chew it back man\”. Eventually the vehicle stops they are picking up the bow and arrows in town. My guide was critical of the arrows thinking that they were not done fully. I still didn\’t care but consider throwing them out later in my trip.
I looked at how long Google would estimate my trip would be from there. It would be about another half hour. I thought I can make it.
Even in the blur, things started looking familiar, the long bumpy ride up the mountain had begun. I recognized things that indicated we were getting closer.
The busted vehicles on the sides of the street. The makeshift market place for food that had a few women hanging out. The entrance to the first tribe activity of today, the amazing view that I\’m always happy to see.
Finally we arrive at the hotel! I didn\’t puke! I did it!
They stop at the bottom of the hotel right in front of my room, I didn\’t know they could do that!
I got my stuff and exited.
I entered my room and closed the door and immediately puked a ton in one go. Then I laid down and was probably falling sleep on top of the covers fully clothed when there was a knock on the door. I answered. One of the people who worked at the hotel had come with Pepto bismol. I told him I had medicine. I didn\’t need it but thank you. When he left, I used mouthwash and changed into PJs. Then went to sleep for 2 hours. When I awoke I was feeling mostly better, not perfect but better. I had some water and laid down to try to go back to sleep. Instead I watched the sunset from the bed which was again preempted by cloud cover near the best part. I Wonder if I\’ll go for dinner.
Since you, my family are reading this, you should know that this is not a foreign experience for me. Being sick somewhere and hoping to make it back home before I throw up happens to me. I\’m ok, I know I have my medication at my hotel. It\’s just too bad that it affected my day. Even if I threw up a few times on the way, I know that I will eventually get back and be able to rest up and get better. Plus we all know that i have two trip insurances on top of my credit cards trip insurance for this trip.
It turns out that the front desk called me to ask if I am coming to dinner at 7:50pm. It if I would prefer to have them being me room service. I opted for the room service so that I can eat at my own pace. Cool! I get to eat in the room!
My departure is scheduled for 6:30am tomorrow so I need to repack tonight. It\’s the first charter plane so I will learn what trouble this weight limit thing will be.