I increasingly take in, on a personal, intimate and frankly emotional level, that these magnificent and challenging two years of working and living in this vast and varied land which is fabled in the annals of anthropology, botany, zoology, history, linguistics, diving, and so many other areas…well, these two years are truly winding down. In three weeks I should be on an airplane somewhere over Australia, having left PNG for the last time. Today, I’ve just flown back into PNG, for the last time, from a trip to Honiara. Honiara is situated on Guadalcanal, a name which echoes for many students of 20th century world history.
I feel a mixture of sadness, pride, and weariness along with both anticipatory and actual nostalgia. (After all, having been here two years and having flown into and out of the POM airport dozens of times, it’s easy to get lost in memories of this trip to that place, or that conversation with this person, almost any time I find myself at either the domestic or the international terminal.) It’s certainly been two years full of purpose and hard work, and I admit to being ready for a bit of a rest.
Look in these pages, over the coming months, for scenes of me at rest in my beloved coastal California home(s), and various other spots around North America. Before I get there I’ll visit some friends in Europe, so we might reflect some early spring landscapes from a few parts of that far-away land… But for now, as I realize the load of unsorted photos grows ever larger, I’ve decided to get a few more up for those of you who find shots of coastlines and cities from the air as fascinating as I do. I deeply hope that I’m not alone in staring avidly out the window much of the time I find myself on any airplane flying through blue skies, even after all these years and flights. Hope you enjoy: they all have names which say what they are; and these are all from the recent trip from POM up to, and back down from, Wewak on the northwestern coast of the country.
…below (if this lays out right) is clearly one of the larger cities in the Highlands, and if I’d been around that part of the country other than just Tari and environs, I might know which one, but I suspect it’s either Mt Hagen, or Goroka. My guess is Goroka, given the route the airplane seemed to be taking, but what do I know?
Flying from Port Moresby Jackson’s International Airport (the airstrip you see above) to Tari Airstrip in Hela Province (formerly part of Southern Highlands Province), in most seasons one takes off toward the water (into the wind; during dry season when the wind has turned to an offshore flow, one flies inland and that’s when I get to take aerial shots of the House of Parliament). This puts one over Bootless Bay, from whose surface I took the shots in this post: https://somuchworldsolittletime.wordpress.com/2013/09/26/cycles-seasons/ …just in case you’re curious enough about the geography and topography of the region to want to picture it all and how it fits together a bit better.
Thence, one turns right – sometimes offering excellent views of downtown POM if you’re seated on the right-hand side of the plane, though of late they’ve tended to cut directly over it which provides poor angles for good aerial shots (how rude, huh?…) – and heads along the coast of Central and Gulf Provinces until one cuts sharply inland to fly up into the Highlands and Tari Airstrip. Though Western Province — with the mighty Fly River — or East Sepik Province (with the mighty Sepik, previously showcased for you here: https://somuchworldsolittletime.wordpress.com/2012/08/06/along-the-sepik-river/) contain the estuaries of PNG’s mightiest and best-loved rivers, still I find the coastal estuaries of Central & Gulf fascinating to view from above. I find myself thinking about sedimentation, rising sea levels, the fertile highlands and all that soil slowly washing out to sea, and all the little fishies which I so loved viewing (you know the link…Neutrally Buoyant is what I called it…) being buried in waterborne mud.
So anyway, in this post I take you on that journey as I myself went a few weeks ago – pretty much in order, from POM to the highlands. In the shots below, look for the little bumpy nubs in the landscape. Though Hela is the only Highlands region I’ve visited, I gather it is not unlike other highlands regions in that it’s both rural-agricultural by nature, and quite densely populated. As you’ll see, there are few roads but it’s in by no means wilderness. It’s highly worked landscape which has been shaped and tended by humans for 50,000 years or more. (Cultivation of taro many thousand years ago made PNG one of those places in the world where humans independently shifted from fully hunter-gatherer to at least partially agrarian.) Sweet potato, which came here via sea routes from South America several hundred years ago, is the primary crop — and I’ve tried to catch a few shots where you can readily see the nubs and bumps of a sweet-potato crop being cultivated. They are the dietary staple for most residents of the Highlands, so far as I can tell, and if you look closely in some of the shots below you will realize how omnipresent they are. Keep in mind these are nearly all Huli familial compounds, tucked away behind the lovely, well-maintained earthen ditches and walls which characterize the Huli landscape…and which, I’m told, are not so common in other Highlands regions. (If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, look at many of my past Tari posts, such as: https://somuchworldsolittletime.files.wordpress.com/2012/08/huli-walled-compounds-on-highlands-hwy.jpg
I figure that’s enough text, and enough of a mix of topography, ethnography and photography for one weekend. We’ve just finished a major conference here, and I’m entering the last phase of my assignment here – which brings on feelings of anticipatory nostalgia since my experiences and interactions with colleagues and communities have been so very rich here. If anyone’s curious, I’ll provide two links to coverage of the conference, the first audio (yours truly) and the other textual (the Guardian):
Enjoy the photos and any of the other links you choose to view. Peace, out. 🙂