RSS Feed

A daughter’s odyssey

Posted on

After spending three nights in the chaotic and lawless Papua New Guinea towns of Port Moresby and Lae,  Inga (age 30) will this morning commence a journey with her Mum which will inevitably change her life and perspective of the world forever.

She will step into a rugged little Britten Norman Islander aircraft at the refurbished wartime airstrip at Nadzab, and with propellor blade tips spinning just inches from her ear through the side window, fly over the spectacular mountains of the Huon Peninsula into another peaceful and intriguing world surrounding the tiny landing ‘strip at Pindiu.

She may even use an occasional expletive during the final landing approach (below) and think her life is about to end before it really got started.   (Internet gremlins are interfering with the youtube link so the only way to see this ‘interesting’ aviation exercise is to copy and paste the following URL)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nBn4OYUJbpU&list=PLDD7563CA053A8759&index=6

I admire Inga’s courage in leaving behind a comfortable life in Australia to discover the places of  Mrs GOF’s childhood, and I am enormously proud of her for accepting the challenge.
She will suffer from culture shock.  She will be physically exhausted climbing mountains.  She will have little privacy, and have to use communal pit latrines. She will bathe and do laundry in creeks and carry water and firewood for cooking.

The rewards however will far outweigh the privations.  During the next 18 days of walking though the Dedua and Hube areas she will discover an entire extended family who will love her and care about her. She will walk through some extraordinarily beautiful scenery and meet some of the happiest and most hospitable people on Earth.

It is also coincidentally exactly 40 years since I conducted my first  ten-day walking patrol through Dedua villages on these same bush tracks in the role of a rural development officer.

Inga will return to Australia culturally enriched and understanding why those of us who had the privilege of working with PNG village people a very long time ago retain such an enduring affection for them and their country.

The following photographs of the Pindiu-Dedua area were taken by Mrs GOF in 2011.

DeduaTewae

Domestic pig Rebafu village

Afong village with Pindiu airstrip in background

Afong village with Pindiu airstrip in background

Masaweng River tributary

Mongi River suspension bridge

Mongi River suspension bridge

Mongi Valley walking track

Mongi Valley walking track

Pindiu village house

Pindiu village house

About GOF

"Life is like a sewer. What you get out of it, depends upon what you put into it." (Tom Lehrer)

45 responses »

  1. It will be an incredible experience. I wish I could be there! 🙂 I can’t wait to hear Inga’s stories!

    Reply
  2. And that little piggy is just darned cute.

    Reply
  3. I cannot WAIT to see her next posts. Why are you not going with?

    Reply
    • I had originally planned to go, but at a late stage Inga’s uncle and cousin from Minnesota also joined the party. Five’s a crowd. 🙂
      Plus with Mrs GOF away it’s a good opportunity to give my ears a rest for 3 weeks.

      Reply
  4. I’ll look forward to Inga’s posts when she returns. I expect she’ll want to bring that dear little piggy back with her as company for the bunny.

    Reply
    • I just hope she enjoys the experience Snowy even though she will be well out of her comfort zone. We asked her how much involvement she’d like to have in the ‘preparation’ of animals for eating……from memory I think she remained speechless, but this girl has a way of surprising me with her strength of character when it’s required.

      Reply
  5. That’s going to be an amazing experience for her.

    Reply
    • It certainly is Mike, and I’d like to be a mosquito on her backpack when she’s climbing up a mountain just to hear the bad things she’s saying about me ‘forcing’ her to go. 🙂

      Reply
  6. Oh, what a wonderful experience. Sometimes we have to step out of our comfort zone to truly appreciate the beauty that is just beyond our boundaries. I think Inga is up for the challenge…

    Reply
    • There’s nothing like experiencing the relative hardships of living in places like this to make you appreciate the comforts which we take for granted in Australia.

      Reply
  7. I hope we will hear all about her adventure. It really sounds amazing — and I’m sure being the daughter of you and Mrs GOF she is better prepared than you think! Good luck and safe travels to Inga!

    Reply
  8. Just incredible. She’ll no doubt relish a hot shower when getting back but I’m sure she’ll also know the real defenition of “paradise” after her visit. Also how cool to have a fascinating family history. Inga is young but I notice she has a special gift for appreciating the deeper meaning of things.

    Reply
    • I’ll have motel accommodation with a hot shower waiting for them when they return. (Inga flies south on the following day so no sense driving all the way back to the farm just for one night.) Mrs GOF’s side of the family is far more interesting than mine….hopefully one day she will write it all down.
      You’re right about Inga, there’s a lot going on under the surface.

      Reply
  9. Hard to describe but it for fathers who have kids (no matter how old they are) undergoing this rite of passage, it does leave a very happy lump in your throat. Feel free to grab that Kleenex when nobody’s looking GOF ;-)) I’ve been there.

    Reply
    • It’s comforting to have your thoughts Ninja as we both feel the same way about our daughters. Every time I see her off at an airport, and even writing blog stories like this I discover that I’m not as tough as perhaps I should be. I take full advantage of those moments ‘when nobody’s looking’. 🙂

      Reply
  10. Is this her first visit to PNG? It must be interesting living between the two very different cultures of her parents!

    Reply
    • Inga last visited PNG when she was 6 years old, so her memories of that time are rather sketchy. I hope one day she writes about the cultural differences….until now she’s only experienced ‘Western’ culture.

      Reply
  11. Wow, what a great experience, something she will always remember. It’s beautiful there!!

    Reply
    • It really will change forever the way she views the world. The Huon Peninsula is one of the most beautiful and geographically diverse areas I’ve ever seen, and according to my own comfort sensors Pindiu at 3000′ ASL has the world’s most perfect climate.

      Reply
  12. Beautiful photos! My Dad was in New Guinea for a time during WWII (August, 1943–April, 1945) & then he was moved up to the Philippines; he was a Squadron Surgeon with the 5th Air Force Advance Echelon & the 92nd Airdrome Squadron). This past summer I compiled all the letters he had written to his parents & my mother into a memoir which I’ve had bound as a book. I’ll give it to my son for Christmas. Included are many fascinating descriptions of the locations where he was in New Guinea (which he could not reveal in letters); he described the terrain, the animals, the natives, the weather, etc., etc. So your photos are meaningful to me! I’m sure Inga’s trip will be meaningful to her as well.

    Reply
    • Thank you Elaine, and what a wonderful gift to present to your son. My Dad also wrote letters home to Mum during the war, but their value is reduced by the censorship not only official but also that which was done by Mum who typed out the letters and destroyed the originals.
      There is a strong possibility that your Dad was posted to Finschhafen which is just 22 miles from Pindiu in a straight line. If he describes coral beaches and a narrow strip of land with ocean on one side and lagoon on the other then chances are that he was at that major American base.

      Reply
      • Dad never mentions coral beaches; he states, “The mountains are awe inspiring & majestic, rising to extremely great heights, with deep valleys between. The clouds are almost always large & billowy & hang low over the hills. The sky is a beautiful blue. The high peaks & valleys, the dense clouds covering the hilltops & the capricious winds make flying quite treacherous. The dense jungle, the rugged hills & valleys make ground warfare all the more hazardous.”

        Reply
        • Thanks for sharing those words from your Dad, Elaine. It is a beautiful word picture of many places in PNG….most coastal areas have nearby mountain backdrops and the flying conditions are always hazardous because weather conditions change so rapidly. It would be really interesting to find out where he was posted.
          In Australia it’s now a lot easier to access certain war records of servicemen. I knew my Dad was injured during the war so I applied for copies of medical details….turns out he had burst eardrums from high altitude flying when he was a navigator on bombers. My Dad, like many other WW2 veterans, refused to talk about the war after he came back.
          I now wish I knew more about him.

          Reply
          • I felt the same way as I compiled my Dad’s letters into the memoir book; I never talked with him about his experiences & now wish I had also. I don’t know whether i could find out exactly where Dad was in PNG or not….I know he moved several times in the 2 yrs. he was there, & then he was moved on to the Northern Solomon Islands, Bismarck Archipelago, the Southern Philippines, & Luzon after that. And he would go to Australia (Melbourne) for his rare leaves. Was your Dad in those areas as well? I wonder if our Dads were ever in the same areas!

            Reply
            • I also wish that I had asked Dad the right questions, but I was only 26 when he died and I had been raised in an era where children spoke “only when spoken to” so I never had the courage (or perhaps interest, because at that age I was still consumed with youthful self-indulgence) to
              interrogate him.
              My Dad was never in New Guinea. His letters to Mum tell
              mostly of travels by ship to Canada where he was based at
              Winnipeg, but then things get vague…..although I know he was posted to Ceylon and the Middle East.
              I have great regrets at my missed opportunities to talk with him because I’m sure he would have been happy to tell me his life story. As it is I know so little….hence one really big driver for this blog. Inga can never accuse me of providing insufficient information about myself. 🙂

              Reply
  13. How much/ long of a climb will they have once flown in? I don’t know with my physical crap (including being allergic to EVERYTHING) I could do it anymore. I’m happy she’s getting to go! Good people are worth a trip.

    Reply
    • You could do it easily Lily. All the walking is done in short stages (2 hours) because in this part of PNG villages are close together. (unlike the inhospitable swampy Sepik River region where it can take 10 hours to walk between villages.) Mrs GOF has friends or relatives living in most of the hamlets enroute to her birth place. The country is VERY steep so walking tracks zigzag down to cross rivers then back up 5000 feet to cross the ridges.
      They’ll probably clock up 24 hours walking time during the 18 days.

      Reply
  14. I hope she enjoys it … and I hope they can tolerate the traits she inherited from her sire.

    Reply
  15. Fabulous post, GOF, and fabulous comments too. I couldn’t think of a better guide for Inga.

    The GOF family are an adventure seeking lot. 🙂

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: