It is strange to be on a large scale property and be the only guests. Kind of special. but a bit weird. We walk the property grounds, just Lidia & I, and see many new, different bird species.
Asked the staff whether they could arrange a local village visit for us & they did. We visited two different villages. One thing in common is that men & women sleep in different houses; even if married. If a man goes into a 'women' house, even to visit his wife, that infraction of the law will cost him 1,000 kina ! Did not hear of a reciprocal fine for women - maybe they have no interest !? The men showed demonstrated face painting, head-dress construction of various bird feathers ( much to Lidia's dismay), fire making without matches, and weapons usage. The women showed us farming techniques and a personal lesson for Lidia of dressing in traditional garb. Then we visited a men-only hair wig academy. Here the prospective wig-gies must remain for 18 months & can not leave unless accompanied by the wig master; and even then only for a family funeral, wedding, or emergency. At the end of the 18 months the 'students' get a total haircut and their locks are fashioned into a wig. The first one is for everyday use. If they choose another 18 month stay they can have a formal wig made of their shorn locks. Mind you - only unmarried men can participate - once married, they are banned from the wig academy.
At the wig school the guys demonstrated smoking a bong-like pipe with locally grown tobacco. They were surprised when I agreed to 'take a toke' - Memories of days gone by ! The tobacco actually tasted pretty good, though as I've not smoked lately I got a bit of a buzz.
Went birding early the next morning, 06:00, with the Lodge guide & a driver. From Ambua we headed up into the Highlands on the National Highway to the Tari Gap. Didn't get a few hundred meters when Thomas, the birding guide, spotted a King of Saxony Bird of Paradise; great clear view as he, the bird, perched in a dead tree branch showing off his long tail feathers and head plumes. We continued along the highway, stopping often, to view various new species. After about an hour we reached the 'Gap' where large trees were no longer, only fields of grass & shrubs; reminded me of Colorado meadows above the timber line. A great day birding in beautiful countryside with pleasant cool, dry sunny weather.
Then we returned to the Lodge in the early afternoon and are greeted by 20+ police officers at the main lodge, some with AK-47's, others with shotguns, handguns & batons - and those weren't for twirling in a Drum Corp Band ! What the heck are we in NOW ! After we're advised not to venture around the property un-escorted we learn that 2 or 3 men had confronted the manager on duty during our birding excursion and 'requisitioned' 3 cases of beer. Not sure if they, or the beer, were apprehended ? Very interesting stay at the Lodge.
Next day we leave Ambua for Tari to fly to Hagen to spend the night as the ongoing flight to POM is booked full. We bid ado to the three Ambua employees who accompanied us to the airport. The flight from Hagen is late arriving due to low & dense fog/clouds. So we wait in the 10' x 10' 'terminal' building that has 6 plastic chairs. Strike up a conversation with the young women working the counter who's on her third day at her new job. Very pleasant, personable woman who is well suited for this 'dealing with the public' job. Her English was also very good which facilitated our discussions. An hour passes & now we're engaged with a rotating assemblage of locals (40-60 men, women & children) who are there (obviously mostly outside the building) to bid good-bye to family/friends departing or welcoming the now late arrivals. When Lidia produces a container of chewing gum she has every youngster eventually shyly peering around the 'waiting room/ departure lounge' door, eyes wide in hopes of receiving a piece of gum. They all do, and now we're surrounded by a contingent of appreciative smiling gum chewers. The inbound plane finally arrives and we leave the 'terminal' to board the plane on the tarmac when the Ambua manager walks up to wish us well - he & the other van members had sat in the parking lot (almost two hours) to ensure we were safely aboard the plane !
The flight to Hagen was uneventful as was our stay in Hagen. Our stay in POM the next night was not. Purportedly the establishment we stayed in was in a "safe to walk around peaceful neighborhood" (Lonely Planet). It barely had sidewalks, and nothing you'd remotely want to walk to ! And there was no aircon (95 degrees plus with 90%+ humidity), AND shouting/arguing crowds outside till well past midnight, AND continuous loud traffic. Early the next morning (06:00) instead of walking around the 'pleasant' neighborhood we took a taxi to the airport, and then a hotel shuttle to a 'Shangri-la' set in the hills above the airport. What a different world - much to Lidia's relief ! Spent 6 hours there before returning to the airport for our flight to Cairns. One night there & then on to Singapore.
The adventure goes on.
Ciao for now.