Papua New Guinea, Highlands trip ends 20 minutes after it starts

Motorbike/Motorcycle, Papua New Guinea, Travel No Comments

The plan was to have a ‘long weekend’ trip to the highlands this weekend. I had planned to go as far as Togoba today, preach at Wabag church on Saturday, then travel Porgera-Laiagam-Mendi on Sunday, to Tari on Monday, and back to Lae on Tuesday/Wednesday.


I departed Lae at 6:00am this morning, and by 6:20am, the trip was over!! I didn’t even make it as far as the Nadzab airport.

I was cruising at 120km/h, when the bike popped out of 6th gear into what seemed like neutral (the engine freely revving, with no power going to the rear wheel). I selected up into 6th again, and about 5 seconds later it popped out again. So I changed down to 5th, and that is when the fun started – it sounded like someone had thrown a box of nuts and bolts into my gearbox. Fortunately the rear wheel didn’t lock up till I was just about stationary, but when I stopped by the side of the road, I couldn’t move the bike forward or backward.

The ever friendly and helpful locals assisted immediately. These boys carried the rear of the bike (as the tyre wouldn’t turn), so that we could move the bike of the main highway.


Just 20 minutes later, my bike was in the back of a ute being ferried back to Lae. I guess I will need to fit a new gearbox before I can consider this trip again. L Once again, my dream of traveling the Highlands highway has been postponed.


Of course the good news is, that this happened while I was still so close to Lae. I would have had additional challenges if it had happened a few hours out of Mendi.

I am back in Port Moresby tonight, wondering how to best go about repairing the bike.

Australia, Sydney-Port Stephens-Wiseman’s Ferry-Sydney (Weekend Trip)

Australia, Motorbike/Motorcycle No Comments


Elevation Profile

Total Distance: 231km

On Friday 11 November 2011 we travelled from Sydney to Port Macquarie. The first part of the trip was with two bikes (Branimir and Danijela on one, and Ben and Rebecca on the other).

This was a quick stop on the old Pacific Highway between Hornsby and Gosford.


A quick stop at Hamlyn Terrace, where Malcolm and Marcia joined us – each on their own bikes.


A quick stop by the side of the road to finalise arrival information for our accommodation.


The house we stayed in over the weekend.


Making dinner!



In the morning, we took a relaxing stroll along the beach to the marina.

DSC00628DSC006342011-11-12 12.07.02P1110309DSC00636DSC006502011-11-12 13.04.56

After lunch, we went for a walk at the Tomaree National Park.

DSC00663DSC006642011-11-12 16.38.56DSC00671DSC00677DSC00682

A quick swim at the beach, before heading back to our accommodation.


We walked back to the marina for dinner.

2011-11-12 19.32.16DSC00698DSC007012011-11-12 21.34.11


Rebecca and I decided to quickly drop in on one of our relatives before heading back to Sydney.

2011-11-13 09.24.512011-11-13 09.24.45

They live right on the water at Port Stephens, but the fog was so heavy that morning, that we were not able to see the sea at first. After a while it started to clear.


Elevation Profile

Total Distance: 248kms

Getting ready to ride back to Sydney.


We stopped for lunch at Wollombi, and then took a look inside the little church there.


We had another little stop outside the Settler’s Arms Inn, in St Albans.


I ended up getting an urgent e-mail regarding work, which needed immediate attention. While dealing with my e-mail, the others had a little rest.


And then we hopped onto Webbs Creek Ferry.

2011-11-13 16.12.562011-11-13 16.14.592011-11-13 16.15.12

We indulged ourselves by buying ice creams, before parting ways. Malcolm and Marcia went via Wisemans Ferry back to Hamlyn Terrace, while the rest of us returned to Sydney via the Old Northern Road.

2011-11-13 16.33.33

Papua New Guinea, Kambubu Adventist Secondary School

Papua New Guinea, Papua New Guinea, SDA Church, Travel 2 Comments

Elevation Profile

As part of my trip to attend the Sonoma Adventist College Board meeting, I decided to use the opportunity to also visit the Adventist Secondary School in East New Britain. Fortunately a board meeting was scheduled for Kambubu for the day after the Sonoma board, so I joined the team to Kambubu for the day.

We were supposed to be picked up by the Kambubu 4WD truck at 8:00am in the morning. By 10:00am, the truck still hadn’t arrived. When we contacted Kambubu, we were told that the truck was stuck in the first river crossing of two river crossings, and the engine had died. It was therefore decided that we would take the Sonoma Truck (not a 4WD) to the first river crossing from our end, and that we would be picked up there by the Kambubu tractor. And that was how the adventure started!

I had been warned that I would learn the “Manus Dance” in the back of the track, and initially didn’t know what that meant. But as we got going, it became obvious very quickly. Although the first section of road was tar sealed, there are so many potholes, that vehicles find it easier to drive beside the sealed road. The “Manus Dance” is being bounced around in the back of the truck!


One of river crossing that has a bridge – all metal, and very loud. Notice the big hole in the middle of the bridge.


The road was windy and followed the top of a ridge. It was very scenic, and obvious that this area gets regular rain.


At one point the driver hit the brakes really hard – there was a another truck coming the other way in one of the tighter corners. It turns out they were from Kambubu taking Copra (the dried kernel of coconuts – used to make coconut oil) to market.


We then arrived at the first river from our end, and found the tractor with trailer already waiting for us.


As I walked down to the river, a truck was just coming through.


The government has already nearly completed bridge over this river, but it is not ready for use yet. However, it is OK to walk across. So we were told to walk across the bridge with our laptops – less risk. The river bed is undulating, and can vary in depth quickly (due to rainfalls upstream). One of the people travelling with us told of a time he crossed the river at night in a little Suzuki 4WD. They stopped at the edge, and he waded into the water to ensure it wasn’t too deep. The depth was deemed OK, so they started into the river. By the time they got to the middle, the river had risen by one meter, and the vehicle was swept downstream. They ended up spending the night in a nearby village.


Despite all that, the tractor had no problem crossing the river.


This is our team travelling on the back of the trailer.


In Papua New Guinea, no-one is ever alone. So we were accompanied by lots of students who were happy to come along for the ride.


When we reached the next river, we could see more students waiting for us – as well as the broken down truck in the distance. It had already been towed out by a tractor, but they were still unable to get it running. In the foreground you see a concrete structure, which was going to be a bridge across the river. It was funded by the Chinese government, but before it was even complete, it was pushed partially downstream by rising water levels. The students enjoy using it as a jumping platform.


The students in this photo were rushing through the water to bring a large rope to the tractor, willing to pull the tractor across if it gets stuck.


We were advised to take special care of our bags (due to our laptops) in case the trailer drops below the river level during the crossing. However, the crossing was uneventful.

As we headed out the other side, we came past the truck. It looks like they were trying to clean out the engine by the side of the road.


One of the plantation tractors followed us on the road to Kambubu.


This was our first glympse of Kambubu. The headland is the start of the property, and the water in front is the famous Rugen Harbour.


As we were approaching Kambubu, the Kambubu truck came racing up behind us. They had finally got it going.


The students were exuberant!


Arrival at Kambubu Adventist Secondary School.


Yes, this was the travelling party!


Kambubu is a very beautiful school. Just look at its lush green grounds, and location by the sea!


In the distance New Ireland can be seen (the mountain range in the clouds).


I then came across this propeller placed near the administration building. To get the full story of this, I am told you must speak to Bryan Paul, a lecturer at Pacific Adventist University Smile.


It appears that the steps on the back of the truck were damaged when it was towed out the of the river – nothing a quick welding job can’t fix.


This is where I met with the Year 12s to discuss university entrance with them.


After my meeting with the students, I went for a quick swim. This creek comes out of the mountains and is quite cool. It runs into the ocean where the mixture of cold stream with warm sea water makes for interesting swimming.


Some more photos of the grounds – it is absolutely beautiful. The palm trees are magnificent.


By the time we were ready for our return trip, it was already quite dark.


When we got to the first river crossing, one of the boys jumped out and waded across. It was deep, but not too deep. So the truck drove into the river, only to be stuck spinning wheels about 5 meters from the other side.


The driver asked the boys to jump into the water and push, but it made no difference. The lights you see on the other side, are two trucks that were thinking about crossing, but as they weren’t 4WD, didn’t want to take the risk at that time.


After a few minutes, the driver remembered that he had forgotten to lock the front hubs, and that this was the reason the back tyres were spinning. Once hubs were locked, we were able to drive out without issues. Here we are passing one of the trucks was considering crossing.


We continued to the second river crossing, and after checking the depth, crossed over without incident. And then it was just another 1.5 hours of “Manus Dance” before we returned back to Sonoma Adventist College.


Needless to say, most directors don’t experience this level of adventure in the execution of their duties as board members. As for me, I loved my day out, and look forward to returning to Kambubu sometime in the future with Rebecca.

Day 03 – Nakhon Sawan to Mae Sot

Thailand, Travel No Comments

Elevation Profile

We all slept well, having enjoyed the little cottages we stayed in – we rented all three in this photo.


We had breakfast at a hotel in town, and Judy’s boiled eggs were presented in a coffee cup – only lightly boiled.


The area we travelled through this day was all flat, except for the last hour or so. It was beautiful scenery, despite the flat landscape.


Needless to say, we didn’t eat here. Some people have the most unfortunate names – and if you don’t speak English, how would you ever know?


After a great lunch, we looked at some of the ruins of the former Thai capital – Sukhothai.


On our drive through the mountain range to Mae Sot, we saw this truck that used the emergency lane to stop – I guess his brakes failed. The system works.


A quick look across the border into Myanmar at sunset – Myanmar is on the far side of the bridge. For the past few months, Myanmar residents have not been able to come across the river (compare our prior trip to this location), due to political issues. It is rumoured that the agreement allowing this to happen wasn’t negotiated before the recent elections, and therefore it is now not permitted.


We had dinner in the same place as three years ago, and nothing much had changed in this restaurant, which is surprising, given that so much else has changed. There are so many new building on the road where this restaurant is located.


This is the provincial government building. Looks very pretty at night – though I can’t help but think that most Australian politicians wouldn’t support a purple building.


Day 02 – Bangkok to Nakhon Sawan

Thailand, Travel No Comments

Elevation Profile

After a great breakfast, our first stop was the Rose Garden Riverside, where the Orchid Show was hosted the previous six days (pity we couldn’t be there a day earlier). Orchids from Papua New Guinea were also displayed during those days.

The river had breached the banks during the heavy rain the previous couple of weeks, and so there were lots of sandbags around.


The orchids growing in the Orchid Garden.


The gardens are absolutely stunning.


The buildings are magnificent.


As we were leaving, I noticed this huge barge making its way along the river towed by two tug boats.


And then it was off to the river Kwai, where the Japanese used POW labour to build the railway and bridge. Something like 30,000 people died working in the difficult conditions.


You will notice that there are two types of spans – round and square. Where the square spans are, these were bombed out during WWII, and later replaced with the square spans.


It is quite a spectacular view from the bridge. When we were here in 2007 (see other blog), we saw a huge python swimming in the river. That seems much less likely now, as this place is getting much more commercialised. I can’t believe how many new buildings there are.P1010895 Stitch

We had lunch at  one of the new floating restaurants with a direct view of the bridge.


A tourist train still uses the tracks.


And then we went to the Tiger Temple – a park run by one of the monasteries. While they claim that the entry fee is to support the feeding of the tigers, there is a lot of development going on. The entry fee is quite expensive, and I am sure is funding more building than food for tigers.


There are lots of different animals roaming the park. The park itself is very rocky and dry. Some of the wildlife can scarcely be seen.


And then, of course, there are the tigers!


And we also watched them play as evening came. This was the most spectacular part of the visit. They played non-stop for over half an hour, much of it in the water.


We had dinner just after the sun set, in a place with the following restrictions:


I’m not sure what the “no weapons” implies, but I certainly don’t think that carrying weapons is a big problem in Thailand. Total kilometers travelled that day was over 450. Yes, I am a slave driver when it comes to holidays.

Day 01 – Arrival in Bangkok

Thailand, Travel No Comments

Elevation Profile

We arrived at the Brisbane airport nice and early (around 7:30pm), and enjoyed a relaxing time before boarding our flight at 11:25pm. The flight from Brisbane to Singapore was uneventful.

We arrived in Singapore around 5:30am, and were welcomed by the most beautiful orchid displays in the terminal.


When it was time to go to our gate, we headed off and somehow I made a mistake. When we arrived from Brisbane, I checked out the gate: F33. But when we went to the gate, it had SilkAir displayed, not Singapore Airlines. I wasn’t quite with it, and thought I had gone to the wrong gate. When we got to the transfer counter to identify the correct gate, we were told the flight had now closed and we would have to make alternate arrangements. It turns out that we were at the right gate, but that it was a codeshare flight. I should have known this, as this always happens. However, I can’t explain why I was confused on this occasion.

It took about an hour for us to rebook a later flight at a cost of about AU$30 and 25,000 air miles – we had to upgrade to business class, as all economy seats were taken. But that turned out a blessing in disguise, as it allowed us to sit in the Business class lounge all day – so we didn’t spend any money on food and got to use the internet in comfort.

When we arrived in Bangkok, the queue for immigration was huge.


Once we cleared immigration and customs, Helena was already waiting for us. I left Helena and Rebecca, and went to find a rental car and to get a local SIM card for my phone.


I had booked a Toyota Fortuner through an on-line service, but was told that they had not been able to get the car, despite me ringing them up 4 hours before our arrival. They didn’t have any large cars.

So I went to Avis, and after about 40 mins of slow and relaxed negotiation, was able to get a Toyota Fortuner at approximately half the price that Avis advertised on their web site. It is a beautiful car, and I am very happy with it. It has full time 4WD and is very economical. It also has plenty of room, which we need for travelling with five adults.


About 30 minutes after I got the rental, Mirja and Judy arrived.


We drove straight to our hotel, and after a quick walk to the closest 7-eleven store, got some sleep.

Gavuone, Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea, SDA Church, Travel 1 Comment

The Koiari Park Pidgin Church (Pacific Adventist University) organised a weekend trip to Gavuone, and I was keen to go. Unfortunately, Rebecca had an assignment overdue, so she was unable to go. At first I decided not to go either, but there weren’t enough seats on the organised truck to cater for everyone. So on Friday morning, I offered to go if that meant that more members could go.

However, I had some critical things that needed to be attended to on Friday afternoon, so I chose to leave at 4:00pm – three hours later than the truck. I ended up running late, and we left at about 4:20pm, and then had to fuel up in Port Moresby. Finding fuel at that time is always difficult, because of long queues at the petrol stations. By 5:10pm we finally left 6-mile.

We made great time for the first hour or so, but once the sun set, we slowed down. Despite driving very sedately, we still had some passengers getting car sick – especially those sitting in the very back. So we stopped three times along the way.


When we arrived around 9:00pm, we were offered dinner. The others had conducted the opening Sabbath service a the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and had just finished their dinner.


The plan was for the group to sleep in a classroom – two classrooms for the boys, and one for the girls. Although I had brought a tent, there was no good place to pitch it. So I was offered a mosquito net and a place in the classroom with the boys. Here the pastor is putting up the mosquito net for me. He also provided the mat for me to sleep on.


I stayed up late talking with some of the boys. There is a diesel powered generator for the region, and it runs all night. During the day there is no power.


Most of the boys were asleep by the time I got to bed.


The next morning I slept in, as I had little sleep the few nights before this trip. Most of the members were students from Pacific Adventist University, and they were asked to run the early morning devotion. The Gavuone Seventh-day Adventist Church has worship for all Seventh-day Adventists in the village every morning from 6:00-7:00am, and every evening from 5:00-6:00pm.


The church is the big white roof in the center of the picture above. Below is a picture of the classroom where I slept, and another classroom where two others had pitched their tents for the night.


The Gavuone Seventh-day Adventist Primary School is situated on a small hill surrounded by mangroves. The path below is the only access to the school – and it floods during King tides.


In the pictures above, you can see a ‘metal shed’ in the middle of the picture, directly in front of the church. This is the elementary classroom. Here is what it looks like inside.


When I arrived at church, it was still empty – but that changed very quickly, with every seat being filled and almost all the floor space used by people sitting there. Approximately 600 people worship here every week, two-thirds of them are youth and children.


This photo shows how almost the whole floor is covered by people sitting on the floor.


Lunch was prepared by the village women, who put on a superb spread. Given that Gavuone had 16 cholera cases in the previous few days, some people were a little anxious. However, no-one got sick, and nurses who were with us ensured good hygiene standards were followed.


While we ate, the ladies who had cooked the food waited outside. Once we were finished, they took the leftovers back to the village.


Following the afternoon program at church, we went for drive to see the village and the beach. Gavuone is situated at the mouth of Marshal Lagoon.

This is the national primary school.


Here the beach faces the open sea, and in about the center of the photo is where the lagoon meets the ocean.


Unfortunately many of the youth have little to do, so they sit around on the beach and play cards.


After dinner and telling stories, it was time for bed.


On Sunday morning I again slept in. When the others came back from the morning worship, we decided to go for a quick walk before breakfast. The mangroves looked very beautiful in the morning light.


The youth were busy practicing their volleyball. The village is largely divided into two halves – the Seventh-day Adventist side and the Uniting Church side.The Adventist youth were going to face the United youth in a volleyball competition – something that was a first in this village.


And on Monday, the famous canoe race was going to take place, so people were busy getting ready for that also. People from all over the country come to watch the canoe race.


This man is busy working on his canoe for next year – the shell you see on the left, needs to be ‘doug out’ further, until the wall is just 1cm think (currently it is still almost 3cm).


A few houses are built over the lagoon.


Getting a haircut!


Everywhere I went, children were looking at me – I guess they don’t see tall white men very often.


The house below had these two children look out between the cladding.


And, of course, people were going about their normal business. This woman is weaving a basket.


Here is a shot across the lagoon fro one of the highest points in the village.


The main street of the village.


The school where we stayed from the distance – this makes it easy to see how it is one hill surrounded by mangroves.


The beauty of the mangroves is that it attracts many herons. Here are two landing on the water.


Yes, everyone helped where required.


After we finished breakfast, we were told that the church had put on a farewell feast for us. We were expected to eat again! When we arrived at the church, sure enough, here was a long spread with lots of food. Notice the bowls for hand washing? Just making sure no-one gets cholera.


While we were eating, the ladies sat on the lawn and sang – they sang for more than an hour without stopping.


After the extra meal, there were some short speeches and then it was time to leave.


And here are some shots showing some of the terrain we saw on our way back to Port Moresby.


One of the little churches along the way.


We spotted some locals processing sago by the side of the road. These men are cutting up the palm with hoe like instrument.


The ladies then take the shavings and wash the starch out.


A common sight in Papua New Guinea – washing the car (and everything else) by the river.


We passed the truck, and shot ahead and looked for a nice spot to take some pictures of it passing.


And some more photos of the varying conditions of the road.


Just before we reached Gaire, the truck driver decided it was time for a short stop. For some reason Papua New Guineans must sit in the middle of the road (Magi Highway), as sitting by the side of the road is clearly not appropriate.


When vehicles come, there is a quick scramble to get off the road.


Our nurse, Annie, who made sure we were safe.


And then we were on the road again.


Arrival back at Pacific Adventist University.


Edevu and Beyond, Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea, Travel No Comments

On Sunday, 6 June, I joined a team from the School of Science and Technology of Pacific Adventist University to Edevu and from there on a two hour drive to the end of the track in the mountains. The track ends near where a new hydro dam is planned, and the team where there to take a preliminary look in preparation for an environmental study.

Here we are, three 4WDs in Edevu village getting ready to leave.



It was a beautiful, misty morning.


The track is quite rough in places, but passes through some beautiful forest.


Wayne, the driver of the Mitsubishi Challenger, was also enjoying the drive – he is only sliding his car a little bit here – very self-controlled.


As we headed up the mountain, the clouds blocked our view most of the time, but as you can see in the third photo below, the sky did open up a bit to reveal the height of Mt Victoria.


Some more pictures of the conditions of the track.


The whole in the road is only small … it goes right through to the stream underneath.


Just a little crossing, though I did this crossing quickly, and bent the number plate.


When we neared the top of the mountain range, we came to a transit point. A 4WD comes up this way two times a week to pick up villagers who walk for hours to this point. They bring vegetables and all kinds of produce/goods for markets in Port Moresby.


The track got worse the further we went.


Yes, some of the mud holes were quite deep. Here Wayne is backing up to make another attempt.


I guess the School of Science and Technology staff had too much for breakfast, so they had to get out in order to navigate the mud pool.


When Wayne tried, he found his car just a tad too low – and with the back of his car firmly sitting in the mud, his wheels were freely spinning.


But that is what the towrope is for, right? Hey, boys, surely you aren’t planning to pull him out? Oh, that’s right, Roger’s 4WD is close by.


About 250 meters from the top, we encountered this washout. The hill was pretty steep, and on the far side of the hill was a 10+ meter drop and a very steep slope. We tried dig the far side of the track to make a bit more room, but the tyres just spun on the red mud. So we decided to walk the final few meters.


The misty track we walked up was very beautiful, with lots of ferns. These photos also show how the locals walk everywhere, often carrying huge loads. This man was carrying half a 44 gallon drum, and the ladies in the following picture were just unloading for a short rest.


At this point, we are actually very close to the Kokoda trail – separated by just one valley. When the clouds cleared for a few seconds, we were able to see one of the villages in the distance.


Lots of nice ferns.


On the way back it was raining, and the some of the villagers were resting under a shelter.


The rain made the trip home more fun than originally anticipated.


When we came to the meeting point (see earlier photo), we found out that the 4WD that normally comes on Sunday wasn’t able to make it up the hill due to the mud and rain. Many of the people walked down the mountain to meet it. We took on some cargo and carried it to Edevu village, where it would be collected later.


After we descended the mountain, we passed the 4WD that does provides the public transport. It costs K30 for a trip from here to Port Moresby.


When we arrived back at Edevu, the sun was breaking through the clouds again.


Here is a picture of the number plate I nearly ripped off during the water crossing.


Day 07 – Haage to Munich (Germany)

Germany, Motorbike/Motorcycle, Travel 1 Comment

I left on Saturday night at about 10:45pm, and rode through the night. There was no traffic on the Autobahn, and it was easy going. At first it was 18 degrees Celsius, which was nice, but within a few hours the temperature had dropped to 11 degrees, which wasn’t so nice. So I had a few stops along the way. At one stop, which lasted about an hour, I sat and read a German computer magazine.

As I neared Munich, the sun was starting to think about rising, and it was very pretty. There was a bit of heavy fog, but nothing too concerning.


I was already passed the center of Munich when the sun finally poked it’s head over the horizon.


And then a little while later, I was admiring the sun rising over the Starnberger See (Lake).


I decided that I had time to circumnavigate the lake – and it was well worth the ride.


Notice the snow still on the mountains in the distance?


But it was shaping up to be a great day! Virtually no clouds to be seen anywhere.


The road was very relaxing – the greenery was stunning.


I bought some pretzels for breakfast and sat by the lake. It was so peaceful.


And it wasn’t long before I had circumnavigated the lake, fuelled up the bike and packed all my stuff.


I travelled 2750km in 5 days (plus two days without riding), and had averaged 100.6km/h for the whole trip despite snow and rain.

It was a wonderful experience, and I can highly recommend it to anyone. Frankly, if I hadn’t had to go to Berlin, I would have spent a few days touring the Black Forest instead. That would have made this trip perfect.

And as for AllRoundRent? I have not heard from them since I returned the bike, so I presume they were happy with everything. I certainly was, and will rent from them again!

Day 06 – Friedensau (Germany)

Friedensau, Germany, SDA Church, Travel No Comments

I once again left the bike in the shed, and travelled with my aunty and uncle by car to Friedensau, the Seventh-day Adventist University located near Berlin.

It was a beautiful morning, and the fields were in full bloom. Around Berlin the roads are very straight, as the land is very flat.


My uncle commented, that Friedensau must be the only village in Germany that has a sign advertising church services on Saturday.


I was surprised by the size of the campus, as there are only approximately 200 students. However, they do offer three bachelor programs and 5 masters programs. I guess each program is comprised of a rather intimate class.

P1140316 - Copy

This is one of the key buildings – it houses the administration and also the chapel.


The inside of the chapel.


The new library.


Some of the staff and student accommodation.


The old and the new fire station.


A post office, which doesn’t open on Saturday, but opens on Sunday mornings.


Adventist youth from around the northern part of Germany had a camp at the time I was there, and this was their main meeting tent.


There is an adventure course and climbing wall for use by the youth.


And finally, there is also a retirement village – all in all, Friedensau is a well thought out community. I think it would be a great place to study!

P1140315 - Copy

« Previous Entries