PNG

Animals of the Rainforest

The cuscus is nocturnal like many other forest dwellers

The cuscus is nocturnal like many other forest dwellers

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The large Pinon Imperial Pidgeon is only found in New Guinea

Animal life in the forests and mountains along the Papua New Guinea costs is exotic, exciting and sometimes spectacular, but as in most rainforest areas you often need to look for them to get a glimpse. Rainforests are lush and dense, and when walking through, one is in a small world and often a quiet one . Birds and butterflies, millipeeds and spiders are your most likely sightings, and these come in beautiful colors and shapes.

The red female and the green male Eclectue Parrot

Part of the thrill is that in PNG so many species are endemic, and around Tufi many of these can be spotted. Among the birds are the Palm Cockatoo, the Pinon Imperial Pidgeon, and a number of parrots. A few of the Bird of Paradise species can be seen, but most of these only dwell at higher altitudes. The largest bird is the cassowary and you have to get deeper into the forest to find them. In the lowland rainforests of Musa and Collingwood Bay they are still quite plentiful. The only mammal is the wild boar, which are a nuisence when they come and raid the peoples gardens, but then they are the prime game for the hunters. Most four-legged animals are marsupials, like wallabies, cuscus, possums and bandicoots.

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The wallabies thrive in the grasslands

I’ll come back to the butterflies in another post, and with sea-life as well. In the meantime you can see my Tufi bird and butterfly collection on Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/29122604@N05/sets/72157626404706060/

This cassowary I found at Billabong Zoo in Townsville, Australia

This cassowary I found at Billabong Zoo in Townsville, Australia

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Tumari Flash Flood

Thirteen houses washed away

Thirteen houses washed away

DSC_8966”Now we can’t live on the beach anymore.” Members of the Kanare family are looking at the wide opening in the middle of the beach. The water is calm now, but on January 9th a flashflood coming down the valley broke through the beach from behind and thirteen families lost their houses, their homes.

It had rained heavily for a couple of days at Tumari, and with a record-high king tide and the heavy breakers hitting hard the beach started crumbling and giving way all along the bay. At the same time the river came roaring down from the back and more and more water gathered in the lagoon behind the beach. In the afternoon of the 9th the rain got even more intense and the water level behind their houses rose dangerously – they realized the beach would be flooded. The women and children got in to the dinghies that were around, the men tying them to the coconut palms.

At 9pm hell broke loose. The water from the back was suddenly flushing over the beach in all its length, under their houses, and chewing away the sand where it met with the breakers. At the northern end the water pushed through, braking three houses, washing them out to the sea. Oswald, the ward counselor, and his family were the first to see their house go. Just a few minutes later came the big opening in the middle of the beach; an avalanche of water taking the sand, eight houses, and all the belongings of the Kenare families into the ocean. Just like that – all gone!

Oswald saw his house being crushed to pieces

Oswald saw his house being crushed to pieces

A couple of hours after midnight the water started to go down, but before that they had called to friends and government representatives in Popondetta, the provincial capital, to let people know, and from there the news was put on Facebook right away. Some things have changed around Tufi.

When I visited Tumari in March the Red Cross arrived with food supplies. Most of the Tumari gardens had been completely demolished – only the sago and coconut palms could still give them food. Help was late, despite the calls sent out right away. It took two full weeks before the first aid shipment arrived (and this was by a donation from the Kokoda Tracking Foundation – cheers to them!). I witnessed a well organized handing out of supplies – rice, cooking oil, etc – to all families, and John, the Red Cross team leader, informed them that they would return shortly to make a long term assessment of their needs.

The Red Cross organised relief hand-outs very well

The Red Cross organised relief hand-outs very well

The community leaders had also come together to solve the housing situation, and land was now being cleared up on higher ground behind the school. There will be 22 houses – everyone on the beach will be moving up.

“We grew up here on the beach, and now we have to move. It’s going to be a big change. We are thankful, though, for all the help we’ve got from our families,” says Lucien Kanare. “You know, these are not even our own clothes.”

“We knew we would have to move one day,” continues his brother Leo, “because the beach has always been moving. But no one could have guessed that it would happen this way. So quickly, so dramatic, and so disastrous.  We have seen the tides come higher and higher in the last years, and the elders say it’s never been this high before. We know it must be because of the climate changes, and so is the terrible rainfall. We are climate refugees right now, but luckily we have our relatives, and soon we will move up behind the school.“

                 Before and after:

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9781468586145_COVER.inddIn my book, Beautiful Tufi, I wrote about how the Tumari people were responding to the higher tides, but now they were hit from behind instead.  Is that how climate change is going to hit us all one day: by surprise – even from behind!

Half a year has passed since I visited Tumari, and I know that several families have moved up to their new homes now. The Tumari people are strong and they will stay on their feet, but their beautiful village on the beach is gone forever.

 The cover photo is from Tumari – it’s one of the houses that are still standing

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The Tufi Tattoos

Ramona at Kasiawa

Ramona at Kasiawa

When a Tufi girl is ready for marriage she might, for some weeks, enter the hibernating process of getting a facial tattoo. The tattooing is an old traditional practice that has faded away and disappeared in most communities, but there are some areas where the tradition lives on.

Ethel is proud of her tattoo

Ethel is proud of her tattoo

The girl stays in seclusion during the time of the application, which is made by a qualified tattooist – sometimes a relative; always a woman. First the pattern is drawn in black, and when the girls’ parents have expressed their appreciation the tattooist starts the actual process. Dulcie at Kafuaruru village and Levinia at Angorogho, two of the still active tattooists, use a modern needle instead of the bush needle that was tapped by a stick, which was the old way. The dyes today are also mixed with modern ingredients that give a stronger and more lasting colour. This way the tattoo has to be worked over only twice, instead of three or four times which was the rule before.Ethel from Kuruwe says: “Mine was made by a lady from Sefoa. It was my parents that decided, but they listened to me too, of course. Nowadays the girls decide much themselves, but only a few get them. My auntie from Angorogho made one last year on a girl from Mafuia – that’s the neighbour village.”

A hundred years ago tattooing was common all over Papua New Guinea. Most places it was only for the women. The method was basically the same everywhere, but the patterns and what areas would be marked varied between the different areas. Some had their whole bodies tattooed, starting with a section at a young age, then adding some every year, and the final needle applied around puberty. At Tufi it was the face and sometimes the neck, and some would – only for the husbands to view – have their thighs tattooed as well.

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You’ll find some more about the Tufi tattoos in my book Beautiful Tufi, and there’s a set of photos on Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/29122604@N05/sets/72157622661762090/

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Clay Pots of Wanigela

Ethel is the potter adding a decoration here

Ethel is the potter adding a decoration here

Clay pot lin-up at Ganjiga

First you take your fire wood and arrange it in a star-like manner so that it will be a solid resting place for your pot. When it’s there in place, you line it with some banana leaves and then start filling it up with vegetables. The ones that need the most time to get properly cooked, usually the taro, you place on the bottom. Then you add the water, and maybe some coconut milk. On top comes fish or meat, before you place taro or banana leaves as a cover on top. Now you only have to make sure that the fire keeps going.

Today most of the cooking in the Tufi villages, as well as everywhere else in Papua New Guinea, is done in aluminum pots, but for certain occasions – for a feast, or a special visit – you bring out the clay pots. All around the country there have been century- or millennia-old trading systems, where tribes with access to the best clay locations have distributed their pots in exchange for other goods, sometimes over impressive distances. Around Tufi the treasured clay is found at Wanigela, in a small area a couple of miles from the Collingwood Bay shore line, and

Daisily at Tumari puts on the 'lid'

Daisily at Tumari puts on the ‘lid’

here both the pot making and the trading is still very much alive.

While the Wanigela people bring their clay pots, the villagers from the Tufi fjords bring mats and dogs; the Maisin to the

south trade their tapa (bark) cloth, and the Cape Vogel tribes their shell work. For a big feast or ceremony, as the mourning meal at Ganjiga shown above, there will be a great number of clay pots lined up and looked after by the women, while the young men help out with shredding coconut and the elders sit and discuss clan matters.

Fish on top

My full series of pot making can be seen in the ‘Wanigela Clay Pot set’ set on Flickr : http://www.flickr.com/photos/29122604@N05/sets/72157626541992236/

The ‘bible’ on this topic, “The Traditional Pottery of Papua New Guinea” is written by Patricia May and Margaret Tuckson.

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The Spectacular Head dresses

Dancing at Kwafurina

Dancing at Kwafurina

When the steady rhythm of the kundu drums sound and the dancers move around in lines and circles, finding the right steps to the songs, one can’t help being captured by their amazing head dresses. The expressively colourful feather arrangements light up the dancing ground; the cassowary plumes down the back sway to the beat; rooster feathers wave from the tops. It’s an explosion of colour and movement.

Much of the old style of the headdresses has been kept through the years but some changed have been introduced. New Guineans have never been afraid of picking up new ideas and inspiration from others and the decorations are also, to a large degree, individual expressions.

Roy chooses between a series of beautiful pieces

When Roy makes his head dress ready for a dance he brings out his little suitcase where he keeps his feathers carefully and neatly stacked. They are all strung up in rows of similar feathers – some are very old. He then finds his helmet-shaped frame, and start tying one row of feathers in front of the other. Maybe he will arrange it just like he did last time or maybe he will try a new combination – he’s got a lot to choose between.

Attaching to the frame

Attaching to the frame

This one wears Roy's signature

This one wears Roy’s signature

Roy has a liking for the blue and red feathers from the female Eclectus parrot, and he combines them with others from lories, lorikeets, kites, and the white cockatoo ones that have been cut to zig-zags. Then come the orange plumes of the Bird of Paradise, the big dusk of cassowary feathers in the back, and finally – since he belongs to a chieftain clan – the black rooster feathers. While some of his brothers stick to the more traditional styles, Roy always looks for an interesting new and attractive combination – he knows that it will be noticed.

A classical example from Kabuni

A classical example from Kabuni

This type of head dress is common, with local alterations, in most of Oro Province, and also down the coast to the area around Rabaraba, and they won’t disappear. Many of their songs and dances are important parts of the clans’ and families’ oral tradition, and for a dance only the traditional dress is appropriate. That means tapa cloth, shells and feathers, and they are worn with pride.

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Papua New Guinea on Flickr

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Colourful festivals; beautiful scenery; special wildlife; everyday situations – if you’d like to get an idea of what Papua New Guinea is like you should drop in to Flickr. Photos is the quick road to an impression. I have 800 some PNG photos there, and you can find thousands from other photographers (try Eric Lafforgue’s).

(If you prefer to see the back side of the country – it certainly has its problems – you can try to Google Steven Dupont’s photos.)

My Flickr sets include views and people

from Alotau – http://www.flickr.com/photos/29122604@N05/sets/72157623187183733/

Preparing for Canoe Festival races

Preparing for Canoe Festival races

From Fergusson Island – http://www.flickr.com/photos/29122604@N05/sets/72157625568385966/

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Gowma afternoon atmosphere

from Kokoda – http://www.flickr.com/photos/29122604@N05/sets/72157628129360265/

Clouds over the historic track

Clouds over the historic track

from below the surface – http://www.flickr.com/photos/29122604@N05/sets/72157625889479447/

Guardians of Garewa beach, Tufi

Guardians of Garewa beach, Tufi

from all around – http://www.flickr.com/photos/29122604@N05/sets/72157610401154634/

High five at Salamaua, Morobe

High five at Salamaua, Morobe

and from Tufi, of course – http://www.flickr.com/photos/29122604@N05/sets/72157610401154634/

Late afternoon fishing by Kasiawa

Late afternoon fishing by Kasiawa

Be my guest!

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Tufi Picturesque

8dWhen I travel I bring out my camera for a photo when I see something interesting or unusual, but most of all when I find something to be beautiful. Sometimes a majestic view or fascinating scenery; sometimes a colourful detail or a special line or figure; and sometimes I attempt to capture a beautiful mood or atmosphere. Sometimes a smile.

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In my book, where I have deliberately focused on the positive sides of life around Tufi, photos of this character have found a natural place. Here are just a few examples:

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Warfare, Cannibalism and Migration

Okeina warriors at a peaceful ‘singsing’ at Tufi, early 1900s.

Okeina warriors at a peaceful ‘singsing’ at Tufi, early 1900s.

“One night around 1850 the Korafe clans who were living by Lake Moghana in the hills behind Gobe woke up to the sound of warriors shouting and hollering, and to the death cries of their tribesmen. The Okeina from the coast had come up for revenge; they had sneaked up in the darkest hours and had suddenly charged the sleeping villagers. In the panic and commotion of the attack, warriors from other tribes could be seen as well – the Okeina had brought in re-enforcements to be sure of a successful mission against the strong Korafe. Axes were swung and spears were thrown in the darkness, and soon the whole village was filled with the desperate cries of men, women and children, mixed with the thuds and slashes of weapons and shelters breaking.”

This is how the chapter of the big Korafe migration starts in my Beautiful Tufi book. It think my idea of writing this book started to take shape when I realized that Tufi has a very dramatic history. Here were not only a beautiful place with wonderful people, but here were also stories from World War II, from the devastating cyclone that hit the area in 1972, and then from the pre-colonial days when tribal warfare, cannibalism and migration were part of what people expected to see in their lifetime.

There are several tribes (or groups) around Tufi, speaking different languages, and they are again divided into a great number of clans. Each clan carries the stories of their past, so the big story of the great migration is a conglomerate of stories from all clans. It’s a story of how bigger and stronger groups have expanded into the area, pushing others against each other, and sometimes even killing them off completely. Some were forced to move, sometimes for forever and sometimes for a later return.

Today the spears are only prepared for hunting.

Today the spears are only prepared for hunting.

The Korafe were a big group with many clans that set out across the pass between the Keroroa and Yamewara mountains (Mt Victory and Mt Trafalgar in English) and then lived for some years here and for some years there, finally finding their way to the Tufi fjords where they still are today. Around Tufi the found another people, lower in numbers and weaker, and these they soon dominated, meaning marrying their women and killing their men. It’s part of history now.

The Migration chapter continues:

“The men who managed to reach for their knives and clubs fought back, but the surprise tactic had its intended effect and many were killed or wounded before the hostile visitors returned down to the coast. Moghana was now a village of devastation, death and despair, and the eerie wailing from those who had lost their dear ones kept sounding through the long hours of the night. This was truly a dark night for the Korafe, in every respect. (…) When the chiefs sat down to discuss the situation they felt the pressure had become unbearable, and once again they decided to gather all the clans and move on.”

Here, behind Spear Point, the fighting was fierce in the time of the tribal wars.

Here, behind Spear Point, the fighting was fierce in the time of the tribal wars.

Read more about Beautiful Tufi here!

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Stolen title !!!!

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Yes, I have sort of stolen the title ‘BEAUTIFUL TUFI’ for my book, I know. I guess I first encountered this phrase as a chapter title in expat Colin Baker’s book Doodle-Buggers in Paradise. This is a hard-to-get, out-of-print book that I borrowed from former Tufi resort manager Simon Tewson some years back, and besides some amusing stories from around the time of independence (70s) the title stuck in my mind.

I have then learned  that the beauty of Tufi has been commented by just about every passer-by, and that the Tufi people themselves are certainly aware of this particular characteristic of their home grounds.

Captain John Moresby, who ‘discovered’ this coastline in 1874, was mesmerized by this particular stretch, and then followed William MacGregor, British New Guinea’s first governor; Albert MacLaren, who established the Anglican mission on this coast; and George Le Hunte, MacGregors successor and the official who opened the the Cape Nelson (Tufi) colonial station in 1900 – they all commented on the beauty of the Tufi fjords in their reports and reminiscencies.

In 1921 the famous Australian photographer Frank Hurley visited British New Guinea. His love for the country came in full bloom when he stayed for some days at Wanigela and at Awanen – the southernmost of the Tufi bays. In his diary he wrote about:

“…palm fringed ribbons of golden beaches, washed by deep blue waters streached with opalescent tints of coral shallows; inlets studded with verdant islets, reclining at the base of somber wooded bluffs; a scene that calls back memories…” (Pearls and Savages p. 72).

Awanen Creek

In recent years diver/travel photographer and writer Don Silcock has used Beautiful Tufi in his writings as well (try Google his name for some fascinating articles and fabulous underwater photography!).

So ‘Beautiful Tufi’ is not just a tacky title, it’s just the way it is. It’s a fact! And I found it a most appropriate title for my book.

Read and check it out for yourself: click here

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Jan’s Wildlife Special

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When I’m in PNG I enjoy myself immensly. Since I’ve been writing and collecting stories for my book and some articles you might get the idea that I’m frightfully serious about it all. Well, I am serious, of course, but the one doesn’t outrule the other.

This is little spur-of-the-moment film clip to prove that. Most of it is filmed at Uiaku in Collingwood Bay, where I did some hiking with Arthur, Gilbert and Joe. I hope BBC will excuse me for borrowing their music.

Watch ‘Sir Jan in Papua New Guinea’ here:
(best picture quality if you watch on YouTube, and chose larger screen)

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