In 1983 I was Head of Geography at a large independent boys’ school in Sydney. In that year I led a study tour of students to Papua New Guinea, assisted by two other teachers, and accompanied by a few parents. It was (to the best of my knowledge) the first overseas study tour conducted by the school.
In this travel diary, I have not included close photos of any students for privacy reasons, nor have I mentioned any individual names for the same reason (even though all the students are now grown men who are well into their 50s).
At the time of our visit, Papua New Guinea has been an independent nation for just seven and a half years, having achieved independence on 16th September, 1975. Despite the rumours of lawlessness and violence in some areas, especially in the Highlands and some parts of Port Moresby where large numbers of rural-urban migrants were living, it was an exciting time to be visiting one of the world’s newest countries.
Working over a period of almost a year, I made the travel arrangements for this study tour through Air Niugini's Sydney office and New Guinea Expeditions, and a representative of New Guinea Expeditions accompanied the group as tour escort. The tour cost was $872 for students and $1086 for adults, which included all international and domestic air fares, overland transport, accommodation in shared rooms, transfers to and from airports, all meals and guide services. Two preliminary meetings were held to organise baggage preparation, currency, gifts for exchange and for people to meet each other. One of the parents accompanying the tour party was a doctor, so a comprehensive first aid kit was assembled in consultation between me, the tour escort and the doctor. The tour group consisted of 33 participants; three teachers, one tour escort, six parents, and 23 students, of whom one was in Year 7, one in Year 8, three in Year 9, eight in Year 10, eight in Year 11 and two in Year 12.
What follows is a slightly edited version of the brief diary notes I made each day while on the study tour.
Our group departed from Sydney International Airport today by Air Niugini Boeing 707 (registration P2-ANA) to Port Moresby. After a rapid turnaround, a connecting flight (PX122) was made by Fokker F28 jet with registration P2-ANU to Mount Hagen. It was frustrating that one student’s luggage failed to arrive from Port Moresby. We learned later that it had been placed on a different flight to Kieta on Bougainville instead of Mount Hagen – his luggage was seeing more of Papua New Guinea than we were! The luggage was returned and caught up with us a few days later.
After arrival at the Plumes and Arrows Hotel, some of the group toured Mount Hagen township, inspecting among other things the local markets and having our first real opportunity to practice our Tok Pisin. The initial consensus was that Mount Hagen was something of a frontier town with a ‘wild west’ feel to it – not lawless, but certainly a bit rough around the edges. After dinner at the hotel, some members of the group attended a ‘highlands disco’ being held at the hotel.
(The pages below show the “Tok Pisin Basics” I handed out to the students before our departure).