Stephen Codrington


Papua New Guinea Travel Diary 1983

In order to reach the summit of Mount Wilhelm before dawn (to see the sunrise), an early start at about 1:30am was required.  Consequently, only a small group of six people, led by one of the other teachers, managed to scale the 14,793 feet high (4,509 metres) summit of Mount Wilhelm, while another group of six, led by me, scaled a smaller 12,100 feet high (3,688 metres) peak to the east of the base camp (which we decided to identify as “the Gentlemen’s Peak”).  The third teacher was not a climber and therefore led the rest of the group back to Kegasugl, later to be joined by those of us who had climbed one or the other peak.


When we reached Kegasugl, we accepted an invitation to visit the newly established Gembogl High School, speaking with the teachers, talking with the students, visiting classrooms and engaging in a volleyball game (the home team defeated us, the visitors, 16-14).  The school consists mostly of boarders from Chimbu Gorge, who have lessons (in English) from 7:30am to 1:30pm.  The rest of the day is spent growing food for the school’s students and staff to eat, and constructing the buildings (the school only began this year, and has already lost its library, built of thatch, in a fire).  

After this school visit, we really didn’t have much time for stopping in Chimbu Gorge on the return drive to Kundiawa apart from periodic stretching of legs to recover from sitting in the back of a PMV on a rough, unsealed road.  The drive took us back through the spectacular, steep farming areas of the Chimbu people.

It was interesting to learn that today, the Chimbu are mostly Christians (Catholic or Lutheran).  Men live together in large, thatched houses on high lookout sites, while married women live together with their unmarried daughters, their young sons and the family pigs in the more safely located women’s houses.  These are usually located in the family gardens or on the edges of the garden areas to aid the women’s role as the main cultivators of the food.  Although pigs are very important in Chimbu life, there is no need to herd them because they are fenced out of garden areas and they come back to the women for feeding at night (either breast or hand feeding).

Upon arriving in Kundiawa, accommodation was again provided by Chimbu Lodge.