It’s a rather different and exciting way of touring Papua New Guinea (PNG). For those who ride motorcycles and love a good adventure, it just might be the best way to see beautiful sights in the country which are not accessible by roads, and to experience rural PNG, and the culture.
Lae-based dirt bike tour operators, Niugini Dirt have been touring parts of Morobe with thrill-seeking riders who want to experience PNG off road. One of the popular tour stops being the smoked bodies in Menyamya.
Earlier this month, they embarked on a tour that took ten riders from Lae and Madang, to Betty’s Lodge in Mt. Wilhelm, Chimbu Province, down to Goroka in the Eastern Highlands Province.
The first lag of the tour started at the Usino junction in Madang at around 12pm. The off road experience from Usino to Bundi took them through rocky roads and tough terrains, wet crossings, steep climbs, and breathtaking views.
In the afternoon the first two riders made it to Snowpass in Bundi. They were welcomed by traditional dancers covered in white mud, with clay pot like hats on their head with burning flames.
“We got to the top…it was all foggy, as we were coming through we just saw these people with their heads on fire and we were like what?”
“People around the world they don’t get to see this… The sun was just going down and there was mist everywhere. People covered in mud, with the pot and the flames above it. It was just extraordinary to see.”
These were the fire head dancers of Karizokara in Bundi.
By 6 o’clock, none of the riders had made it to Betty’s lodge in Gembogl. At 9pm, the sound of motorcycles could be heard as a couple of bikes made it up the driveway into Betty’s lodge. Only two riders, Neil Ellery, and Daniel Hargreaves arrived at the lodge.
“I think it was more challenging than we expected it to be, riding from Usino up over the hill down into Mt. Wilhelm here, so we probably underestimated the challenge a little bit” said Ellery.
“I think one thing that we underestimated was the level of skill that was required to complete this trip, you have to be pretty good on the bike..to get from Usino to here” Hargreaves added.
While the duo had completed the first lag of the trip, the others were having an experience of their own. They were spending a night with locals at a village called Bundikara in Bundi. After facing a few challenges on the way, it had become too dark for them to continue the ride to Mt. Wilhelm.
“We arrived in a village and we asked if we could stay with them and the people there opened their homes to us…You know once you get out of the big cities into the small villages, you see the friendliness and the happiness of the PNG people,” said one of the riders, James Rice.
On Sunday morning, they left Bundikara and continued the ride up the mountain to Snowpass. They arrived at Betty’s lodge at midday clearly exhausted.
Despite the challenging ride and the delayed arrival at Betty’s, one of the riders, Corey van Genderan said, “this is the most beautiful part of the country I have ever been to…six years being in PNG and I’ve fallen in love with this place even more. This is just amazing.”
“We spent a night in the bush at Bundi, but overall top experience. We got everyone to Betty’s lodge” said another rider, Ian Ellery.
After resting for a few hours, they were off again. This time, they were accompanied by riders from the Chimbu Bikers club. Amongst them, one woman from the Chimbu Bikers Club, Abigail Kaupa.
The bikers meandered through the scenic Kundiawa-Gembogl Highway, with passerby’s screaming ‘apim!’ signaling the riders to do wheelies on the highway. In Kundiawa, they toured the town with the Chimbu bikers and were seen off by excited locals. By night fall, the bikers made it to Goroka, ending the last lag of the Niugini Dirt Mt. Wilhelm tour.
According to Neil Ellery who is the CEO of the Lae City Authority, there is great potential for adventure tourism like dirt bike riding in the country. Whilst most of the focus has been on tourist activities like diving, dirt bike riding is an untapped potential waiting to be explored, says Ellery.
“A lot of places we go to; vehicles can’t get into. You’d either have to walk in there or go by trail bike. That’s what we are trying to look at.”
Not only did the riders experience the tough terrains and the beautiful scenery across the four provinces, they also had the chance mingle with the locals, and experience one part of PNG’s diverse culture. Some of the riders expressed that this was the PNG not many people get to see.
Ellery said these are the unique and authentic experiences that Lae City’s Tourism Bureau aims to promote through adventure tourism.
By Lucy Kopana, EMTV News, Lae