Mind the Gap

Papua New Guinea

…I’m back in the sweaty forests of Papua New Guinea again, although this time I’m with the Mountains team.  It’s true.  Strictly speaking we are actually in the jungle, but as it goes, we’re also in the mountains, so for once it looks like rock beats paper on this occasion.

The realization of this particular story began life back in 2007 when Jane Atkins, our researcher for the desert/grasslands programme happened to be flying over this area in a MAF plane on her way back from a shoot for BBC’s South Pacific in the Sepik river basin.  What eagle-eyed Janie spied in the jungle from her window seat prompted an inquisitive investigation that has, 2 years later, led us to happen upon the very same spot.

Now, as far as I can tell, this story has never been documented on film before, so in the interest of suspense and intrigue I’m not going to reveal the details here.  However, I will show you a picture of what Jane, and subsequently our team saw from the air, and maybe you can work it out for yourself…

What could they be?

All around this sparsely inhabited region of dense jungle, the ridges are dotted with unusual gaps in the tree line.  Needless to say, there are always people living close by and I am happy to say that they are very lovely people to work with, albeit a little superstitious in their cultural ways.  Indeed, this part of PNG is famous for its history of cargo cults, a practice that as far as I can see is all but extinct here.

As those anthropologically inclined of you will no doubt know, Cargo cults were the response of many remote tribal communities in the Pacific region to the sudden appearance in the 20th century of technologically superior cultures into their communities.  The cults focused mainly on magical rituals designed to imbue the tribes with the material wealth they saw belonging to the foreign visitors, believing that it was intended as gifts for them by their own particular deities and gods.  Although the cults have vanished, the deities still very much persist.  In fact, they appear to be having a bit of a get-together at our camp as it turns out.  At least that’s what the hushed tones of a few of the shadier locals would have us believe.  Only 10 dollars to keep the gods happy I can report back.

We haven’t paid yet.

Dear god. Please send more Colgate

. . .

Interested in more stories from Papua New Guinea?  Try HERE


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