Wednesday, April 6, 2011

11 days out of touch and off the grid- Part 1

We’re finally getting settled in our new home at the mission station in Kudjip, PNG. About a week ago we got back from a wonderful place called Dusin that is a bit farther “out in the bush”. Since we had no phone, internet or electricity for that matter, we were keeping an “analog blog” using pencil and paper. So what follows are some of the things that happened while we were there. If anyone wants to hear more, drop me an e-mail and I would love to share in more detail or answer specific questions.


11 days out of touch and off the grid- Part 1

After being in Papua New Guinea for only two days we boarded a Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) plane for Dusin located at 5800 ft elevation, deeper in the highlands. The locals can get there on foot but I’m told it’s nearly impossible for a newbie westerner like me to get there except by bush plane.

Dusin was one of the original Nazarene mission stations established in 1955, in the remote highlands of PNG. It now has a grass airstrip that is somewhere in the neighborhood of 1100’ long with an 11 deg. slope. It’s located on the side of a mountain with one end that drops off sharply to the valley below and the other end terminating at a heavily treed peak that comprises the rest of the mountain. To find out more about the history of the place in the old days, you can read the book “The Edge of Nowhere by Daryl A. Schendel”

Our purpose for coming here was to begin to learn Pidgin and get to know the culture that we are now living in. Except for the pilots that dropped us off, we were the only westerners. Dusin has no roads, no power and no communication with the outside except for the shortwave radio used to report the weather for the bush planes coming in and emergency communication with the mission station at Kudjip. Even so immediate outside help was not an easy option.

The flight from Mt. Hagen only takes about 30 minutes but it takes a healthy national three days of walking and one day in a PMV (the local public transportation) to go from Dusin to Mt. Hagen. They say we have Malo Malo legs (It means soft or mushy, like the runway was) and we wouldn’t make it because there are mountains to climb, rivers to ford and a maze of people speaking one or more of the 800 different languages of Papua New Guinea. I’m glad to say we arrived safe and sound after a bumpier than usual flight. The pilot said that the weather had deteriorated since that morning’s report and we had to do a couple of flybys to find a hole in the clouds. Even so I never saw the runway until we were 30 seconds from landing. I was warned ahead of time that because of the runway’s length and slope, the pilots intentionally stall the plane right before setting down. He told me when you hear the stall alarm, you know you’re doing it right.

We climbed down the ladder from the plane and our feet sank into the soft surface of the airstrip. It seemed that everyone in the area turned out for the arrival of the plane. So there we were, a family of five standing on a mountaintop with 250 lbs of gear as the plane turned around, took off and disappeared into clouds that seemed to be gathering right at the end of the runway.

(Note: This is a slightly smaller plane that came in and left again later in the week.  I didn't get a chance to get a video of ours but it gives a good view of the runway and flight conditions. All together there were two other flights in and out during our time in Dusin, but the planes were too small for our whole family to get out in one trip.)

We have a comfortable house to stay in that used to be the home of Verne Ward and his family for eight years. We packed in the food we would need and water came to us courtesy of the almost daily rain showers that filled the tank on the side of the house. “Running” water was provided by the hand pump mounted outside. It’s very nice by local standards but compared to back home, it is best described as “rustic”.

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