Anywhere you go in the Highlands, you do not have to travel far outside the cities and towns before you enter the world of the local villagers. Little huts are dotted here and there on the hillsides and villagers seem to be strolling around just about everywhere you go. This woman is typical of what you will see as she strolls along a road cut into the side of this mountainous area, and being barefoot is almost guaranteed.
In addition to carrying a large machete-like knife, she has a traditional woven 'bilum' bag slung from her head and dangling down her back. These colourful sacks are used to carry a variety of objects. Maybe that is a taro root in her other hand and a bunch of its leaves on her head? I did not ask.
The architecture of cities and towns in the Highlands is fairly simple. Most buildings are not very tall and the central business districts are quite compact. Spread out from there on the surrounding hills are the houses of the local population, most including a lush little garden. The cool mornings bring mists which cling to the mountain tops, gradually dissipating as the heat of the tropical sun takes hold.
The air has a fresh feel to it as villagers come trickling back into town to go about their daily business. I always liked coming to the Highlands because it was so much different than the atmosphere in the capital city of Port Moresby. It was great to have the mountains and the sounds of nature all around!
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The Highlands Highway from coastal Lae, Papua New Guinea's second largest city, up into the mountain ranges was quite a good sealed road. It started out along the Markham River valley and then veered up and into the mountain ranges as it split away from a lesser quality road that continued north to Madang.
It was always fun winding our way up Kassam Pass to the higher elevations where we were treated to both amazing views and very pleasant cooler temperatures! Twisting its way through the mountain ranges as the highway did, there were bound to be cases where mudslides and rock-falls had their say in the matter. However, it usually was not too long before heavy equipment arrived to re-open this vital life-line into the heart of Papua New Guinea.
We decided to take a break from the Landcruiser and stretch our legs at this particular slide!
Sometimes I flew into or out of Goroka instead of making the 4-hour drive up the Highlands Highway from Lae. Air Nuigini ran a pretty efficient air service, with twin-engine turbo-prop Fokker F-27 Friendship planes doing the bulk of the work.
This photo beside the airport departure gate, in the days when Security was not much of a concern, shows a group of the local ladies in their colourful everyday clothes - not the fancy traditional stuff that was carted out for the tourists! Actually, that expatriate lady is looking quite colourful herself!
This photo shows some of Elcom's local troops at work in Himitovi substation, the 66,000 volt transmission switching station which took power from the nearby Ramu hydro station and fed it to the customers in nearby Goroka.
In this case, part of the 66,000 volt switchyard was isolated for some maintenance work, otherwise these guys would not be standing up there! The big round things at the left are Current Transformers which measure how many amperes are flowing throught this particular path and they feed that information to protective relays that are watching to see if lightning or anything else hits the line. The smaller thing the worker is resting his arm on is a Circuit Breaker (just a bigger version of the ones in your home fuse/breaker panel) which is designed to open up to cut off the current flow when it is told to by automatic devices, such as the relays. The smaller insulators on the pedestal, behind the big metal tube, are holding the movable blades of a Disconnect Switch. These blades have been manually swung open to allow safe work access to the equipment.
Notice the mountains rising up behind the substation.
Goroka is located in the central mountain ranges which run the length of New Guinea from east to west. Mt. Wilhelm, the highest in Papua New Guinea at 4509-m (14,800-ft), is located in the Bismarck Range not far to the north of the city. These mountain ranges are broken in various places by broad upland valleys and plains, resulting in a relatively heavy concentration of tribes in the mountains as opposed to the swampy and flat areas near both the north and south coasts . The main access to this part of the country is via the Highlands Highway, shown in red here as it leaves the coastal city of Lae and winds its way up to Goroka at 1600-m (5200-ft), then to Mt. Hagen and beyond.
Fondest memory: I was here on business a few times because the rivers flowing out of these mountains led to the developement of a 45 MW hydro station at Ramu, located east of Goroka, near Okapa on the map. Transmission lines ran west from there as far as Mt. Hagen, east to Lae and north to coastal Madang. The cool mountain airs were always a relief to me after the heat and humidity of Port Moresby, located on the south coast, just off the bottom right of the map (where the red airport symbol is).