31, Jul

The perils of travel in Papua New Guinea

Author: admin2

“Nothing less than a helicopter, Army Duck or jeep, would help alleviate the pain of transport in regional Papua New Guinea!  Since we didn’t have any such mode of transport available to us, like others in the locality, we had to rely on the truck or occasionally a boat when on the coast.”

Sr Margaret Mary, who has now returned to Australia after living with the Presentation Sisters in Papua New Guinea for 25 years, speaks of the difficulties of transportation in the region:

“There is no air link between Wewak and Aitape so most people travel by road.  On this route there are at least twenty six rivers to cross. Some of these rivers do not have bridges and those that do have a bridge are often unreliable after heavy flooding.

When I say we ‘travel by road’ the term ‘road’ is used loosely!  If the truck slides into a deep rut the tactics of getting it free are simple.  All passengers alight and shovels and ropes are handed out.  Some assist by digging around the wheels whilst the remaining passengers either pull from the front or push from the rear.  This operation can take hours and only the driver is spared a mud bath!

Bridges in Papua New Guinea are an interesting phenomenon. Some shake in their foundations, others have all the sleepers removed for firewood in the villages, others don’t meet in the middle but the most common bridge just has the iron tracks and NOTHING else.

Can you imagine a truck carrying a drum of diesel, timber, food and many passengers trying to wield that amount of cargo and at the same keeping on the iron tracks? One false move and all land in the river. No wonder some passengers feign sleep when things become too hairy!

Rivers are often in flood so it is not advisable to cross when this is the situation. So we wait and wait and watch the passing parade of floating large

trees, peoples’ humble abodes and dead animals including many snakes.  Usually people bring food with them and watch with us until day break…on the first day and sometimes the second day.

At the end of a trip the truck is ready for a major overhaul. This often runs into thousands of Kina. A truck is the life line for the Sisters.”


Can you help support the running costs of a truck or one of the community programs?

“A truck is a lifeline for the Sisters”

If so, please contact the Society Office on 02-97395600 or email society@pbvm.org.au for further information & bank transfer details
or send a cheque, payable to Presentation Sisters PNG, to Society of Presentation Sisters, Nagle Services, Suite 4F, 9-13 Redmyre Road, Strathfield, NSW 2135 ….. Please Note: Donations are not tax deductible

Any donations to help the Sisters in PNG with their transport or community programmes and ministries, would be greatly appreciated.




Sometimes wvwn a truck won’t do…Getting from one side to the other side of the river by boat without an engine… Mar. 2013











Pulling the truck onto the road after being washed down by the river








2 Responses to “The perils of travel in Papua New Guinea”

  1. lucy van kessel says:

    God bless the intrepid Presentation People who travel in PNG and thank you Margaret Mary for the description of the journeying.

  2. MARY MCCARTHY says:

    Margaret Mary, thank you for your vivid story of travel in PNG. Last week on the Goroka to Namta Rd I was reminded of our unique Wewak to Aitape Rd. The Namta Rd has fine strong iron bridges – it would be otherwise impossible to cross the fast flowing rivers way below the road. Last Wednesday was also fine. My imagination created the scene on days of heavy rain. We rolled up and down, back and forth and finally arrived at a most beautiful and unique setting. A lovely school with permanent classrooms and with amazing playing fields – soccer, a sealed basketball court and a sealed volleyball court under construction. The teacher in charge of the Elementary School poured out her story. She took charge after the Head Teacher was chased away for election related violence in which members of one tribe were killed. She tries to teach nearly 40 Preps and 40 Gr 1s in separate lovely classrooms made more attractive with her own teaching aids. The other teacher concentrates on Gr 2s – she wants them to be taught well so they can make the transition into the Primary School next year. Our PBVM Sister Cathy Mur is teaching at this school this year and proudly showed me her vegetable garden,small two bedroom cottage and classroom. The cold fresh waters of the nearby mountain stream provide for washing. After joining the closing Mass for Term 2 we set off for town thankful for a strong double cab and a very skillful driver leaving a team of dedicated young teachers starting a program of in-service training to better prepare themselves for the final term of the year.

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