Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Arona - like every place you've never been

That's me checking out fried tilapia at a roadside market
Fresh mandarins and vegetables on sale
Scenic landscape overlooking Yonki
Coffee Industry Corporation signboard at Kassam
Evangelical Brotherhood Church property at Kassam
Scenic Highlands Highway at Kassam
The drive between Kassam Pass and Kainantu is one of the most-scenic and beautiful in the country.
Arona Valley which you drive past was once mooted by the colonial administration as a potential capital for the then Territory of Papua New Guinea.
That is no longer the case, Port Moresby having stolen the thunder, but the picturesque Arona plays a pivotal role in PNG’s economy.
It’s here that PNG’s largest manmade lake – with water from the Ramu River – supplies electricity to the five Highlands provinces, Morobe and Madang.
It is, however, a paradox that electricity is “so near, yet so far away” and many of the surrounding villages are yet to be connected to the power supply.
That, together with land compensation matters, remains a contentious issue.
Those aside, the manmade lake is dubbed the travelers as the “Highlands Sea” and it’s now a common sight to see outboard motor dinghies zooming and dugout canoes being paddled across the hunting grounds of a bygone generation.
You could be forgiven for thinking that you were out on the deep blue ocean!
But then again, perhaps this can only happen in “The Land of the Unexpected”.
Fish, particularly tilapia, thrive in this inland sea – which was made in the late 1980s and early 1990s – providing a readily available source of protein and cash for hundreds of villagers on its shores.
Taking a drive up there last Saturday with officers of the Coffee Industry Corporation was so refreshing from the hustle-and-bustle of Port Moresby and brought back so many unforgettable memories.
In 1984 and 1985, whilst a student at the nearby national high school at Aiyura – another of the great Highlands valleys – I was fortunate enough to have done some memorable bushwalks through this area, so I can visualise Arona the way it was before flooding.
Along the shores, there are cattle grazing and bees hard at work in the hives, in scenes of pastoral poetry.
It’s a joy for weary Highlands Highway travelers to stop at the PNG Power township of Yonki and gaze across this scenic lake, garnished by pine trees, to a magnificent backdrop of mountains.
The Arona Valley is also one of the more lush, fertile and verdant areas of the Highlands.
Vegetables and fruit grown in abundance, supplemented by readily-available protein from the lake.
Hence, in this land of milk and honey, you have a very healthy-looking population.
Arona, like the rest of the Highlands, has coffee trees aplenty, providing a steady source of much-needed income for the people.
Nearby is Kassam Pass, which provides panoramic, awe-inspiring views of the Ramu Valley of Madang Province and the Markham Valley of Morobe Province.
Kainantu, the “Mile-High Gateway to the Highlands”, is about 30 minutes drive away, while the Eastern Highlands capital of Goroka is about an hour and 30 minutes drive.
Lae is about two hours and 30 minutes drive, likewise, Madang.
The lake, together with the pine trees and rolling hills, was as pretty as a picture in the afternoon sun and brought back memories of when my late wife Hula and I would stop here and marvel at nature while driving between Goroka and Lae.
Arona Valley once inspired the colonial administration to consider it as the potential capital of PNG.
You can see why with a visit to this part of PNG

No comments:

Post a Comment