Friday, June 29, 2012

Poetic magic of Ramu Valley


RIGHT at the end of the majestic Ramu Valley in Madang province, the great Ramu River flows, at the crossroads of Madang, Eastern Highlands and Morobe provinces.

Ramu River rolls away.-All pictures by MALUM NALU

The Ramu rolls away, as if on till Judgement Day, between the towering Finisterre Range of Madang province on one side, Bismarck Range of Eastern Highlands on the other, and the panoramic Markham Valley of Morobe province is just out this picture by the master painter.

The great Ramu River as seen from the suspension bridge linking Ramu Valley and Eastern Highlands province.

Afternoon in the Ramu Valley on Friday, June 15, 2012, as I stand on the banks of the Ramu mesmerised by the sheer poetic and sublime beauty of the place.

Arguably the best picnic spot in PNG on the banks of the Ramu River, bordering Madang, Eastern Highlands and Morobe provinces.

I am here with well-known former beauty queen Sharon Onsa Pople, Miss PNG of 1993 and now the face of Ramu Agri Industries Ltd (RAIL), our driver and a security escort.
It is pure Ramu Valley magic!
This is the best picnic spot I've ever seen yet in this country on the banks of the Ramu - surrounded by Madang, Morobe and Eastern Highlands province - in picture-perfect settings.
I stand here on the banks of the Ramu, lost in my own little reverie, and feel like doing a Huckleberry Finn down the river, as he did in Mark Twain’s Missisipi River classic of the same name.
Ramu riverside scene.

Sharon jolts me, saying that she regularly takes her kids for picnic here and that RAIL employees raft down the river at weekends.
There is a footbridge which crosses from the sugar cane fields of Ramu, Madang province, across the mighty Ramu River to Eastern Highlands province, walking distance from Henganofi, used by Eastern Highlanders.

That's me on a suspension bridge linking the Eastern Highlands (background) and Ramu Valley.

I walk across the wire bridge and, presto, I am in Eastern Highlands, gazing down like the lion king on the endless realm of the river, palm oil and cane fields, against the magnificent backdrop of the Finisterre Range.
That is why, Sharon tells me, she has fallen in love with the place.

Canefields of Ramu Valley with the towering Bismarck Range of Eastern Highlands province in the background.

Earlier today, over the mountains of the Finisterre Range at Dumpu, I was shown the track to Shaggy Ridge, one of the most-famous Australian campaigns of WW11, which does not get as much attention as Kokoda Trail.

The gap between these mountains at Dumpu, in the Usino-Bundi area past Gusap, leads on the the WW11 icon of Shaggy Ridge.
 Shaggy Ridge was the site of several battles during the Finisterre Range campaign of 1943–1944 and, if things work out well, I might trek later this year.
I spent three lovely days in the valley last week, from June 14-16, visiting RAIL’s various projects in cattle, palm oil, sugar and ethanol.
After having not visited for many years, coming back to Ramu was a breath of fresh air, a chance to enjoy the freedom of the open plains, mountains and rivers of the Ramu and Markham Valleys which was part of my life as a young reporter in Lae in the 1990s.

Entrance to Surinam Palm Oil Estate.

All kinds of creature comforts here at the Ramu Guest House where I stayed, that you would have thought that you were in a 5-Star hotel.
These include an 18-hole golf course, tennis courts, swimming pool, excellent bar at the adjoining Ramu Management Club, and restaurant which serves the best quality Ramu steak fresh from the paddock.

Children playing in picture-perfect settings at the Ramu Club against the magnificent backdrop of the Finisterre Range.
And to top it off, free wireless internet so I can work all night from my laptop!
The sugar town of Gusap, in my book, is one of the best and cleanest small towns in PNG for which cities like Port Moresby and Lae can learn from.

The sugar town at Gusap is one of the most-beautiful, clean and well-maintained in PNG.
Developments taking place in Ramu right now, since the giant New Britain Palm Oil Ltd (NBPOL) bought off Ramu Sugar in 2008, are nothing short of phenomenal.

The magnificent Finisterre Range towers over the Ramu Valley.

RAIL is carrying out massive multi-million kina expansion of palm oil in Ramu Valley of Madang province and adjoining Markham Valley of Morobe province after having its product rated as among the best in the world.
These projects included the biggest-ever 440km-long irrigation project in PNG using water from the Gusap River, building of satellite towns or “village estates” at Surinam and Dumpu past Gusap in the Usino-Bundi area, a second mill at Dumpu, and getting more out-growers from Ramu and Markham valleys.
That's me at the Dumpu Estate signboard along the Ramu Highway.

 Ramu palm oil was certified in 2010 by Roundtable of Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), meaning it is internationally recognised.

The massive palm oil storage tanks at Gusap in the Ramu Valley last Friday. The large yellow one can hold up to 1,000 metric tonnes of crude palm oil (CPO) while the smaller one can hold 250 metric tonnes of palm kernel oil.-
PNG’s first 100% locally made alcoholic drink – Ramu Rum – will be on sale in shop shelves later this year.
This follows the approval of production by PNG Customs to RAIL, although Ramu Rum has been produced for many years and is given as a gift to local and international VIPs.

Ramu be on the shelves later this year.
“It will be the first spirit produced entirely in the valley from cane grown in the valley, processed in the factory producing molasses, and then used to produce rum,” general manager Jamies Graham tells me.
“Fairdeal and Trade Winds purchase ethanol from us to produce some of their bottles of spirit."
RAIL will increase its harvest of sugar to reach a production target of 43,000 tonnes per annum over the next five years.

Cane harvestor (left) and tractor at work in the cane fields of the Ramu Valley on Friday, June 15, 2012.-
Graham says this will meet the demands of the growing PNG market, as the company does not export its sugar.
He saysthe threat of weed and pests had been controlled, thanks to the company’s efficient research and development department headed by national scientist, Dr Lastus Kuniata.
Last year, RAIL produced about 36,000 tonnes of sugar from a total cane harvest of 397,000 tonnes.
RAIL runs the biggest cattle ranch in the country with more than 20,000 head at Leron Plains in the Markham Valley of Morobe province.

Cattle in a yard at the RAIL’s Leron Plains Ranch in the Markham Valley of Morobe province on Thursday, June 14, 2012.-
The cattle are are then taken to the feedlot at Gusap to be fattened and slaughtered.
Ramu Valley is truly one of the great food bowls of PNG and one of the most-beautiful places in the country.
Evening of Thursday, June 14, 2012, along the Ramu Highway at Gusap.


  1. Great article and photos! Thanks a lot ... makes me want to visit there.

  2. I am interested in applying for the VSO volunteer role as a Community Base-Line Assessment researcher for the NBPOL Foundation's projects in Madang and Ramu Valley.
    Your blog is really helpful, giving me some good basic info on palm-oil activities there.
    If you have any other info on how that infrastructure is affecting the well-being of the community and the health and education outputs, I would be very grateful.

    Many thanks,

    Wendy Phillips

  3. Wendy Philipss, you can email me

  4. Anonymous3:49 PM



    Brian Waffi
    Former Legal Officer