On Thursday I will be leaving with a group of 5 other students and two national staff for a three day hike. We will be hiking during the day and stopping at a different village each night to have dinner and to sleep. In preparation for the hike we were given a lot of information to consider about packing, teamwork, and cultural and language assignments. Because we have to carry everything we need on our backs, we were given the opportunity to pack our backpacks, weigh them and then to replace the weight of the stuff in our bags with wood and water bottles, in order to test how much we could carry. So last week we went on our gear hike which was designed to let us know how much we could actually manage, the water and wood allowed those whose bags were too heavy to leave something along the side of the trail in order to lighten their loads. My packed bag weighed less than 10 Kilos but I carried 12 Kilos for the gear hike. We’ll see what my bag weighs when I actually pack it for the hike! The less weight the better.
During our time in the villages, we have cultural and language questions to ask the nationals. This will allow us to work on our Tok Pisin as well as gain further insight into the surrounding culture. I am going to be trying to elicit stories related to Traditional PNG Culture. These stories will hopefully answer the questions like: What aspects of traditional culture have been abandoned? What reasons do the people give for abandoning these practices? What do they see happening to their culture in 20 years? In addition, the linguistic work includes finding out more about their local language- different words, sentences or phrasing. I feel a little out of practice since it has been almost two years since my last linguistics class but I am excited to start using some of those skills again.
As far as the actual hiking is concerned let me quote the sheet of paper given to us detailing the three days:
Day 1 “…Leaving the river, the trail becomes less well-marked. This section of the trail will give you a taste of “true hiking” in PNG bush. The trail is a bit overgrown in areas, and you may find the hiking to be a bit challenging…”
Day 2 “…Eventually, the track begins to descend quite a bit, and after about 2 ½ to 3 hours from the junction, you will arrive in the picturesque village of Betelgut. As you arrive, you will cross a small river, the first water you will have come to on today’s hike…”
Day 3 “…There will be several moderate to steep climbs and you will cross three or so creeks. After about an hour or so, you will arrive in Kamba. From Kamba, you will hike over approximately the same route you took for the Kamba hike…”
Although I am excited about this hike, many aspects are very intimidating. More so because our group did an all day hike to Kamba and back; and while we were coming back we saw some kids on the path who were coming home from school. The hike that was exhausting and took us all day was the same walk that these kids take to and from school. How’s that for a little perspective?