By KEVIN PAMBA
THE little known Anga River section of the Highlands Highway in Southern Highlands made news headlines for a wrong reason last month (September). The naturally beautiful and serene setting was the scene of an ugly crime – the killing of two policemen based in Koroba station in Hela and the injuring of several other people.
Saturday Sept 30, 2017 thus became a black day for the Anga River catchment area and the rest of SHP.
On any other day, the Anga River region in the Lower Mendi Local Level Government (LLG) of Imbonggu Electorate, would be a serene and peaceful spot that motorists and commuters marvel at or stop by for a rest, cool off in the waters of Anga and the streams that flow into it, and even take photographs before resuming the journey.
It has mostly been that way since the 12 Chief Engineers (12CE) Works Unit of the Royal Australian Engineers (RAE), an army corps of the Australian Army pushed the Highlands Highway through it to link Mendi from Angule River at the border, with the Ialibu region where Dillingham Corporation had left off construction in the early 1970s.
The 12CE Works Unit managed the Works Division in SHP from 1971 to 1999 under a special arrangement between the colonial PNG administration and Canberra to speed up development of public infrastructure – roads, bridges, airstrips and government buildings – for the last frontier province to catch up with the rest of the young country.
Like the Anga River area, Papua New Guinea’s approximately 30,000 km road network outside of the towns and cities runs through immensely beautiful and serene country. I for one appreciate the natural beauty and the abundance of what is out on the land every time I take the road trips, however repetitive some journeys may be.
Elsewhere in the world, the Anga River catchment would be an envy for an investor in eco-tourism or adventure tourism with its priceless gorge, waterfalls, fresh mountain air all-year-round and tropical rainforest cover leading northwards to the foothills of the majestic Mount Giluwe (4,367 m), PNG’s second highest mountain. Here is an ideal location for riverside picnics, trekking, white water rafting, bird watching and even fishing for the odd trout or two.
The picture perfect Anga River environment is among the numerous such sceneries in the SHP and Hela segments of the Highway.
The Wara Lai Gorge overlooking Poroma along the Mendi-Tari section of the Highway is another natural spectacle I enjoy stopping at to appreciate God’s perfect handiwork in its wholesome splendor. This is where the combined Anga, Angule and Mendi Rivers tumble through limestone ravines and meet the majestic Lai River as it heads southward to pick up Muvi River out of Kutubu and then join Erave River further south.
The Erave River then journeys southeast to collect the Yalo, Kaugel and Waghi among other rivers for the final leg to the Gulf of Papua as the mighty Purari River.
The cool alpine-like setting of Mt Ambua at Tari Gap and the views of Mount Giluwe and from the plains of Ialibu Basin are other flattering natural scenes in these parts of the country.
Even Mendi town itself – if you peel away the present issues – is nestled in a naturally tranquil setting between two mountain ranges on its east and west sides with Mount Clancy to the north while the Mendi and Mangani rivers run through parts of the town.
It is in the picture perfect natural settings like those described here that the words in the creation story in Genesis 1.31 come alive in the eyes of the mortal beholder: “And God saw everything He has made, and behold, it was very good”.
It is up to man to make good use of that perfect creation, and not abuse it.
- Kevin Pamba is a freelance journalist