By MALUM NALU
It’s early Monday morning on July 30, 2018.
I am on a chopper, with a US Embassy official, trying to reach remote Laronu village, Inland Rigo, Central, to meet up with a group of American and Australian trekkers doing the Ghost Mountain Trail.
I’ve heard so much about Inland Rigo.
It’s like a Shangri La, a land that time forgot, up here in the mountains on the foothills of the Owen Stanley Range, bordering Northern, where the air is rare.
A beautiful, pristine land of mountains, rivers and waterfalls.
The forests teem with wildlife and the rivers with fish and prawns.
Our New Zealand pilot, because of poor visibility, takes us to the disused airstrip at Dorobisoro.
A group of villagers emerge, one by one, and start talking.
Women in Inland Rigo struggle with very little government services, according to a primary school teacher.
Amanda Walo, deputy head teacher at the Dorobisoro Primary School, says this surrounded by a group of women at the village.
They are sitting on the disused airstrip.
Walo is from Hula, along the Rigo Coast, and has been teaching at this school in the mountains for the last seven months.
There are no roads or air services to Dorobisoro.
It takes up to five days to walk to Rigo district headquarters at Kwikila to access government services.
“The life of women here every day revolves around gardening and looking after the family,” Walo tells me.
“For girls in the school, it’s difficult, because when they reach the age of marriage, they (family) just remove them from school and they get married.
“They don’t go on to higher institutions.”
Walo says she enjoys teaching at Dorobisoro, “as it’s out of the town, peaceful, very enjoyable”.
“Living on the coast is just like living in the city,” she says.
“It’s close to the city so life is a bit hard.
“Here, we have everything.
“The villagers supply us with food, everything, so we don’t need anything.
“All we worry about is preparing lessons and teaching the students.”
The 27-year-old taught at Kalo Primary School in Hula for three years and this is her first year in Dorobisoro.
Up at Laronu is the headwaters of the mighty Kemp Welsh River.
Another slice of paradise here.
We catch up with the trekkers here, including Nathan Lati of the Tourism Promotion Authority.
He’s confident that the Ghost Mountain Trail between Central and Northern can become the next big trekking adventure after the Kokoda Trail.
“It’s great to be part of this group to explore the track,” Lati tells me at Laronu.
“Maybe we can develop that ourselves.
“I’ve really enjoyed walking with this group as they are fascinated with the track.
“It’s very challenging but it’s good that we develop and promote it.”
Lati says the Ghost Mountain has huge potential as an alternative to Kokoda.
“I have no doubts about having this as an alternate to Kokoda,” he says
“I see that this one, when it picks up in the market, will see a lot of things happening.
“The locals are fully supportive of this.”
Trek leader, Australian Peter Gamgee of Getaway Trekking, who has already led four Ghost Mountain treks, says Laronu is the last main village before the Owen Stanley Range.
“We’ve had a great trip so far,” he tells me.
“Lots of village welcomes.
“Local people have been feeding us.
“We haven’t had any real problems at all.”
Villages along the Ghost Mountain Trail see next to no development.
An international trekking industry could set them on the right foot.
By MALUM NALU