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The Journey to Paradise Photos of great cultural and natural beauties of Papua New Guinea

 
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Old 14-08-2003, 10:24 PM
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Tambul – the center-point of PNG

by JAMES KILA

ALTHOUGH just located five-degrees south of the equator this intriguingly cool temperate beauty of Western Highlands province, Tambul is indeed a must visit for tourists.

The mountain ranges that surround the Kaguel valley at where Tambul station is located are also the source of some of the major river systems of PNG. There is a particular place in these mountains, which locals reckon is unique and sacred. There the source of two mighty rivers in PNG begins.

These rivers start as small creeks on the summit of one of the mountains, flowing in opposite direction just few metres apart. One creek flows north to join the Lai River in the Enga Province and advances further down to form the mighty Sepik River.

While, the other creek flow south and is the source of the Kaguel River, which goes on further to make up the Purari in the Gulf of Papua. May be that is why the people of Tambul reckon they come from the centre of Papua New Guinea.

Even a day visit to this place which the locals reckon as the center-point of PNG has been fascinating for me and a group of friends.

We began our journey in Mt Hagen around half-past-eight. Boarding the latest Toyota Landcruiser and headed north. As we passed rolling hills and countless vegetable gardens we realized the waiting clouds ahead of us reminding us that the name “Cool Tambul” is indeed fitting.

After passing the Tomba junction we headed northwest to begin the ascend. Our road climbed and winded along beautifully wooded hills thickly blanketed with trees and alpine shrubs. Cool fast-flowing streams tumble from the mountainside feeding the rivers, which surge through the Kaguel valley feeding into the main river system that runs through the valley by the same name. Our vehicle stopped briefly at Murmur Pass the highest point on the road.

We saw low cloud formations moving through the thickly wooded hills. Suddenly they blotted an entire segment of scenery from view and lifted just as quickly. For just a moment, we too were enveloped in the cloud mass and were lost in the soft white blanket of invisibility. Soon, though, the clouds swirled away and the sun illuminated the breathtaking view of Kaguel valley and Tambul station in front of us.

Mt. Giluwe the second highest peak in PNG was soaring above the clouds on the other side of the valley. We could only see its tops as the rest of it was still engulfed in the white clouds of the morning. From Tambul station you need to climb another 1200 meters to reach the summit of this massive mountain.

Coffee Industry Corporation scientist Pamenda Talopa, a local from Tambul was at the wheel and knows all the curves and bends so we reached the station earlier than usual. Mr. Talopa with his aides were out to collect data for some scientific research work on indigenous high altitude Casuarina trees responsible for nitrogen fixation.

We arrived at Tambul around 10 o’clock after driving for just over an hour, courtesy of the recently sealed road from Tomba junction to Murmur Pass. The next portion of the road have been graded and leveled ready for sealing to Tambul station.

Tambul station is located approximately 2,224 m above sea level at the foot of Mt Giluwe. The station was established as a government patrol post in the 1950s with the first highlands highway passing through it in the 1960s to Mendi in the Southern Highlands.

The station has a health center, district office, a top-up school and number of trade stores selling basic store goods. The high altitude agriculture research station of the National Agriculture Research Institute occupies a major share of the station land. There is also the neatly established PNG Bible Church mission station.

The church runs a pidgin pastor bible school, a Christian academy school, and recently established a vocational school. This mission station is another eye catcher with its colonial type missionary homes tucked under beautiful gum trees.

There is direct electricity flow all the way from Yonki to service Tambul, however, we were told that a careless villager in the process of chopping wood fell a tree which destroyed the supply to the station.

We passed a group of public servants traveling to Mt Hagen to watch the State of Origin final match due to lack of electricity supply to Tambul.

Tambul people are predominantly Kaguel-speaking, which is slightly similar to the Imbonggu language of Southern Highlands. The main tribes who dwell in the fringes of the Tambul station are the Kanimbe, Ayaka, Tekep, Tendepo, Yano, Mondika, Kulumindi and Yap tribes.

The people are generally humble and hardworking. Due to the mild cool climate the people grow temperate crops such as cabbages, carrots, broccoli and Irish potatoes that flood the Mt Hagen market each week-day. As we were traveling towards Tambul people were traveling on PMVs in truckloads towards Mt Hagen to sell their vegetables.

According to Mr. Talopa vegetables are the only source of cash income for Tambul people, as coffee can not grow at that height, and as a local he was thankful to the government and leaders who facilitated the recent road sealing to Tambul. He added that Tambul people are naturally industrious because of the tough cold climate they go through in life compared to the other parts of PNG.

They need good infrastructure development such as roads, schools and health services and they are capable of taking care of themselves. “Development of a better market outlet for the garden produce from Tambul is another concern for the people” according to Mr. Talopa.

The potato Late Blight disease, which threatened hectares of the potato crop, recently affected all the potato farmers. Many of these farmers were using traditional farming methods and had no hope when the disease affected their gardens costing hundreds of thousands of kina.

The visit to Tambul has certainly been exciting and educational. What breathtaking scenery the place has to offer. And there are wonderful flowers including various species of alpine shrubs and orchids along the road as you turn off the main Enga highway into Tambul. Moreover, we were reliably told that the culture of the Kaguel people are unique.

Unfortunately for us we missed a cultural show by just few days. The show was put up for a group of foreign tourists at Kulumindi village. A local tourist agent in Mt Hagen organizes the occasional village show for interested tourists to the province. All of these await visitors to Tambul so “yu yet yu kam na likum em” (come and see it for yourself) goes the song from one PNG music artist.

Ends…../

Photograph: Footbridge near Tambul station
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Old 17-08-2003, 08:33 AM
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If you wish to look at where Tambul is located, refer below. If you wish to look at enlarged map, please CLICK HERE:
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