On our travels I have a propensity towards wild, remote and primitive destinations; and Papua New Guinea fits that bill perfectly.
We'd booked a five day trekking trip, exploring the Southern Highlands while staying overnight in private homes along the way. At the last minute the local agent changed the itinerary because they felt clan warfare in the area was making the plan too dangerous. This place is pretty lawless, something we shall find out for ourselves again and again.
Plan B is 'trekking by car' – that is, we will be dropped off somewhere in the morning, spend the day hiking, then picked up again by the minibus in the evening and taken back to our comfortable lodge. As it turns out, that suits me fine, as I am by that stage suffering quite badly from bronchitis, which is not helped by the altitude.
Back in the minibus after the trek, Peter, the driver, negotiates the so-called road (I have seen smoother dried-up riverbeds) for the journey back to camp. On some of the bridges, such as this one, there is a shortage of wooden slats, and it needs someone to get out and move the planks from behind to the space in front of us along as we drive across.
There is much consternation in the bus when a fracas is spotted ahead. A man from Medang, driving a hire car, has been robbed at knife-point. Unfortunately he fought with the robber and ended up quite badly injured. The locals love a drama and are revelling in this tale. The 'rascal' (as highway robbers are known here) has driven off in the hire car, and our driver wants to make a road block to try and catch him.
Picking up a machete and rifle from under the console, Mark states: “We are afraid. Very afraid”.
We proceed gingerly, willing the throng of people to disperse so that we can get through, with Peter sounding his horn to break up the crowd. My heart is in my throat and I can hear it beating. Loudly.
News of the robber comes through the grapevine: luckily (for us) the local inhabitants have managed to trap the gangster, tie him to the bumper of the car and beat him senseless. They are now waiting to hand him over to the police, who will no doubt batter him further.