Nepalese women pause from their work in a potato field, Panauti-Namobuddha Nepal

Striking a Pose among the Potatoes
It’s hard work getting food to the market and the table; song, plenty of chatter, and posing for the “tourists” help lighten the load.

Every cell in my body was alive and smiling!

I had sun on my head and dirt under my feet. With my arms swinging and my feet walking, I was finally on the move, and every step was a joy. I love walking – that is, until my knees lock up and my hips inflame, whereupon every step becomes agony …

It was the start of “day one” on a short, “easy” trek in Nepal’s Kathmandu Valley, and I couldn’t have been happier to be out and about.

I love Nepal, and when photographer Gavin Gough announced he was running a workshop out of Kathmandu, I jumped at the chance to return to the country. I was so excited that I organised to arrive four days early and go on a warm-up trek with local guide Angfula Sherpa and another photo-tour participant that I knew.

Although it is true that getting there – and getting started – is half the fun, once we were out of the city and out of our vehicle, I was in my element. I had my pack on my back, my cameras on my hips and a smile on my face. Our first day’s walk was from Panauti, a small town southeast of Kathmandu, to the Thrangu Tashi Yangtse Monastery in the tiny village of Namo Buddha. According to Google Maps, it is only 10 kilometres: a walk of about two and a half hours; it took us much longer, as we stopped to photograph every corner, chat to every villager, and sample all the foods along the way!

Join me in the dirt and sunshine of the Eastern Rim of the Kathmandu Valley.

Airplane wing over the Kathmandu Valley, Nepal

Wing over the Valley
Our proposed “easy trek” is somewhere below me; flying over the valleys and mountains of Nepal gave me a reminder of how rugged the terrain is.

Airplane wing over Kathmandu, Nepal

Over Kathmandu
The smog of Kathmandu is as I remember it, and the city boundaries stretch forever. I’m glad I have pre-booked a recommended accommodation down there somewhere!

Sunrise over the rooftops of Lazimpat, Kathmandu Nepal

Sunrise in Lazimpat
I’m up bright and early to try to do some pre-trek stretching on the rooftop of Lazimpat House, and to watch the sun rise over the crowded city.

Nepali people around a Fruit Stand, Panauti

Panauti Fruit Stand
Our guide, Angfula Sherpa, collected us early. We stopped in Panauti to pick up fresh fruit …

Nepali woman at a Fruit Stand, Panauti

Panauti Fruit Seller
… from a street-side fruit seller.

Indreshwar Mahadev Mandir Panauti Makar Mela Spot

Panauti Temple
Our car let us off at the head of our track, near the isthmus between the Roshi and Pungamati rivers. To our right, and across the river: one of Panauti’s many Hindu temples; …

Panauti Stupa on the river, Nepal

Panauti Stupa
… to our left, on our side of the river: one of the many Buddhist stupas that coexist beside the Hindu places of worship in Nepal.

Raised Potato Fields, Panauti-Namobuddha Rd

Potato Fields
Soon enough, the vestiges of “town” are left behind, and we are among acres of new potatoes growing in raised beds.

Two Women and a dog on Panauti-Namobuddha Rd, Nepal

Women on the Road
We are not alone on the dusty road, as Newari people – the long-time residents of this valley – go about their daily lives.

A woman doing dishes in her back yard, Panauti-Namobuddha Rd, Nepal

Doing Dishes

Woman in the Potato Fields, Panauti-Namobuddha Rd, Nepal

Woman in the Potato Fields

Father and Child on Panauti-Namobuddha Rd, Nepal

Father and Child
Parents and grandparents along the way are happy to show off their babies. All across the region, young children wear kohl around their eyes to protect against infections and evil spirits.

Dusty road of houses on Panauti-Namobuddha Rd, Nepal

Houses on the Road
People are slowly rebuilding their lives following the earthquake in April 2015: houses are still coming down and going up. The damage we walk past is both random and heartbreaking.

The Green House and the brick Shrine on Panauti-Namobuddha Rd, Nepal

The Green House and the Shrine
And then, amid the ruins and the simple brick homes, we find this!

Nepali women on the balcony of a green house, Panauti-Namobuddha Rd, Nepal

Three Generations on the Roof
This elaborate building probably houses a large extended family – as illustrated by the three generations who come out onto the upper balcony …

Nepali Mother and Baby on the balcony of a green house, Panauti-Namobuddha Rd, Nepal

Mother and Baby
… to watch us pass by.

Nepali man making samosas, Panauti-Namobuddha Rd, Nepal

Making Samosas
It may still be late morning, but when we spotted a man making samosas filled with fresh minced peanuts and spices,  …

Smiling Nepali woman in a general store, Panauti-Namobuddha Rd, Nepal

The Shopkeeper
… (while his smiling wife looked after the rest of the shop) …

Nepali man making samosas, Panauti-Namobuddha Rd, Nepal

Filling Samosas
… we had to stop and wait for them to cook so we could sample a few. They were absolutely delicious!

Pile of red baked bricks, Panauti-Namobuddha Rd, Nepal

Sun-Baked Brick Pile
Meanwhile, next door …

Nepali man laying out bricks for sun-drying, Panauti-Namobuddha Rd, Nepal

… and across the road, …

Nepali man forming bricks for sun-drying, Panauti-Namobuddha Rd, Nepal

Forming Bricks
… clay bricks are being made, laid out for sun-drying, and stacked in piles.

Nepali woman tending a garden, Panauti-Namobuddha Rd, Nepal

The Gardener
The sun rises towards its zenith, and we continue walking, with our bellies full of savoury samosas. The local women tend their gardens …

Nepali women tending potato fields, Panauti-Namobuddha Rd, Nepal

Working the Potatoes
… and hoe the potato furrows, …

Nepali women tending potato fields, Panauti-Namobuddha Rd, Nepal

Woman in the Potatoes
… pausing their work and song to greet us with curiosity.

Potato furrows, Panauti-Namobuddha Rd, Nepal

The flooded potato furrows – like our walk – stretch out to the foothills in the distance.

The sun was getting higher and the March spring air was humming with fresh smells and warmth. We still had a long way to go before lunch time – let alone before our stop for the night. But, so far, every step was a pleasure, and I was enjoying the moment.


Until next time,

Happy Walking!

Photos: 05-06March2017

A man planting rice in a Balinese field, Ubud

Planting Rice
It’s back-breaking work, planting rice, but Balinese farmers still have a smile for visitors.

Rice is absolutely central to Balinese society.

In Bahasa Indonesia, the lingua franca in Bali, nasi, the word for rice, also means “meal”. But in Bali, rice is so much more than that: the whole process of growing and harvesting rice is at the very core of the island’s religion and culture.

Since around 900 CE, the Balinese have followed a system of rice irrigation called subak, which arises from the Balinese Hindu philosophical concept of Tri Hita KaranaTri Hita Karanawhich translates as “three causes to prosperity” or “three causes of well-being”, seeks to promote harmony among people, harmony with nature and the environment, and harmony with God. Subak is “a complex cooperative irrigation system which incorporates traditional ecologically-sustainable land management under the authority of the priests in the water temples”, a system so unique that it was UNESCO-listed in 2012 for it’s cultural importance.

Rice cultivation in Bali happens in a continuous cycle, with neighbouring fields often at different stages of maturity. Balinese farmers always plant new fields before harvesting all the ripened ones (see: A Ride through the Rice Fields). The Balinese are the most prolific rice growers in the Indonesian archipelago; this, and their community-based egalitarian farming practices and equal distribution of resources, has allowed them to spend time in artistic and cultural pursuits.

Any time of day or year, you will find rice in the fields, and people tending it.

My husband and I were walking on a main road towards Ubud on a January afternoon when a Balinese man approached us and offered to take us for a walk through the rice terraces. This is the sort of thing that happens in Bali: strangers will offer to take tourists places, and it is usually ok …

Balinese Rice fields, Ubud Indonesia

Impossibly Green: New Rice
Around the hills of Ubud, houses and boutique hotels border the rice terraces.

Balinese Rice fields, Ubud Indonesia

Green and Yellow : Starting to Ripen
Every rice paddy is at a different stage of growth.

Giant wood spider (Nephila maculata/nephila pilipes), Ubud Bali

A Giant Wood Spider (Nephila Maculata/Nephila Pilipes)
Nephila comes from the Ancient Greek for “fond of spinning”: a tribute to the the lovely, delicate webs that golden silk orb-weavers make.

Man in a Balinese rice Field , Ubud

Working the Fields
Rice planting, transplanting, and harvesting is time-consuming work. Men do the planting and transplanting, while women do the harvesting.

A Balinese man in front of a harvested rice field, Ubud Bali

I Nyomen
We know that our impromptu guide – Nyomen – was a third-born child. By Balinese convention, children are given one of four main names according to their birth order. The “I” in front of his name indicates male gender (females often have “Ni” as a prefix) When they are older, children get a personal name, but these names are not so commonly used.

Flooded Balinese rice Field , Ubud

Flooded Sawah
Rice fields – or sawah – are flooded at regular intervals to soften the ground for planting and to nurture the new growth. The controlled flooding uses water diverted from streams and man-made water channels.

Ducks in a Balinese rice Field , Ubud

Ducks in the Rice Field
After the harvest, ducks are allowed into the sawah. They clear the fallow fields of eels, bugs, left-over grains of rice, and emerging weeds.

Working the Balinese rice Fields, Ubud

Working the Rice Fields

Ducks in a flooded Balinese Rice Terrace, Ubud

Ducks in the Rice Terraces
As well as cleaning the fallow paddies, ducks fertilise them as they are herded through.

Wet, muddy Balinese rice Fields, Ubud

Rice Terraces

Two Balinese men take a Break in the Rice Fields, Ubud Bali

Break Time
Rice is seeded in small fenced off areas, where it stays until the seedlings sprout and grow.

Wet, muddy Balinese rice Fields, Ubud

Reflections in the Rice Fields

A Balinese man transplanting rice, Ubud

Transplanting Rice
When rice seedlings are big enough, they are transplanted by hand into a flooded rice paddy. This happens with remarkable speed and precision, resulting in neatly spaced rows.

Shrine in a Balinese Rice Terrace, Ubud Bali

Shrine in the Rice
Shrines to Sri, the Rice Goddess, are dotted around the rice paddies.

Closeup: Fresh Balinese rice in the Fields, Ubud

Ripening Rice

Close-up: Rice from above, Bali Ubud

Green Rice

Rice growing, Bali Ubud

From the Water Up

Ducks in a Balinese rice paddy, Ubud

Ducks in the Rice
Although the demands of tourism have resulted in new development, including guest houses amid the sawah, the fields around Ubud still feature a lot of traditional farm buildings.



Ducklings crowded in a shed, Ubud Bali

As we picked our way carefully between the paddies, I could hear the most incredible noise. Some kind of old farm machinery? I asked Nyoman. He laughed, and took us up a small rise to a shed, where the up-and-coming crop of ducks were quacking a right racket!

Green grassy hillocks and yellow rice fields, Ubud Bali.

Rice Paddies
Grassy hillocks separate the different layers of rice fields. They make for slippery walking!

Tin sheds in a yellow rice field, Ubud Bali

Sheds in the Rice Paddies
Even though houses sit on the edges of the rice fields, shelters or sheds are shattered around.

Little Spice Finch - Lonchura Punctulata - in a rice field, Bali

Little Spice Finch – Lonchura Punctulata
Commonly known as nutmeg finch, scaly-breasted munia, or spotted munia, tiny little finch hop all over the ripening rice.

Giant Wood Spider (Nephila Maculata:Nephila Pilipes), Bali

Giant Wood Spider (Nephila Maculata/Nephila Pilipes)
A healthy environment is host to a range of species; wood spiders are non-aggressive members of the golden orb-web spider genus.

After a long walk through the peaceful greens, we came back out onto a bustling main street near Ubud, just as our new friend I Nyomen had promised.

The Indonesian government has tried to further increase rice production: by introducing new  varieties, by deregulating the subak irrigation system and ignoring the rest periods and irrigation schedules, and by promoting artificial pesticides and fertilisers. 

Unfortunately, these more aggressive agricultural practices – and the demand for land for tourism – have put a unique system, one that has prospered for over a thousand years, under threat. I can’t help but wonder how much longer those fields, in their countless shades of green, will last.

To the Future (text)

I only hope the Balinese can protect their beautiful terraces and sustainable farming practices – for the benefit of all of us!

‘Till next time.

Photos: 29January2017

  • Gabe - January 8, 2018 - 7:14 am

    What a pleasent afternoon walkReplyCancel

Tufted Daisies (Brachyscome scapigera) on the Hillside, Porcupine Rocks Track, Kosciuszko National Park AU

Tufted Daisies (Brachyscome Scapigera) on the Hill
The start of the Porcupine Rocks walking track affords lovely views back over the lodges across the road from the Perisher Mountain Ski Resort in Kosciuszko National Park, Australia.

Is there anything more restorative than mountain air in summer?

Australia’s Snowy Mountains are a wonderful place for summer walking. The bonus of being in the Antipodes is that the height of summer falls across the Christmas – New Year break. It is my chance to take time out to reflect on the old year, and plan for the new …

Whenever we can, my husband and I (with assorted family and friends) spend the New Year period in the Snowy Mountains, enjoying the walks – long and short, the unique flora, and the fresh air. 

This year, we took the opportunity to revisit one one my favourite walks: from the Perisher Valley Reservoir to Porcupine Rocks – a large granite outcrop on a ridge south of Perisher Valley. Its a short, but moderately challenging walk with a suggested time of 2.5 hours return. I think it always takes me more than that: the 214m rise in elevation slows me down! 

But it is sufficiently rewarding. The wildflowers are in abundance from early January, the rocks and terrain are visually interesting and the views from the top make the last steep climb worth it.

Join us for a summer walk.

The Main Range, Kosciuszko National Park AU

The Main Range
We always start our mountain sojourn with a drive up to Charlotte Pass and a short walk on the Snow Gums Boardwalk to have a look over Kosciuszko National Park’s Main Range.

Silver Snow Daisies Celmisia Astelifolia, Charlotte Pass, AU

Silver Snow Daisies – Celmisia Astelifolia
We are at about 1,850 metres (6,070 ft) here, so the alpine flowers bloom a little later than in the more protected valleys further down the hill.

Ghost Snow Gums, Charlotte Pass AU

Ghost Snow Gums – Charlotte Pass
A bushfire passed through here many years ago; the dead skeletons of old snow gums stand like eerie ghost sentinels on the hill.

Water Supply Storage Road and Rock Creek, Porcupine Rocks Track, Kosciuszko National Park AU

Winter Ski Lodges
Although Kosciuszko National Park has an increasing number of summer visitors, many of the ski lodges are only open in winter. Our walk the next day starts on Water Supply Storage Road past empty chalets and continues along Rock Creek.

Tufted Daisies (Brachyscome Scapigera) , Porcupine Rocks Track, Kosciuszko National Park AU

Tufted Daisies – Brachyscome Scapigera
The grasslands around us – which are under snow in winter – are scattered with cheerful patches of daisies and buttercups.

Rocky path up Porcupine Rocks Track, Kosciuszko National Park AU

The Path Up
Were glad of our walking sticks and sturdy boot! Parts of the track resemble a dried creek bed.

Mountain Mint on a boulder, Porcupine Rocks Track, Kosciuszko National Park AU

Alpine Mint Bush – Prostanthera Cuneata – on the Rocks
The Snowy Mountains were under the ocean some 450 million years ago. Today, the effects of millennia of pressure that metamorphosed the sedimentary rocks – and the subsequent erosion of these rocks, has left a roughly hewn landscape with the harder granite boulders protruding.

Grass Trigger-plant - Stylidium Sp. , Porcupine Rocks Track, Kosciuszko National Park AU

Grass Trigger-plant – Stylidium Sp.
The ground either side of the path (and sometimes on it) is boggy and wet.

Gorse and heather on a hillside, Porcupine Rocks Track, Kosciuszko National Park AU

Golden Hillside
The hillside is yellow with gorse blooms: in this instance, it is probably the Common Shaggy Pea (Oxylobium ellipticum).

Burned Out Snow Gums on a hillside, Porcupine Rocks Track, Kosciuszko National Park AU

Burned Out Snow Gums
I love the delicate colours of the heath and the granite …

Signpost on the Porcupine Rocks Track, Kosciuszko National Park AU

… as we reach the three-way intersection with Porcupine Link Track. In winter, this is cross-country terrain.

Red-flowering Carpet Heath, Porcupine Rocks Track, Kosciuszko National Park AU

Carpet Heath

Alpine Mint Bush - Prostanthera cuneata, Porcupine Rocks Track, Kosciuszko National Park AU

Alpine Mint Bush – Prostanthera Cuneata
The smells all around us – especially the Alpine Mint – are fresh and glorious.

Granite Outcrop, Porcupine Rocks Track, Kosciuszko National Park AU

Granite Outcrop
As we got close to the top of the hill, …

Granite Outcrop, Porcupine Rocks Track, Kosciuszko National Park AU

Granite Outcrop
… the granite outcrops became more dramatic.

Silver Snow Daisies - Celmisia Astelifolia, Porcupine Rocks Track, Kosciuszko National Park AU

Silver Snow Daisies – Celmisia Astelifolia

Porcupine Rocks, Kosciuszko National Park AU

Porcupine Rocks
Finally we reached our target: the ancient, craggy granite outcrop at the top of the ridge.

View Over Lake Crackenback from Porcupine Rocks, Kosciuszko National Park AU

Looking Over Lake Crackenback
There are good views over the resort at Lake Crackenback from the ridge. Those willing to clamber to the top of the rocks get clear views of Perisher Valley, Mt Duncan, Thredbo River Valley and Bullocks Flat. We, however, played it safe and stayed lower down.

Granite Buttercups - Ranunculus Graniticola, Porcupine Rocks Track, Kosciuszko National Park AU

Granite Buttercups – Ranunculus Graniticola
As we work our way back down, we stop to admire the buttercups.

Snow Gums and Gorse shrubs, Porcupine Rocks Track, Kosciuszko National Park AU

Snow Gums and Gorse

View of Perisher from Porcupine Rocks Track, Kosciuszko National Park AU

Perisher in Sight
When the ski resort comes back into view, we know we are almost finished.

Small fish in Rock Creek, Porcupine Rocks Track, Kosciuszko National Park AU

Find the Fish!
We cross back over Rock Creek and make our way back to the car.

It was a lovely way to end the old year and start the one; I’ll be back in the mountains again when this year turns over.

Till next time …

Wishing you and yours a happy, healthy 2018!

Photos: 01-02January2017

Waratah Flowers, Blue Mountains National Park near Leura, AU

Waratah (Telopea Speciosissima) Flowers
Red and green together always make me think of Christmas. Of course, in Australia, Christmas is in the middle of summer. Waratahs are a spring flower, and the magnificent flowers we came across on our walk in the Blue Mountains National Park near Leura early October made me think of the holiday season ahead.

You never know what you will come across on a walk in the Australian bush!

In October, my husband and I had a brief interlude in Katoomba, the principal town in the Blue Mountains, just a ninety-minute drive from Sydney. Our charming 1930s guesthouse gave us access to the myriad of local arts, boutiques, coffee shops and bistros, as well as endless walking tracks. We opted for a short walk to the Three Sisters land formation in the morning (see: Echo Point), and after a delicious lunch of genuine Brittany crêpes, we set off in the car for the five minute drive to the neighbouring town of Leura to the trail-head of a short walk.

We had decided on the Pool of Siloam and Lyrebird Dell Walking Track circuit simply because it looked easy, and we hadn’t done it before.

It was a delightful two kilometres of up-and-down: through rainforest and bird song; past waterfalls and Aboriginal heritage sites. The blooming waratahs and other flora were a magnificent bonus.

Do come along!

Blue Mountains National Park

Pool of Siloam Track
From the Gordon Falls Reserve in Leura, it is a short and well-marked walk down to the Pool of Siloam.

Seed Pods, Pool of Siloam Track, Leura AU

Seed Pods
The Australian bush is full of subtle colours and rough textures.

Banksia Serrata, Pool of Siloam Track, Leura AU

Banksia Serrata

Leaf in the Dark, Pool of Siloam Track, Leura AU

Leaf in the Dark
As the track continues down to the base of this cliff, it gets darker, and the plant-life changes.

Pool of Siloam, Blue Mountains National Park, AU

Pool of Siloam
Land features in Blue Mountains often have names with biblical references (e.g.: The Temple of Baal Cave, Jenolan).

Pool of Siloam, Blue Mountains National Park, AU

Under the Falls
This lovely, shaded pool gets its name from Birkhat Hashiloah (Pool of Siloam) in the City of David, where Jesus sent a man to heal his blindness.

Stepping stones at the Pool of Siloam, Blue Mountains National Park, AU

Pool of Siloam
Stepping stones lead through the ferny glen, across the trickling Gordon Creek, …

Stepping stones at the Pool of Siloam, Blue Mountains National Park, AU

Path out of the Pool of Siloam
… and up the other side.

Gorse Bitter Pea (Daviesia Ulicifolia), Pool of Siloam Track, Leura AU

Gorse Bitter Pea (Daviesia Ulicifolia)
The vegetation changes again, as we rise up out of the glen.

Broad-Leaf Wedge Pea (Gompholobium Latifolium), Pool of Siloam Track, Leura AU

Broad-Leaf Wedge Pea (Gompholobium Latifolium)
Many of the shrubs and trees we pass are endemic to eastern Australia. This is one of the reasons the Greater Blue Mountains Area was designated a UNESCO World Heritage area of Outstanding Universal Value in 2000: it provides us a “significant representation of Australia’s biodiversity with ten percent of the vascular flora as well as significant numbers of rare or threatened species”.

Blue Mountains Ash (Eucalyptus Oreades), Lyrebird Dell Walking Track, Leura AU

Blue Mountains Ash (Eucalyptus Oreades)
Reaching up to 40m tall, the beautiful straight trunks of the Blue Mountains ash rise up to the sky around us.

Hiker walking don to Gordon Creek, Lyrebird Dell Walking Track, Leura AU

Down to Gordon Creek
We climb back down towards the creek, under overhangs of weathered sandstone.

Lyrebird Dell, Blue Mountains National Park AU

Lyrebird Dell
We cross the creek again at Lyrebird Dell – hoping (and failing) to see one of these long-tailed Australian birds as we pass.

Small white lilies, Lyrebird Dell, Blue Mountains National Park AU

Wild Lilies
There is plenty of interesting flora in the damp shadows.

Eucalyptus tree at the edges of Blue Mountains National Park, Leura AU

Edges of the National Park
Back up towards street level, we are once again among the eucalypts: this one with a fabulously gnarly trunk.

Grevillea Aspleniifolia, Lyrebird Dell, Blue Mountains National Park AU

Grevillea Aspleniifolia
There are about 360 species of evergreen flowering plants in the grevillea genus – most with unusual-looking, bird-attracting flowers.

Banksia, Lyrebird Dell, Blue Mountains National Park AU

Named for botanist Sir Joseph Banks (1743- 1820 ), banksia is another genus of plants unique to Australia, with around 170 species.

Waratah Flowers, Blue Mountains National Park near Leura, AU

Waratah Flower
The waratahs are magnificent! I’ve not seen them often in the wild, and it turns out that their own unique beauty almost rendered them extinct. According to the Blue Mountains Whistler: “When city people come to the Mountains for a holiday,” the Sunday Times observed in 1925, “they love to go looking for waratahs. Children sell bunches of the flower to people in trains and cars, and receive a good price for them.” The flowers were nearly wiped out.

Scrubby woods, Blue Mountains National Park AU

Into the Woods
We walked back through the woods full of birdsong, to return to our car.

Now, as we head into the holiday season, I’m reminded of the sublime red and green waratahs, and I think how lucky I am to have access to such magnificent wild places.

Here’s wishing you and all your family a wonderful Christmas – or a Happy Whatever-you Might-be-Celebrating this festive season – and a Happy New Year.


Photos: 09October2017

  • Peter - December 21, 2017 - 11:51 am

    Lovely photos as ever Ursulla,
    Have a Very Happy Christas and please do not stop wandesring!ReplyCancel

    • Ursula - December 21, 2017 - 12:09 pm

      Thanks so much Pete! I’m always happy to see you On Line – one day we’ll meet in our person. Wishing you a very good new year! 😄ReplyCancel

Motu Woman behind a wire fence, Hanuabada Village, Papua New Guinea

Motu Woman
Corrugated iron, fibrocement, wire fencing – and smiles – are the chief components of “modern” Motu villages in Papua New Guinea.

We were trapped!

Eleven photo-enthusiasts, photographer Karl Grobl, a couple of local guides and a bus driver – all trapped.

We had been warned: Papua New Guinea is not the safest place to travel. But, it was not tribal conflict, or spill-over from the recent election upheavals, or even tourist-targeting raskols (bandits) that had us stuck in a hot bus.

It was children!

It was if they had been wound up for weeks and fed sugar and red cordial all day before our arrival: from the moment we turned in towards the Motu village, they cheered and laughed and jumped all over our bus like mad things. It seemed unwise to try to work our way through an overly-enthusiastic crowd of sticky fingers and runny noses with our camera gear. We decided to try again the next morning, when – hopefully – everyone would be a bit calmer. Just getting the bus back out of the parking lot without running several youngsters over looked challenging.

I was glad we had more luck the next day, because these villages are fascinating and unique.

The Motu, long-ago descendants of Polynesian people, are traditionally sea-goers who are thought to have arrived in Papua New Guinea about 2000 years ago. They settled across the Port Moresby area and much of the eastern tip of the country, building their villages on stilts over the water to keep them safe from black magic and bad spirits (see: Koki Fish Market).

Hanuabada, which means “big village” in Motu, is the oldest and largest of the remaining stilt-villages. The original wood and thatch houses were destroyed by fire during WWII, and subsequently rebuilt (under the Australian administration of the day) from corrugated iron and fibrocement, on wooden pylons.

My Lonely Plant guide (2012) points out that you need an invitation to be allowed into the village; we were able to visit thanks to our two local guides who had relatives here. These women were fascinating to talk with. Although marriage within the village was preferred traditionally, obviously today’s social networks spread much more broadly: these women were educated, worldly, and had extended familial connections with Indigenous communities in Northern Australia and the Torres Strait Islands. They spoke good English, as well as Motu, and “Hiri Motu”, the local lingua franca

The village itself was – shall we say -“rustic”: simple houses built over the waters of Moresby Harbour, connected to the land and each other by elevated and swaying wooden paths. And therein lay the challenge for me: while I was a mountain goat in my youth, these days I get vertigo easily. Even with the patient assistance of local villagers, my cameras and I could not make it too far out onto the rickety, uneven walkways of timber planks.

It was a bit embarrassing: the locals didn’t mind the loose steps or missing pieces as they casually walked around eight-to-ten feet above litter and refuse-filled waters. According to Wikipedia, more than half of the Papua New Guinea national cricket team comes from Hanuabada; I guess running around on these perilous raised passageways improves their sporting performance!

Over-excited Motu children, Hanuabada Village, Papua New Guinea

Crazy Kids!
The children went wild the first time we tried to pull into a Motu village.

ver-excited Motu children, Hanuabada Village, Papua New Guinea

Kids on the Stage
Those youngsters who weren’t banging on the bus, climbed a temporary stage …

Over-excited Motu children, Hanuabada Village, Papua New Guinea

Girls on the Hustings
… and vied for our attention, as we made pictures through the bus windows.

Motu Women waving, Hanuabada Village, Papua New Guinea

Village People
When we finally made our way out through the sea of children, the women waved us off.

Gabi Hanuabada Village from the roadway above, Papua New Guinea

Gabi Hanuabada Village
The next morning we were able to stop our bus at some dusty roadworks …

Gabi Hanuabada Village from the roadway above, Papua New Guinea

Gabi Hanuabada Village
… to get a sense of the size of the village in the harbour, and its unique construction.

Villagers on a Gabi Hanuabada wooden walkway, Papua New Guinea

From terra fima, the walkways looks easy enough to negotiate, as they rise up over the mud …

Villagers in a Gabi Hanuabada house doorway, Papua New Guinea

Houses on Stilts
… and towards the tightly-knit network of simple houses.

Motu woman smiling from a dark window, Hanuabada Village, Papua New Guinea

Face in a Window

Motu child on his Daddy

On Daddy’s Back

Houses and Walkways, Hanuabada Village, Papua New Guinea

Houses and Walkways

Motu man in a painted doorway, Hanuabada Village, Papua New Guinea

Motu Man in a Doorway
Warm and welcoming smiles are everywhere – as are the signs of betel nut chewing, which is technically illegal.

Motu Woman on her Porch, Hanuabada Village, Papua New Guinea

Woman on her Hanuabada Village Porch

Motu Woman on her Porch, Hanuabada Village, Papua New Guinea

Motu Woman

Excited of Motu children, Hanuabada Village, Papua New Guinea

A Gaggle of Children
Once I was back on solid ground, it didn’t take long for the children to find me …

Trio of Motu children, Hanuabada Village, Papua New Guinea

Trio of Kids
…  and – without my coaching – push each other into posed positions.

Motu children, Hanuabada Village, Papua New Guinea

“The Look”

Happy Couple, Hanuabada Village, Papua New Guinea

Happy Couple
There is very little work in Hanuabada Village itself – most Motu men and many of the women work full-time in Port Moresby. Our visit was on a Saturday – so there were plenty of adults around.

Family Group, Hanuabada Village, Papua New Guinea

Spontaneous Family Group

Motu child, Hanuabada Village, Papua New Guinea

All the children seem to favour hand gestures.

Motu mother and baby, Hanuabada Village, Papua New Guinea

Mum and Bub
Like young mothers everywhere, this one was happy to show off her baby.

Motu children in front of corrugated iron, Hanuabada Village, Papua New Guinea

Children in the Yard
Papua New Guinea has a youthful population: more than half the people are under 25.

Old woman weaving under a stilted house, Hanuabada Village, Papua New Guinea

Old Woman Weaving
Some of the houses are over dry land rather than water; in the shade under one of these, an elderly woman sits weaving mats.

Motu children posing in the carpark, Hanuabada Village, Papua New Guinea

Kids in the Carpark
As we are boarding our bus to leave, more children – with their smiles and hand gestures – crowd in to see us off.

Traditionally, Motu grew some of their own produce in garden plots near their villages, the men fished, and the women gathered shellfish and crabs. They still do some fishing – although the villagers told me the fish was less plentiful – but they buy their produce from the local shops.

So, life changes.

There were few apparent resources in the village for the children, and the dusty car park seemed to be the only play area. Many of the children were chewing mouthfuls of betel nut. They had sores, runny noses, and dental decay.

To the Future (text)

One has to wonder what the future prospects are for those who don’t become members of the national cricket team. In the absence of toys, the children clearly have to rely on their own imaginations for entertainment.

Perhaps that is why they were so excited to see us.

Photos: 11-12August2017

  • Jan Lively - December 16, 2017 - 4:48 pm

    As usual Ursula, with pictures and words you easily transport me back to far off places we have been together.
    I remain impressed and dazzled by the history lesson you always provide, making me wish I had read your Weekly Wanders episode before going. You always delight and amaze.
    And we too send warm Christmas and New Year greetings to you and Gabe.ReplyCancel

    • Ursula - December 17, 2017 - 9:04 am

      Thanks so much for your lovely comments, Jan! It is always a pleasure sharing trails with you and Lew. 😀ReplyCancel

  • Karl Grobl - December 18, 2017 - 1:10 am

    As always Ursula, you’ve done a wonderful job of combining images and text to inform, enlighten and remind us all of places and experiences that we’ve shared. Thank you!ReplyCancel

    • Ursula - December 18, 2017 - 1:26 am

      Many thanks for your visit and generous comments, Karl!
      Happy Holidays to you and yours. 😀ReplyCancel