Monday, October 10, 2011

Expedition of the Year 2011

This year Cumec launched its first Kayak Awards, of which we were fortunate enough to share the 'Expedition of the Year' category with Josh, Toni, Lou and Tyler's - Thailand Expedition. Although both expeditions were drastically different I think we were both great examples of Kiwi's getting out there and pushing the limits of the sport and their own personal comfort limits. Hopefully more young Kiwis can be inspired to get out there in what ever they are interested in!!!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Future Exploration

The options for future white-water exploration in Papua New Guinea are endless! Although it seems like we covered a lot of ground in our expedition, the reality is that we have only scratched the surface. Changes in political stability and tribal tension could see the Southern Highlands open up to exploration as well as some rivers in the Enga Province. If you were to commence a trip in the sweltering 'Wet-Season' you would find enough water to paddle the smaller tributaries that were either two low or dry when we were there, these were present in every area we went to. Most notable the Upper Lopogo in the Morobe Province. And if you were there on a bigger budget... this one is tricky as there is plenty of scope for using helicopters and light-winged aeroplanes to access super remote areas but this would come at a tragic cost, which would be the inability to develop a good repore with the local communities. Papua New Guinea is highly impoverished and the presence of money or valuables WILL affect people's behaviour whether you're working out prices for transport, during your stay in their village and how the communities receive you. Barny, Shannon and Myself are young adventurers, earning modest incomes and therefore were not a huge budget but even having shoes for example indicated to people of our personal wealth. I personally think that if you were to go PNG on a big budget you would get to paddle a few amazing rivers but at the cost of getting the real experience of PNG.

Specific Rivers worth a look....

A part of our expedition was to bring back information on a few rivers to try and rouse future interest in Papua New Guinea, here they are...

Morobe Province:

Further up the Watut - We paddle two sections on the Watut, from Gwasak to Bamjim and from Society to the confluence of the Bulolo River. Both these sections had some great class IV+ medium volume paddling, with Mangke Gorge providing the best white-water. Society, however, is not even nearly at the source of the Watut. We think by travelling up to Aseki you will find a steeper part of the Watut that could have some goods.... Also contacting the Hidden Valley Mine could be a good idea, it is located further up the Watut and they MIGHT be a good source of information if you get the right person on the phone.

The put in for our First Descent of the Upper
Watut.... must be more above! (p. Barny)

The Upper Lopogo - We paddled the lower section of this run, putting on with only an hour of daylight and therefore hardly stopping to appreciate our setting. The section above, however, WILL be some continuous class IV+ - V when there is water in it, leading us to believe this could be a good wet-season option. It is roadside for a few kilometres, if you go up further you are looking at a jungle-bash to access the river but there is a good chance there is some sort of hunting or village track... there always is!

Barny on the lower Lopogo, it is much steeper
above Timini (p. Jordy)

Chimbu Province:

Chimbu River - This province has the most potential out of anywhere we went and the Chimbu or 'Wara Simbu' is a real test piece. We first descented the section from Banana Market down to Benebi Corner, and the Sikewage Gorge at Benebi Corner. Unfortunately we had to abandon our attempt to paddle down to Kundiawa due to Barny loosing his boat overnight. So this section that has at least two box canyons stacked with class IV-V (parts are visible from the road) is prime for the taking. Though beware, there are sections where the river goes underground!

Scouting Sikewage... two more gorges to
be had further down (p. Jordy)

Marl River - With only Shannon and myself being able to paddle we only committed to a 2km section of this River. Driving along the Waghi River, heading SE from Kundiawa, we found that many of the small and medium size drainage's were granite. After paddling Karanule Creek we figured that exploring further down this road made sense. The Marl was the first major tributary that we came across, at Gumine. We put on at the first bridge crossing the river and took out at the first creek that came in on river left. With more time, and more team members for safety, it would be worthwhile continuing further up the road to paddle the gorge above our put it or even above that OR continue further down below where we took out, maybe taking out at the Wahgi.

Shannon on the Marl, DEFINITELY more above
and below Gumine (p. Jordy)

As mentioned, there is an unlimited amount of potential in PNG for paddling. After our experience there here are a few things that you might find useful for a future expedition there.

(i) Use common sense, the people of PNG are a lot more astute that you might think. There were situations where a genuine person was trying to help us to the best of their ability BUT their friend did not share the same honest streak. Every deal is a favour, through their Won Tok system of family, so you might be paying a little more here and there but just keep track of it.

(ii) Use the local knowledge CAREFULLY. Once you have assimilated into a specific community or group EVERYONE wants to help you. People will say 'yes' to things that they don't know about just because yes is usually positive. For example, "Is there big rapids and danger down there", "Yes".... "Is it flat/calm water down there", "Yes, very safe". We'd ask either way to see if locals understood what we were asking, something that we found to be handy.

Being told I would die, turned out to be exactly
what I wanted to hear (p. Barny)

Also the locals drastically under-estimated distances, our first section on the Watut we were told was 1km, and it was 4km. Society to Baiune was meant to be 2-3 km and it was about 10km. We generally doubled the distance that they said and were not surprised if it turned out to be longer.

(iii) Realise that PNG-time is like island-time but even slower! Unless you had an huge sum of money and were employing a security company and chartering flights, you will find yourself being stalled out by PNG-time. Actually even then you will, our initial flight to Lae was delayed by four hours and no one in the terminal was surprised. Planning to have a few days up your sleeve is not a bad idea, we got messed around for 3 days negotiating a price for a 10 day trip to the highlands and we ended up settling on the initial price. Don't get frustrated, and try and sort things out in person opposed to over the phone.

Once you're on the river it is all
worth it for sure! (p. Jordy)

(iv) Play down everything to do with money. It is a hard thing to do when having shoes and clean clothes separates you from the majority of the populas, especially when all you want to do is take video and photos of your experience! We did not go around with our cameras constantly clicking, as we may have liked, but only took photos/video in safe situations and after asking if it was ok. When queried about the price of our gear, cameras etc we would always give low estimates. And with negotiating we always pleeded our lack of money, mainly because it was true, which got us close to local prices!

Its hard not to look rich when you have this
amount a gear (p. Jordy)


Well it is hard to explain the experiences we had and to tell of the things that we learnt. But one thing if for certain and that is 'trust is contagious'. We had to put a lot of trust into people we didn't really know, in both our preparation and during our expedition. And we believe that it was this blind trust that made people then trust and want to help us. A lot of our expedition's success came down to luck. With the lack of internet in PNG it is hard to contact people or groups that are not related to tourism but we were fortunate to be put in touch with a certain ex-pat who really made out trip possible. The Union of Watut River Communities also greatly contributed to our success, specifically Reuben Mete and Reuben Paul, not to mention all the boys that looked out/after us. PNG is not this mystical place that has an 'untouched' population of tribes, it is a nation struggling to find the balance between a traditional and western lifestyle. The environment it grand, uncultivated (by a western definition) and treacherous. We were able to overcome these obstacles and almost achieve our admirable goal of 10 First Descents. Eight First Descents in 26 days is an amazing achievement but one thing we think is a greater achievement is that we spent 26 days in a country that we had been warned off, been warned to take guns, were advised that it was unsafe and we not only came through unscathed but we also got to meet the REAL people of PNG. We develop friendships and showed that the stereotypes put on PNG are unfair and unjust. People fear what they do not understand and PNG is a perfect example of this. PNG is an adventure in all its meaning and a place I would highly recommend to anyone seeking just that!

Chilling out with the locals of Middle
Watut (p. Reuben Paul)

If there is anyone thinking of planning a trip to Papau New Guinea do not hesitate to contact us on,

Thanks again to everyone who supported us SPARC, Bliss-Stick, Hydroscapes, Bivouac, Back-Country Cuisine, Immersion Research and Canadian Club Whisky.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Papua New Guinea Film

Here is an edit that I made from our expedition to Papua New Guinea. Shannon was on the video the whole time, with Barny and I contributing here and there. Let us know what you think. Cheers Jordy, Barny and Shannon.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Wara Marl

Waking up the next day we didn't really have too much of a plan, Shan and I could attempt the lower gorges of the Simbu (below where we hiked out the day before) but we not that keen as it was very committing and with just two of us not the best idea. So after a little lay in and a typical PNG breakfast of biscuits, which are flavoured crackers, we figured we might try our luck in the 'Granite Valley'. Driving out over Karanule Creek we realised there we quite a lot less water than our last trip out here but we ha heard there was a river about 2/3 the size of Wara Simbu that poured into the Wara Wahgi, down by a town called Gumine. Two hours later we arrived at Gumine, and before long some local had climbed aboard our rig and was directing us to Wara Marl. We caught the odd glimpse of the river and it looked pretty damn good, but one thing we noticed is that the further you went... the further you would be isolated and hiking back out. Once we arrived at a bridge that crossed the river we hopped out and eagerly inspected the river. There was a gorge upstream of the river that looked like it may go, but we figured that we should keep it safe so we only committed to a 1-2km section down to a small creek that we could use to climb out.

Mama and her white-son's (p. Reuben Paul)

As we were getting ready some disgruntled locals approached us and requested payment to use the river. Up until this point we, and our local contacts, had maintained that it was setting a bad precedent to pay to use rivers but for some reason one of our guide strongly suggested to us that we should pay them something. They requested 200kina and we ended up giving them 42, silly mistake. It turned out that the men requesting the money were from a village further upstream and that the true locals would not of charged us. But yeah, we just wanted to get on the river and made a trivial mistake. Nevertheless, we were ready and on our way to first descent number 7!

The locals that didnt mind us paddling the river (p. Jordy)

Shan making his way down to Wara Marl (p. Jordy)

After the first 100m, unbelievably, the river dropped straight into a box canyon and for some reason I got the urged and bombed straight in. Fortunately there was only a class IV+ entry and then the gorge was flat, but we were reminded that we were in the Chimbu Province... gorges everywhere. After emerging from the gorge we were into a section that had a character like the lower section of 49-Bridgeport, granite creeping in from the edges of the river and some great moves. The take-out creek came to fast and we were sure that there was even more good downstream, and upstream for that matter. Once we had clambered back up to the truck our good day got even better...

Shan entering the box gorge (p. Jordy)

Inside (p. Jordy)

Oh so sweet (p. Barny)

It kept getting better (p. Barny)

Shan right before all the lateral's (p. Jordy)

Gold (p. Barny)

Shannon at the end of the section we done, much
more downstream for next time (p. Jordy)

Barny was doing a little jig and Reuben Paul was on the phone finishing a conversation with the local villagers who had found Barny's boat with the 'blue-bag' intact. So we quickly packed up and made our way to Kundiawa, where the kids were waiting for us with the blue-bag, and then headed up to Benebi Corner. Upon arrival, much to our suprise, we noticed the kayak was all good. Apart from some major stone chaffing from being in the undercut, the boat was as solid as when it went into the undercut... just a bit lighter now! We gave them the 100kina reward, listened to the gringe worthy story of how a man swam under the rock several times to locate the boat and then get a line on it to pull it out and then left with big smiles as we knew we'd all be on the river the next day!

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Big Loop - Sick to the Simbu

As we have no photos I will give you a brief dialogue of our trip up to Mt Hagen and back. About four hours on the back of the land-cruiser put us in Mt Hagen, where we stopped at the first store/hot food stand and brought some lamb flaps... the same cut as pork strips off a sheep but just bone and fat. We ate those and headed to the police station, much to our dismay. But fortunately we done this as we were advised to NOT travel to the Enga Province, which is where the Lai and Baiyer Rivers were. Civil unrest, a recent kidnapping and a lack of police presence there (due to them focusing on the main centres of the Easter weekend) were all just reasons for deciding against travelling up there. So we decided to chill out for the evening, watch some publicly distributed pirated DVD's and come up with a plan in the morning. Well about 2.50am our plan started to come into being with Barny charging out of the tent, making it to the out-house before spewing and shitting simultaneously. I only woke up for about 6 of his 12+ quick exits from the tent and by the morning Barny was actually broken. When we all got up we found that Shan we under the weather too, he had been feeling a little rough but his dose of the runs were more frequent and violent than they had been. The to make things worse, Bonny's sister who had returned from the Enga Province said that we would be fine going there... Although it was tempting, we had to listen to the warming of the local cops and the boys bodies. So we elected to drive back down to Kundiawa so they boys could get some rest at Mama Josephines. Some sleep, fluids and then a good feed in the evening brought the boys back to life and ready for the next day... Back to the Simbu!

Barny scouting (p. Jordy)

Before committing to the Simbu we figured that we better give it a proper scout so figured we might spend the morning trying to scout from the gorge rim and then paddle it in the afternoon. No need! Once we arrived above the rim we were told by a local lady that there was a track down to the gorge. After cautiously making our way down the grassy/slippery/muddy track we got right into the gorge... right above where the whole river went underground! Fortunately there was a pool above it to portage if the rest of the gorge was good to go. As we walked up river left we noticed a drop that would go if you missed the eddy but we'd rather portage if we could as 70% of the water pumped straight into an undercut. Above that was some class IV and then a class V drop below a massive waterfall coming in on river left. We could see that falls from the mouth of the gorge which indicated to us that it was good to go. We hastily made our way up to the truck and then down to an area where we would put in at Benebi Corner.

Shan scouting the Sikewage Gorge (p. Jordy)

Looks good from here (p. Jordy)

Although we pretty much knew what was in the gorge there was an hint of apprehension among us. After Barny won r-p-s again he was first to commit, first to experience the surreal feeling of going through the gorges gates first. Shan and I followed and then much to our surprise, we noticed some village kids inside the gorge shooting bats with home-made slingshots... and actually getting them! This was PNG, amazing box gorge, 60+foot waterfall crashing in on river right and kid killing bats! Back to business, Shan and I got out to scout/photo/video the class V drop we had seen from below earlier. Shan gave Barny a line, I reaffirmed it and we set up to watch Barny fire it... Well coming in blind Barny got on the perfect line but as he got whited out by a big wave missed the last stroke and didn't quite clear the hole, get recirced and straight into a side surf. He then pretty much surfed out of the hole but then got stopped by a large buffer and crammed into a shitty pocket eddy. After holding on for ages he finally pulled and subbed out for an eternity. Briefly surfacing, I lauched a bag but it went taunt and fell short, Shan then moved and bagged Barny, albeit from upstream. Barny regathered himself quickly on a rock before washing down into the rapid we thought we'd portage if we could. After I ran around through the bush I found Barny chillng out in the eddy, a bit exhausted but all good. Then I asked the golden question, "where's your boat bro?", knowing below the eddy Barny was in the river went underground. He didnt know, I didnt know, Shan didnt know and the local bat-killers didnt know. After having a quick scour around, being lowered into the cave where the river was flowing and some thinking we pretty much figured that it was in that 70% undercut. Several attempts to locate the boat failed so Barny and I just waited.

Barny entering Sikewage Gorge (p. Jordy)

Stoked! (p. Jordy)

A gorge that rivals all gorges (p. Barny)

Sheer-walled, amazing. (p. Barny)

Barny ready to fire (p. Jordy)

Sikewage Gorge (p. Jordy)

Barny on the perfect line... but not to be (p. Jordy)

Shannon and the crew carried our boats up the grassy/slippery/muddy hill, and we continued to wait. Five hours past to no avail so we decided to pull the pin, Barny's boat and the gear inside it (camera and everything) were gone, but we gave the local's our contact detail incase it flushed out sometime. Offering a 100kina reward for the blue bag (watershed) that was in the kayak. This was the second time the Simbu had broken us and we arrived back to Mama Josephines spent and in need of a good feed and sleep. Looks like the next day it would just be Shan and myself...

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Karanule Creek

After the punishment handed to us by the Simbu we were all hoping to find something road-side, nothing to committing and maybe even a park n huck. The usual evening rains were harder than normal so we figured there might be a chance of finding something. Mama Josephine said that there was a waterfall about 10km away that spouted into the Wahgi River and that sometime people jump off it, but "it's very high, and you might hurt yourself". So far if it wasn't going to kill us, wasn't too hard or wasn't impossible then it probably wasn't worth checking out. So we rigged up and made our way towards Gumine, due south-west of Kundiawa.

The boys chilling out on the back of the Landcruiser (p. Jordy)

After spotting a MASSIVE rapid on the Wahgi from about 3km away and checking out a scenic but unrunnable 80 footer, we sort of felt that we might as well keep driving and check out the country-side if nothing else. One thing in our favour was that all the small tribs we crossed were granite. After 20km or so we crossed a substantial trib worth further inspection, which didn't take long as there were two 15footers directly under the bridge! Quick scout to find a way out after the second falls and rock-paper-scissors put Barny at the top of a dodgy seal-launch and us on safety/photos.

Stoked to find a park n huck (p. Barny)

Barny First Descent of Mama Josephine Falls (p. Jordy)

And then the bottom drop (p. Jordy)

Shan spotting the entrance (p. Jordy)

Shan styling the second drop (p. Barny)

Me on the first falls (which I messed up) (p. Barny)

and the second falls (p. Barny)

Stoked with finding this little gem we returned to Kundiawa revived and ready for more. That evening we decided that we would head to the Western Highland, to Mt Haagen and then maybe check out the Lai and/or Baiyer Rivers. But that wouldn't end up happening....

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Wara Simbu

We never thought we would of been given a road-side first descent on our first day in the highlands, nor another one on day two! The drive from Tama Siane Guesthouse over to Kundiawa was typical, astonished looks as three 'whitey's' ripped past on the back of the Landcruiser, poor roads and amazing views. Just before the climb up to Kundiawa we crossed a sizeable river that looked to gorge up big time not to far upstream, Wara Simbu. For some reason we went to the local police station when we arrived in Kundiawa, asking about the local situation and stuff I guess, and then two of the cops jumped on the back of the truck to 'make sure we were ok' and 'to show us where the river is good'. So after this run-around we went back towards that 'sizeable' river, and hung a left... and there just happened to be a road going up the river. We were informed that this river had been rafted 10 years earlier so every time we peered down from the road into the ominous gorgeous and canyons we never really gave it to much thought. We decided to put on at 'Banana Market', there was a higher put in but we figured we had a fair way to cover and the character of the river was beginning to flatten out towards the top.

Morning view at Tama Siane (p. Barny)

Once on the river we were straight into it, step class IV-V boulder gardens and quite a pushy flow. We all sort of thought this would be quite full on in a raft but carried on enjoying this amazing river. After a noticable increase in the river's gradient we pulled in to inspect the next series of rapids... off the richter!!! After a twenty minute scout we came to the conclusion you could 'probably' run each rapid in isolation, but there were NO pools or even eddy's through this 300m of baraging white-water. Just as we were about to commit to what was going to be a burly portage, a couple of locals appeared from the bush and offered to lend us a hand. At this stage we were pretty fresh so just asked them to show us the best way to walk around the rapids and then followed them up a steep hill and through the dense jungle. As we were walking these guys told us that the first people who attempted to descend the Simbu hiked out just below Banana Market

Just below Banana Market (p. Jordy)

Into the Simbu (p. Barny)

Arrving back at the river we came to a pretty full on rapid, Shannon and Barny were keen but I wasn't so I made my way to the bottom and watched the boys fire. After this we paddled another few hundred metres before we were frantically waved to the side of the river. The locals said that around the corner the river went underground, something that we had been told by the police officiers but we thought it was in a lower gorge. I tried to inspect the rapid but after sliding down a steep cliff a couple of times, we decided that we'd believe the locals (they were reliable up until then) and portage the next section... and we thought the first portage was rough! After a grueling two hour portage we made it back to the river, thanking our volunteer helpers and even offering them a 20kina rewards (which is a days wage for the 10% of the population that are employed). This was not well recieved and our friend was not so friendly anymore and began to demand 50kina from each of us... yeah right! After trying to explain that we have didnt have anymore money with us, because why would you take money on the river. Barny pulled a quick swifty by tucking another 20kina into his watershed and then acting like a good guy and saying "oh bro, I found another 20... have this and our (free) digicel watch". Disgruntled and confused, our friends then accepted our offering and quickly said good-bye and took off into the bush... with our machete. Funnily enough, 60kina so $30 and our 12kina machete was a pretty good price considering we DEFINATELY would of spent the night out during the portage.

Barny back on the water (p. Jordy)

Believe it or not, Damian on the left could carry a boat better than
the first inaugral Styx Hard-Man Barny Young (p. Jordy)

Shannon in the Lime-Light (p. Jordy)

Stacked (p. Jordy)

Another ledge in the Simbu Gorge (p. Barny)

Boofing into the beyond (p. Jordy)

More, just more (p. Barny)

So back on the water, we were aware that time was ticking by and we had at least two more canyons/gorge's to content with. Two solid class V rapid brought us to the bottom on the first canyon and onto a kilometre of braided river. Then just as another trib came in on river left the river dropped into a sheer-walled gorge, very reminecant of the Mungo section of the Upper Hokitika River. Shannon attempted a quick scout on river, Barny and I and we only had another hour or so of daylight left. We had to make the call, we were hiking out... and made a call. Yeah thats right, stuck in a canyon in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea and still had cell-phone service thanks to Digicels. Reuben, Graham and the boys started their drive back in to pick us up and we began the frustratingly slippery climb out of the Simbu.

Looking into the Gorge, not this time (p. Barny)

Frustrated and broken we made our way back to Kundiawa, and to Mana Josephines Guesthouse. Some amazing white-water, brutal walking and when we got to the spectacular gorge we had to leave it for another crew... or another day?