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?

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