Posted: on November 19, 2014
story by Dr Günter Kittel
(surgeon from Mission EineWelt working at the Etep Rural Hospital, PNG)
Outreach Clinic in Nankina
Our MAF flight is breath-taking – north along the coast, then across small villages on steep mountain slopes, past giant tumbling waterfalls, to Nankina airstrip at the top of a mountain crest.
I am told that never before has a doctor visited Nankina.
Hundreds of patients are waiting, as the aid post has long been abandoned. New people keep arriving from surrounding villages. A pastor hands us a letter with the names of 123 other patients in a village one-day’s march away, but after a few days we don’t have a single tablet left. We will have to return another time.
My wife Bindu was supposed to fly home with MAF for a workshop in Madang.
In the morning we hear the sound of a plane circling over Nankina but, after several landing attempts, the pilot has to turn back. The weather did not permit a landing.
Flying is still an enormous challenge in PNG. My wife now has to walk back to the coast with us.
It takes 15 people to carry our luggage and equipment. We leave Nankina and head down a steep, slippery pathway. It’s hot and humid, and then the rain sets in. We wade through mud up to our knees and soon feel sore in every part of our body.
Our track follows a steep canyon, with raging river waters below. Grabbing for roots, our knees shake with the exhaustion of the constant struggle. Bridges are often only tree trunks.
Eventually, a steep path leads us into a small village of about eight diminutive houses. We ask for shelter for the night.
We’re up early in the morning, as we have only covered one-third of our journey. We are told the path ahead is in poor condition. I cannot imagine conditions worse than the previous day!
The prediction by the guides was not exaggerated – the track is terrible! The continuing rain converts it into a slippery mire, not possible to walk on without walking poles.
Eventually the way becomes less steep. The scenery changes and we come to cocoa plantations. Now there is light at the end of the tunnel! The path broadens and is not wet any more.
Suddenly, we arrive in the small modern town of Saidor, where we stay for the night.
The next day, after a truck drive to the coastal village of Mur, we board a boat for the 3-hour voyage to Wasu marina. Luckily the sea is calm; often it is not the case and many boats have been lost. Upon arrival an ambulance transports us for the final part of our journey to Etep.
With the journey behind us, we reflect upon our new insights into the life of PNG.
Despite all the wear and tear, it was all worthwhile.