A former Australian soldier turned trek leader, Reg Yates, wants to see more and more people experience the vast number of tracks that can be walked across Papua New Guinea.
For some years he has published a guide for prospective trekkers called the PNG Adventurous Training Guide.
Don Wiseman of Radio New Zealand International spoke to Reg about the guide and began by asking how long he had been going up to PNG and walking the tracks. Below is the conservation between the two on Radio New Zealand International.
REG YATES: I have been going to Papua New Guinea, originally as an army reservist and currently as a trek leader, mainly on Kokoda, the Kokoda Track and in fact I am going up in a couple of days-time, finishing on ANZAC Day. So the guide, I was asked by asked to write it, I was a reservist for many years and I was asked to write by a gentleman in army training command here [Australia] in the late 80s, which I did and produced a new one every year up until I think '95 and then , having realised that I had done about 12 or 13 walks which I felt were worth writing up, produced this current one. It's being circulated to a very small audience, free, and it seems to be a reasonable thing to me.
DON WISEMAN: You are think in terms of adding a little bit to the tourism opportunity that exists in Papua New Guinea.
RY: That's correct. The only other tourism guide that I am aware of is the Lonely Planet book, but that, aw it's got to be ten years out of date, and given that contacts tend to change probably every few years, apart from some of the expat contacts, it's fairly difficult to get accurate information on particular walks and some of the pitfalls that can be associated with them.
DW: It is a beautiful country, I think anyone who has been there knows that it is remarkable what is on offer in Papua New Guinea, but there are issues aren't there? And we know that there was a trekking group in the Highlands three or four years and they were set upon and several people were killed [ three porters were killed on the Black Cat Track in June 2013 ]. How safe is it? Do you have to take security within you? If you go walking in remote areas can you just go on your own?
RY: I wouldn't recommend it. The guide that I have written I have suggested that it is really for experienced trekkers, preferably who have visited PNG before. It is also aimed at army, mainly army or Australian military junior leaders or that sort of thing, because whether or not they have got active service at least they usually will be going up there as a team and their arrangements have got to be checked, and you really need a local guide if you are not sure of yourself up there.
DW: So a guide able to show you around or someone who's able to protect you if things go wrong?
RY: Protection not so much. I have only been [the victim of an attempt holdup] once, and I didn't even realise, which is not saying much, but I had a guide with me who did realise and the guide becomes, in effect, a walking passport so that the locals realise that the traveller he is with has sense enough to hire a guide, but more important the guide doesn't need to protect the visitor, what he can do is say to the person is 'I can identify you if this matter goes to the police' and that's usually more than sufficient.
DW: Now I think a lot of people know about the Kokoda Track but in your view what is the best walk in Papua New Guinea?
RY: That's a little bit like asking which is the best walk in New Zealand. There's a number of them, as with New Zealand, and I think it is really in the eyes of the beholder. They are all pretty wonderful.
DW: You have spent quite a lot of time in Bougainville having a look around, and there are lots of tramping possibilities there?
RY: Yes, the particular World War Two track I wanted to walk, there's been a - which is common in Papua New Guinea - there's been a land dispute and the locals have a grievance and they urged me to turned back. And I took the hint and did, but other than that there are certainly other walks. Last year was my first time in Bougainville after 33 years in PNG, but I enjoyed it.
DW: So in terms of people who want to get hold of your PNG Adventurous Training Guide, the latest version, what do they do? How do they get hold of it?
RY: I am pretty certain I have got my email address, which is my name in lowercase all one word firstname.lastname@example.org
|An Australian Annice Loy's father with the Engans in 1968. Australia and PNG had a relationship that goes way beyond just being neighbours. Image: Annice Loy on 'I used to live in Papua New Guinea' facebook group.|