Flight over the PNG Highlands!
One of our plans was to charter one of the SIL Cessna 206s to fly us over the highlands from Aiyura to Mt. Hagen to Kandep to Erave and then back to Aiyura with a final fly over the Agarabi school. Apart from re-fueling in Mt. Hagen, we only landed at Erave as the family had their earliest recollections at that place. We prayed for good flying conditions and of course, good weather. If you click on the map, you will get a larger picture that more clearly shows the route we travelled:We were required to be at the airstrip by 7 am and when we woke up it looked like a good day was ahead of us. However, as we arrived at the strip, the following sight met our eyes:But, we were all in good spirits believing this day was to be another special day in our lives. Ann ensured we were entertained:Finally, the weather cleared for take-off at 10.15 am. Let's go!!Strapped in and ready to go, but not before our pilot suggested that we commend the day and the flying to God in prayer, seeking His presence with us throughout the day. Isn't that great! It brought the significance of the day even closer to home of not only God's presence, but also that of Carol, who would have loved this trip:Lots of cloud around, but we were able to make out the Highland Highway through the clouds. A little further, it was 8/8s cloud, but it does make a spectacular view:Thankfully, the cloud lifted and we were left with perfect flying conditions. Goroka in the distance was also in the clear and this is where Brenda & Mark were born. Time did not permit either landing or a visit by car.Now, I have a bit of a problem. There are just so many wonderful sights that we captured along the route, that it will be difficult to contain myself. Let's give you a bit of an idea what we soaked up as we flew over this great country:The terrain is rugged and there aren't many places to land!The Waghi Valley moving towards Mt Hagen:Mt. Wilhelm, at over 15,000' and the highest mountain in Papua New Guinea, was basking in sunshine:Christian Leaders Training College at Banz on our right is significant in PNG church development:Kagamuga Airport, Mt Hagen where we refueled at the MAF hanger:Being back at Kagamuga Airport brought memories back for me when the airport was opened by Lord Mountbatten in 1965. Here was one of the shots I took then:By contrast today, modern jet aircraft grace the tarmac:Overflying Mt Hagen, we could make out the school (circled) where I taught for a short time and the house (arrowed) where we lived in 1965:The old Mt Hagen airstrip is now a busy commercial centre:The country between Mt Hagen & Kandep was truly awesome. Have a look:Mt Gulluwe, near Mendi is an awesome sight. It was wonderfully in the clear and its towering 14,200' elevation was impressive. Just a couple of images:Kandep at 7,200' was a pretty cold place and with a very poor house in 1965, the evenings were most uncomfortable to the point where on medical advice, we were transferred to Erave. The house is indicated by the arrow and the school is circled. It looks much larger than how it was in 1965!Erave was very isolated and the terrain over which we flew is one of the most rugged in the country:Villages down below looked peaceful and lovely:The Erave River:And here it is, Erave Station, our home in 1965/66. The house is circled & the Mission station arrowed. The children thought nothing of crossing the airstrip to visit daddy at school and were careful to look left and right and left again for any aircraft that might be on final. Road safety with a difference:Erave does not look very much different from those early days. Well, at least from the air.Another shot showing our house (circled) and the Mission in the foreground:It did not take long to draw a crowd who wanted to know who these drop-ins were:Including a former school students who was totally overcome, as I was:In procession, we went around the old sites, including the UFM (now ECPNG) Mission Station:By now a good crowd was milling around:Babies are cute, whoever they are. This one is no exception. She was lovely!The walk finally took us to where our house was. The verandah is now closed in:And this is how it looked in 1966:The following individual shots of the family are taken from what was the verandah in 1966. First Ann, then followed by Vicki, Brenda and Mark:I can carry on with more photos for a while, but.......our 'coach' is waiting for us:A final shot of those who came to make our visit so memorable:Our return to Aiyura via Mt Hagen continued to be most enjoyable. Just after leaving Erave, we passed over Padre where I witnessed the first baptism in 1966. At the time, the people were building an airstrip. Well, here is a shot of how it looked in 2007:Our Pilot, Christopher, skilfully flew us back and gave us another view of this mountain. We just had to negotiate the low cloud ceiling, but all went well:Finally, back over Kainantu - of course in the clear. How different this place is today compared to those many years ago. The old airstrip is still clearly visible:And to complete this fantastic day, a shot of us all in front of our Cessna 206 together with pilot Christopher.What a wonderful day! we can truly thank God for His presence and His incredible kindness to us!