As you’re in one of the world’s most culturally diverse nations, you can bank on a unique, colourful and vibrant experience as you venture into the mountains.
Highland folk are renowned for ceremonial occasions, where hundreds of pigs or other valuable gifts are given to guests. Many remote tribes have become so grateful for MAF’s aircraft that they will come out to celebrate every time one of our planes land. Make sure you have your camera ready to capture the party!
Here are some flights that receive a dynamic welcome…
‘The airstrip at Junkaral was built in the late 1990s, but fell into disuse,’ says Anton Lutz who works for the Rural Airstrip Agency – an organisation set up in partnership with MAF. ‘The grass had grown tall, but the dream was not dead.’
Many Highlanders know the lasting value of an airstrip and brought every form of hand-held tool to rally together and help.
Pilot Remi remembers the first landing. ‘Looking out of the cockpit, it was obvious that they had put in an incredible amount of work to cut the airstrip out of the forest,’ he says.
‘I touched down and a horde of excited villagers came to meet the plane, and the aircraft was beautifully decorated with flowers and coloured leaves. They picked me up and carried me around as they realised, after all those years, they would finally be able to have planes take off and land from their own airstrip.
‘Looking down on the rugged mountains that have blocked the way to healthcare, education and contact with the outside world for so long, we were amazed again at how the villagers at Junkaral would now be able to fly in and out safely using MAF’s service.’
One year during the ‘Samo’ festival, MAF staff member Nawi Mabo decided to do something different to mark a visit to his home village. Where villagers would traditionally exchange monetary ‘basket payments’ to elderly mothers, Nawi decided to take RACHEL.
RACHEL – short for Remote Area Community Hotspot for Education and Learning – is a computer that builds a wireless network so villagers can access a wealth of education and resources without an internet connection. It would be a gift for the entire community!
Nawi flew to Daru carrying the pioneering gifts, and from there travelled by banana boat to three other villages to set up RACHEL stations. Thanks to his work experience with MAF, he could offer training to all ages, including young people searching for work who would otherwise be cut off from modern technology.
‘The people showed overwhelming appreciation – and are now turning this vital information into practical action,’ says Nawi. ‘Even neighbouring villagers were greatly intrigued and are eager to have RACHEL in their villages, too. As well as training, I explained about MAF and how we help. It was a holiday with a difference – and, by helping others, our actions can bring Christ’s love. It’s very rewarding!’
Some villages are so remote, they have never held a printed book in their own language – let alone heard about the Bible.
One of MAF’s major missions in PNG has been to partner with Bible translation teams, who often spend many decades living among an isolated tribe to get to grips with their dialect and culture so the translation is meaningful and relevant.
At Yimnalem in the Tay area of PNG’s Highlands, MAF was privileged to deliver the first copies of the New Testament in the Tay language – a project that has taken more than 30 years. Villagers turned out dressed in plants and brightly coloured feathers – a truly spectacular and joyous occasion.
Translators Steve and Rhonda Hayward were delighted to hand out the first precious Bibles. Rhonda says, ‘Our history with MAF began in 1983 when we did our first survey hike in the Tay area. The MAF pilots quickly became heroes and dear friends to us. They often sacrificially flew us in very challenging terrain and weather to bring needed supplies, medicines, mail bags and unfailing words of encouragement to us in our very remote and isolated village.’
Medical evacuation flights are part of weekly – and even daily –flying for our PNG pilots. If the weather and timing are right, pilots divert to collect patients in critical need. Many of the passengers rescued by MAF would never make it to hospital, as there are simply no roads connecting Highland communities to larger towns where help is available.
On one flight, pilot Andy Little collected a lady from Mount Tawa. She was pregnant and had fallen badly, causing dizziness and possible trauma to the baby. Crowds of villagers gathered around the plane to witness MAF’s life-saving service.
‘Trips like this make it really clear to me how important MAF’s work in PNG is,’ says Andy, ‘Sometimes a flight in an MAF aircraft is a matter of life or death for people in remote villages scattered across this beautiful country – and I am very pleased to be part of it!’