1. Trek overview and highlights
In September 2010, two friends (Pete and Iris) and I trekked from the PNG Highlands down to the north coast. We began at the base of Mount Wilhelm in Chimbu Province (starting at an altitude of around 2,800m) and followed an old vehicle track down to the town of Madang. The trek itself took us three days and afforded stunning views along the way. It was a real treat and relatively easy to organise through Betty’s Lodge. I highly recommend it.
In addition to the trek itself, the trip had several other highlights. If you haven’t been to the Highlands before, you can get a great introduction during the five-hour road trip from Hagen through the Waghi Valley to Kundiawa and then up into the Chimbu Highlands. And at the end of the drive, we were all enchanted by our short stay at Betty’s Lodge.
We completed the trip in four days and returned to work in Moresby early on the fifth day. For fit trekkers, it should be possible to cut a day off the walk although I think that would be a shame. Alternatively, for travellers with more time, here are several very appealing variations that could be add to the basic itinerary.
- Climb Mount Wilhelm: the climb to the peak of Mount Wilhelm (at 4,509m, PNG’s highest) is very popular, even though quite a few people don’t quite make it to the top due to the effects of altitude. A typical trip might take a day to get to Betty’s Lodge, a day at base camp to adjust to the altitude and then a day up to the peak and back down to the Lodge. Thus, you could combine the climb to the peak and the walk down to the coast in six days, or longer if you wanted to spend more time in the middle relaxing at Betty’s Lodge.
- Enjoy Madang: both Madang town and Madang Province have much on offer for travellers and tourists. If you have time, this is an obvious place to relax and explore (for some suggestions, see my earlier post on Madang).
- Goroka to Mt Wilhelm trek: Goroka is a beautiful part of the Highlands (see earlier post) and apparently there is an old road from Goroka through to the base of Mt Wilhelm that takes perhaps two days to walk. If the three-day trek is not enough for you, it may be possible to start at Goroka, hike to Betty’s Lodge and then continue on to Madang (perhaps five days total). Or for the full bonanza, why not trek from Goroka to Betty’s Lodge, then head up to the peak and back and then continue all the way to Madang? I reckon it would be possible to do the whole trip in seven days if you were pushing it – and what an awesome week that would be!
The rest of this post sets out the basic four-day itinerary that we followed (Section 2) and then provides the logistical details (contacts, costs and precautions we took, Section 3). My trekking companion, Iris, has also provided a good description of the trek on her blog.