Days 1 - 3: Getting to Mt Hagen

It seemed sensible to spend a day with the IT department at their Cairns HQ first, to get a run down on their systems. I suspect it was also so I could be loaded up with Linux CDs, a new PC box, and various other bits of equipment to carry to Mt Hagen, because of the notorious unreliability (and high cost) of the normal freight channels. Combined with the 5 big Linux study guides I am carrying, I feel like an overloaded pack horse.

This is the IT department at MAF, hard at work...

So after a day and a bit learning what I could about the applications, network and arrangements, I set off via Air Nuigini, transiting Port Moresby.

The scenery leaving Moresby was quite spectacular (somewhat more scenic than the airport itself).

Arriving at Mt Hagen was interesting - flying over mountains, through storms, over patchwork fields of small gardens in the Waghi Valley. At Mt Hagen airport, baggage handling is interesting. A front loading tractor carries the baggage over to the outside of the shed, and then there's a free-for-all to get your own bags.

I'm met by a MAF pilot, who takes me next door to the MAF hanger and admin offices to drop the books and gear, and because it's already past 5PM, we head straight to his house (in the airport compound) for dinner.
The families at MAF all live in compounds, with razor wire fences. There is one near the airport, and another couple in the town of Mt Hagen, about 10kms away.
There's a roster of `hospitality' where families take it in turn to host the visitors for dinner. It's a great chance to meet people, hear about their experiences etc.

Having been very used to computer geeks talking shop when together, I was quite astonished to find that pilots and aviation folk are just as bad, if not worse! However, their stories are considerably more interesting, with some great tales of how navigation is done around the Highlands (before GPS, they actually used to look for different coloured trees), and the challenges of running planes in this environment.

I am staying at one of the Mt Hagen compounds, along with two of the CRMF folks (Michael, an Australian who has been in PNG at Goroka for about 14 months, and Sebastian, a national). The apartment has two security doors; the outside one is made of thick steel bars and mesh.

Each compound also has a high fence, usually topped with razor wire. I think the person who had the franchise to sell razor wire in PNG is a rich man.

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