After lunch at Haus Poroman, Brandon decided to take us to the other side of the valley, where a new tourist lodge has been opened by a well known ex-pat, Bob Bates. I suspect that he wanted to show us how some of the tourists lived, as opposed to visiting IT trainers.
So winding up through the rough and windy gravel road, past small clumps of huts and gardens, we eventually arrive at exquisite Ronden Ridge Lodge.
Ronden Ridge is a high ridge overlooking Hagen. The lodge is a high roofed
modern building with a wide terrace containing stunning gardens and pools, and you can sit on the terrace, and look over the tropical flowers across the whole valley.
Bob happens to be at the lodge (there are three others
he owns in various places in PNG, and he regularly flies himself around to each), and Brandon knows him (Brandon seems to know everybody in Mt Hagen). I guess it helps to stay on good
terms with the engineer who may be servicing your aircraft.
So what better place to sit and chat, and drink fine Goroka coffee. Bob has been in PNG for 42 years, and has many fascinating tales
to tell about the places he has explored and hiked. I guess it speaks of the pace of the place when Bob is willing to spend hours just talking with a few chaps who rocked up univited, offering them free afternoon tea.
Bob and his wife have collected many rare and valuable pieces of PNG native art, some of which are on display in the lodge.
So as the sun slowly dips lower, we watch the highlands clouds roll in, looking down on the
Waghi valley and across to the Western Highlands ranges, and you could almost imagine what it was like for the first white men to enter this place, to see and marvel at the wildness and rugged beauty of the mountains.
That is, of course, until the last of the coffee and afternoon tea is gone, and we have to negotiate the road back to Hagen, over a bridge that has planks missing, and through streets that have potholes over a foot deep, keeping our doors locked in case of carjacking, and finally to our fenced in compound. I guess MAF aren't willing to cough up the US $300 per night to stay at Ronden Ridge Lodge. Pity...
I'm rapidly coming to the conclusion that towns and cities are a giant step backwards for the New Guineans, rather than forwards.