We've landed back on Australian soil safe and sound, driving the two hours to Lae, flying Lae to Port Moresby and then Port Moresby to Cairns. We fully expected Luxie not to start when we picked him up from family friends where we left him and Carrie - a few days before leaving for PNG the ute had trouble starting and we think the starter motor may be buggered. Boo! However, trusty Luxie started up and off we went to the nearest caravan park to town. Now checked in until Tuesday when Luxie will get the once over by a mechanic before we head up the Cape.
Our last days at Ramu were spent doing much the same...Matt off to work with Glenn every morning (could that man love cattle anymore? I think not), me staying at home to wrangle the three rascal merri's with Ange, drinking copious amounts of good highland coffee, attempting to teach Ange how to crochet, playing in the cubby house, impromptu ballet lessons with Aunty Em and sewing some (hopefully) malaria proof dresses for Lulu and Sassy.
On Tuesday Ange and I set off early again for Lae with our driver Peter, pretty uneventful trip - no vomiting in giant industrial pots like last shopping trip to Lae (did I tell you about that?!), although we did get a rock thrown at the car and just missed my window which I wasn't too keen on.
Wednesday was Glenn's birthday and his staff out at the beef office had organised a little surprise party for him and ordered a cake and sandwiches from the guest house in the compound. Glenn wanted me to take some photos of the cattle while I was in PNG so said he would send a driver to pick me up Wednesday morning, plan was that Ange and the girls would come too to surprise him for little birthday party his staff had organised. Well, plan fell apart when some big cheeky bulls broke out of some yards at the abattoirs, long story short we had to pack two big eskies, two kids, me, Ange and balance a giant birthday cake in the little red rocket out to Gusap (about twenty minutes drive in any vehicle resembling something decent, not the red rocket!) Half the trip is on a very bumpy gravel road, no suspension or air con made for grumpy kids, half squashed cake and shaken up lemonade in the eskies. Fun times.
We got there all shook up and hot and spent the morning at the feedlot with the husbands and hanging out in Glenn's office before his surprise party. While we were out there some cowboys were droving some bulls up the highway so we organised a bit of a photo shoot next to the oil palm - another bit of chaos with cars and horses and cattle everywhere!
That night back at the house we had a little impromptu barbeque with a few other ex-pat's as well. Lots of food, a yummo cherry cheesecake (care of Thelma the Thermomix, naturally) and feral kids up way past their bed times.
Thursday dawned clearer - in the dry season there's a lot of fires lit in the valley so not ideal for clear photo opportunities, so I went to work with Glenn and Matt. We organised some cowboys to get some of the best cattle drafted out and into a wide open paddock with a good view of the valley. The brief was basically to get a good shot of the best cattle with the view of the valley, mountains either side. Right. Easier said than done. After a few hours of more cattle, horses, cowboys and cars I think I managed to get something...maybe?! I hope so anyway.
On Friday we bid a sad farewell to The Aldridge family. Despite Matt thinking three weeks would be too long, he didn't want to leave! He really enjoyed working with the local cowboys in the yards and the challenge that working in PNG provides. Last time we visited we definitely knew we would be back, this time I wasn't as sure, but I certainly hope so. Matt would love to do some hikes and we still haven't gotten up to the highlands like we intended this trip.
Papua New Guinea is so close, yet so far, as a travel destination for Australian's. Yes it is difficult to get around or access a lot of 'tourist' things (basically there are no tourist things!) but it's definitely an interesting and off the beaten track place to visit, especially if you get out to rural areas and meet locals.
So until next time Ramu...