Papua New Guinea
In early 2019, I undertook a two-month journey through the interior of Papua New Guinea. The goal was to traverse from the east coast to the north coast via the country's highest peaks and the longest river, the Sepik.
The challenges en route included dense virgin rainforest, monsoon rains, tribal violence, whitewater rapids, crocodiles, and some of the world's most inaccessible places.
The journey was a physical challenge as the only available means of travel in one of the world's last true wildernesses is human-powered. The real interest of the journey, however, was the peoples and cultures encountered along the way.
Until less than 100 years ago, the highlands of PNG were thought to be uninhabited. But in the 1930s it was discovered to have over a million people comprising hundreds of different and often-warring tribes. Modernity is seeping into the region but very slowly. What drew me to the country was the ever evolving blend of culturally intact tribal communities with outside technology and ideas.
How does a nascent nation strike a balance between tradition and modernity?