Rise and shine at 6 am to start the trek up Mt Ellenberry, the third highest peak in PNG and little brother to Mt Willheim & Mt Michael. No one here seems to know exactly how high it really is and if my Internet would load in this valley I’d just ask Google but the point is, it’s pretty damn tall! And as it is less trekked by locals and tourists it is not maintained at all which makes for an extremely challenging climb. It is also rich in natural resources and local villagers here often visit searching for precious stones, fresh water and even to hunt kus kus (kind of like a tree possum) and flying fox which inhabit the mountain’s many caves.
A thin overgrown jungle track basically means slicing and dicing your way through the muddy jungle and hoisting yourself up the steep mountain side by grabbing on to mossy tree trunks and prickly bushes all the way up to the top. This climb is only for the serious adventurer! Although when you have a crew of 16 machete welding locals by your side the path clears pretty quickly! Budget around 4 hours to climb up from the village of Kilau and enjoy a stunning view of Mt Hagen, Mt Willheim and many of the surrounding villages from the top. Singing traditional songs from the peak is a testament to completing the rugged ascent and a supply of cau cau (kind of like sweet potato) and sugar cane will surely taste like a sweet reward!
The way down is no easy task either and getting completely covered in mud and scrapes is all a part of the journey. They say I’m the Only white man to reach the top which I find a bit difficult to imagine but I suppose they’re just trying to make me feel good so I’ll take it ;). All in all, a seven hour trek plus an hour enjoying the summit made for an overly exhausting yet totally fulfilling day! Oh and don’t forget to indulge on the Horingava Beetles as a snack on the way down. They taste like a mouthful of Vicks Vapo-Rub and are great for a cough or sore throat! Everyone who participated in the hike was really happy to have completed it with me and there were even a few local first timers in the group which made it that much more special!
Back in the village was once again greeted by nearly the entire community who were thrilled at our accomplishment over the mountain and just happy I came back alive and well. Was then served a plate of rice, greens and cau cau about as big as my head, weighing as much as a medium sized child and really struggled to finish the damn thing. Bursting at the seams and legs brittle and wobbly from the seven hour trek it wasn’t hard to call it in around 8:30 pm. Can’t wait to see what tomorrow has in store! 🙂