I have travelled to about 25 different countries, some of them multiple times. In all my travelling, I have a few dramatic travel stories. Thought I would share one of them. This one, is possibly the most dramatic day of my life. The following pic is one of me outside the Pastors House in Mt Hagan
In 2000, I was in PNG with Murray Townsend, who was at the time the Pacific Islands Co-ordinator for Christian Outreach Centre. We had preached and ministered in a Conference in Lae and we then had to head up to Mt Hagan for a second 4 day conference. We had asked the Pastor of the Lae Church, Ps John Garu, if he would drive us up to the Highlands, but he was reluctant as he had never been up there.
The Highlands of PNG are a pretty crazy place. Up there they have rebels known as Rascals, they rob and kill people at their whim. Additionally, the Highlands run by the Law, an Eye for an Eye. I had heard stories of where, in the event of a car accident, if you hurt someone in the other car, they will hurt someone in your car in retaliation.
So Ps John didn’t want to drive us up, so the only other option was to take a PMV – Public Motor Vehicle. This is basically a run down mini van driven by a psycho driver who neither knows the road rules, nor is given particularly to safe driving practices. So here we are screaming along the road – about two hours into the trip – when we need to take a toilet break. The van pulls up by the side of the road. We are in a plain area – so there are no trees. The rule is, guys on one side of the van and girls on the other side.
Just after the toilet stop, we are driving along and Ps John passes us and stops the van. He had changed his mind and so we climbed into his four wheel drive and headed off. After about 4 hours in the car, we arrived at this most amazing lookout. It had some significance to do with our troops in the Second World War, so we all got out to have a look. While we were doing this, I moved about 3 metres to the left of the other guys and stepped down about half a metre. When I looked down I realised I was standing in an area that was being used as a human toilet. I had stuff on my shoes, my shoe laces, the bottoms of my jeans –and it stunk. Just as I come to this realisation, I got called back to the car and I am thinking this is going to seriously stink out the car. So I am in the car and I think, if I don’t move then maybe the smell wont go anywhere. I was right on the first instance and wrong on the second. It did seriously stink out the car and me not moving didn’t impact the wafting at all.
Anyway, we arrived in Kainantu, and we picked up Ps John’s cousin who took over the driving. When we were about half way between Kainantu and Goroko, which the total distance between those two towns is about 2 hours drive, we passed a place where there had been truck accident the week before which had killed the driver and two ManMarys (Pigeon English for women). As we went around the corner and looked back up the slope, you could still see the truck just hanging over the cliff. The explanation was – there are no cranes in the highlands of New Guinea.
It had started to rain. Now I don’t ever like being a passenger in a car, but I was feeling particularly uncomfortable as we raced through the rugged country side. We drove down a steep, long sweeping bend, and as we were at the apex of the bend, we hit an oil patch on the road and lost control of the car. The four wheel drive we were in ploughed into a PMV, which was a small tray top truck with about 40 people sitting in the back of it.
The immediate response of the driver of the PMV was to get out of his car walk over to our car, drag the driver (Ps John’s cousin) out of the car and start beating him up. Now we were in the middle of no where and initially there was no one around. In the space of about 7 minutes, about 100 people morphed out of nowhere. About 20 of them had machetes and as they looked at the accident and they verbally encouraged the beating, I could sense the mob’s anger and enthusiasm for this bush justice increasing. It was at this point that I looked across at Murray and when he looked worried too, I thought – man are we in all soughts of trouble here. I was starting to have visions of the Sydney Morning Herald the next day, carrying a story of three white preachers hacked to death in a remote part of PNG’s highlands. I still think that this is the closest near death experience I have ever had. Sounds dramatic I know. But it was an incredibly tense situation.
I started to pray. God if ever there was a time when I needed your peace to be over an entire situation it is this one.
(This photo is after the tension of the situation had dissipated, note the guy on the left with the machete.)
In about 5 minutes, an American Anthropologist (God bless the Americans), turned up and calmed the situation down. To this day, I am still pretty convinced that when I get to heaven, I will be told that the Anthropologist was an angel. He kind of appeared out of nowhere, settled everyone down and then disappeared.
The Police turned up about 20 minutes later, on the back of a ute with a Rambo style M16 mounted to the cross bar. They towed the cars off the road and left.
We were transported back to Kainantu by some Missionaries who happened to be driving by.
How we got from Kaniantu to Mt Hagan over the next 4 days is another adventure, but involved an illegal use of a cargo plan and a few other things. But we got there and here is a photo of me preaching in the Mt Hagan church.