Explorers Connect

PNG Expedition

Join a TeamJames Hipkiss

The aim of PNG Expedition was to complete complete an unmotorised crossing of Papuas widest point without using any porters.

We believe it is the first such crossing.The 83 day, 1000km, North to South journey required the team to cut through near uninhabited dense jungle, dodge limestone caves in the 3000m Star Mountain range, descend, using jungle vines, over the sheer scarp of the Hindenburg wall, and raft a crocodile infested tributary of the Fly River. With immerison foot and malnutrition, snakes, crocs and numerous canoes, Patrick Hutton and Richard Johnson completed their journey on 2nd June 2014.As well as the huge physical challenge, the team negotiated with PNGs tribal groups as they navigated through prohibitive terrain. Papua New Guinea is the most linguistically diverse nation on the planet, and the teams communication skills were tested to the maximum throughout the journey.

The team were completely medically independent throughout the expedition, and both carried backpacks of around 38kg, containing their supplies and filming equipment.The Expedition was supported by the Neville Shulman Exploration Award.Two weeks after our departure from Papua New Guinea and our lifestyle for the past three months, we reflect on the expedition and all the experiences along the way.When we embarked on the expedition in March 2014, there was a general nervous anticipation within the team; a level of apprehension as we would finally have to materialize our aims, that failure was a real possibility, and any that lapse in our concentration could lead to extreme consequences and a premature end. As the days ticked by, and expedition progressed, these worries started to reduce but never disappeared completely.

The mental battle we faced daily was as tough as the physical. Both elements accumulated weight along our three month journey, climaxing in extreme fatigue at the finishing line.Rebuking the rumours prior to arriving in Papua New Guinea, we uncovered an amazing wealth of knowledge on the island. Everyone, it seemed, had heard a horror story. Chinese whispers painted our journey. We lost sleep over rumours of fierce criminal activity throughout the country. Cannibals, headhunters and tribes riddled this feral jungle terrain, and injury would be inevitable.On this background of an apocalyptic scenario, Papua wasn't so bad. We, and our hammocks, were welcomed in to remote communities, sleeping only a handful of nights in the bush. Cannibalism reared its head in the stories of a 99 year old man- with a vague recollection of his youthful decapitation of an enemy; was all that we saw of this superstitious practice. The un-contactable tribes we were told to expect were dressed in shorts t-shirts, occasionally that of obscure sports teams (Yorkshire cricket club top), but having no concept of the team or brand which they were sporting, it is all aid clothing.

The most remote communities had no knowledge, or need for knowledge, of the outside world- Michael Jackson, 9/11, London or Sydney were completely unknown pieces of information.Devoid of modern day news, most communities lived a sustenance lifestyle, hunting with spears, bows and arrows, creating fire with sticks and retaining the ability to build anything with their bare hands. The gradual infiltration of missionaries has given remote clans peace, as well as a vague awareness of the outside world, and on the surface almost completely eradicated un-Christian practices.Swathes of traditionally dressed people living an adam and eve lifestyle, lacking any knowledge of civilization beyond their lands is perhaps, in this day and age, a fable. A modern day, western invention which makes for good reading.after all everyone has a neighbor somewhere.ChallengesIn the end, the main dangers came from Papuas rugged country and wildlife.

Never in our lives have we seen such terrifyingly severe terrain. Time and time again we had close shaves, narrowly avoiding lethal falls, or dragging ourselves out of rapidly sweeping turbulent rivers. The constant hum of mosquitos, bite of leeches, frantic thrashing of nearby crocodiles, stealthy slide of deadly snakes and hidden danger of mine polluted river water all made Papua an inhospitable yet totally exhilarating place to spend 3 months.For the majority of the expedition, each day felt like a sadistic marathon- up a mountain, in ridiculous heat, carrying a stupidly heavy rucksack. The relentless daily routine of walking took a harsh physical toll, our bodies were in a constant state of recovery and ache. Every morning an unfamiliar and unexpected part of our bodies would greet us, moaning under the daily strain of up to ten hours of scrambling.Thankfully, bar a few tough phases, we generally made good progress, keeping morale high.

Nevertheless, the constant mental struggle of never knowing where we would sleep, where we could source water and food, if our kit was safe and how we would interact with the locals took an equally large toll on our minds.On reflection, our success was overwhelmingly due to teamwork. Individually we are both mentally and physically strong, and individually we both stumbled over bad days. We relied 100% on each others ability to try a little harder and pull the other through. As corny as it sounds, there was nobody else that either of us would have want to do this with, trust and confidence in an expedition partner is priceless in such an unforgiving environment.The expedition bore so many events that neither of us had experienced, too many, in fact, to list here. To have lived in an environment we could previously only have dreamt about, read in books or watch on television, is such a privilege. We learnt that saying Yes to opportunities and being more open to ideas allowed us to live some of the best days of our lives.This is why we choose to explore; to complete something each day that is unbelievable, push ourselves past the point we thought possible and complete something others thought impossible. It reinforces our belief that if you are stubborn enough and strive to achieve and complete something apparently impossible, you can; but only if you possess self-belief and the determination not to buckle. Our personal bar of what we think possible has raised.This expedition was the epitome of adventure, and we wouldn't swap it for the world.We look forward to the next.

Finally a huge thank you to all of the partners, who have helped support the expedition, without you this would all be a lot harder. To Neville Shulman for deeming us worthy recipients of his Exploration Award, it is a huge privilege and we hope to have done justice to the award. And to those who donated to our chosen Charity, Childfund, on our behalf. And finally to our girlfriends Kat and Liv who as well as putting up with our adventure antics.Richard Johnson Patrick HuttonMore info can be found on our website: www.pngexpedition.comor on our FB page:https://www.facebook.com/PngExpedition.Please feel free to ask any questionsRichard Patrickwww.patrickhutton.comUPDATE: Sunday 21st July 2013The last six weeks have been heavily productive for PNG Expedition, we've come across many people wanting to help out, as well as a lot of companies offering support one way or the other. Now for red tape. The visa will be a tricky one, unfortunately an extended tourist visa will only last 3 months.

We need 6, so a lot of calls to the PNG immigration office will ensue I'm sure!See our latest blog on http://www.pngexpedition.com/#!blog/c1758UPDATE: Sat 31st Aug 2013Still getting great product support from a number of companies, including electronics manufacturers who are interested in the documentary side of things. The team is still tackling the visa issue head on, having spent a small fortune calling up PNG in the early hours of the morning, the job has now been handed to the Papuan embassy. Lots of advice from experienced people, including UN security advisor, explorers with experience in the area, and ex special forces soldiers. Latest blog on http://www.pngexpedition.com/#!blog/c1758