LAE - It all started with a phone call from my superior the Thursday before last during a critical peak in my work at Nadzab airport.
“You’re assigned on a technical mission to do a site survey at Finschhafen tomorrow,” my superior said.
“You and Robert Waninara will be representing Bmobile and other state-owned ICT entities will be sending their reps with the media team.”
The mission was assigned by Papua New Guinea’s communications minister and MP for Finschaffen, Rainbo Paita.
I felt excited and a bit nervous as it would be my first experience of this kind. So I completed my work at Nadzab and got myself ready for Finschaffen.
I had only heard stories of this historic town. When Johann Flierl came to PNG in 1886 as the first Lutheran missionary, he set foot at Simbai at the mouth of Mape River (Bubui) in the Finschhaffen area.
Our telecommunications tower is located on Logaweng hill looking down on Gagidu station near where the Logaweng Lutheran Seminary was established in 1907.
Our trip’s prime objective was to undertake a survey and get telecommunications, radio broadcasting and television coverage operating at the site as requested by the minister.
On Friday we met at the Lae Telikom exchange. Our 15-person team came from Telikom, Bmobile, Data Co, EMTV, NBC, PNG FM and the Post-Courier newspaper.
Each team was assigned a specific task and we discussed our plans before departing by boat from Voco Point in unpleasant weather. The rain fell all the way to Finschhafen where our arrival was greeted by district officials and minister Rainbo Paita MP.
They led us to the District Office and Mr Paita outlined his intentions as communications minister.
The minister wants to make Finschhafen a technology zone by getting a fibre cable connected to the district as well as telephone lines, PABX systems and restored mobile coverage.
He also outlined his plans for power and energy, telecommunications, an e-library, and internet coverage of every school, eventually building the district as a technology hub in PNG.
Our visit was the first phase of a pilot project of this communications and technology plan.
We then prepared to kick start our survey the next day. We divided into teams, some of us inspecting telephone lines, the Telikom exchange and schools and the rest of us visited Logaweng.
We carried out a full survey and took notes of everything that needed to be upgraded or installed.
Despite the continuing rainfall, we accomplished our assigned tasks at Logaweng. I managed to climb the tower when the rain paused for a few minutes. At the tower top, I made notes of the specific work that needed to be done.
When I completed this task, I was able to glance at the whole Finschaffen area, including the spot where Johann Flierl landed. The place had such a beautiful view that I wanted to stare at it forever.
But the heavy rainfall resumed causing me to return to ground level with the damp even penetrating the shirt under my harness. We called it a day and returned to camp.
The next day we travelled to Sattelberg with the weather and road conditions our main obstacles. With assistance from PNG Defence Force officers and their vehicle, we travelled to Kote and walked another two kilometers to the terrestrial repeater site.
We captured all the details, made our assessment and planned our next actions before heading back to camp. On the way, we managed to capture sightseeing photos of the Mape River and the beautiful Butaweng waterfall.
At our camp we compiled our observations and left Finschhafen the next day for another two day boat ride to Lae – this time in fine weather. Plans are underway for the next visit.