The confusion that is vaccination in PNG
The naïveté of desiring a state religion

Roads to the Future: Early days in Baiyer

 Ukini tribe couple
Roche - Ukini tribe couple in Lgeg area circa 1974. The man is wearing a badge ‘Baiyer River Local Government Council – Ward Committee’ (Roche)


MAYNOOTH - Jim Moore’s article, ‘A Baiyer court case, a good kiap reflects’, brought back some memories and some questions.

The questions simply involved my wondering what specific tribes were involved in the court case Jim presided over, and where in Baiyer the conflict occurred.

I have many memories of Baiyer River because in the early 1970’s I acquired some familiarity with the Baiyer Valley and its surrounding area.

Map HagenToBaiyerFor a few months I resided at Keikundumul, where Kumndi High School is located, and made frequent trips from there down the valley.

Later, while based in Mt Hagen, I often helped out in different locations in the Baiyer.

As I remember, there are two roads tracking along either side of the Baiyer gorge from the Hagen plateau to the Baiyer valley. 

The common road went left past the Lutheran mission at Ogelbeng, then traversed by Minjingina tea plantation, Kumndi High School, Rugli, on through the gorge to Nengil Police Station and then down the valley itself to the old patrol post.

There is also a road from Hagen through Bukapena and Kwinka-Maminga that goes along the other side of the gorge meeting the common road near Nengil.

Kwinka-Maminga has to be distinguished from another place called Kwinkya which is down in the Baiyer valley past Nengil.

Nurses on the road from Bukapena
Nurses on the road from Bukapena (Roche)

The photo at left was taken around 1974 and shows a public health vehicle carrying nurses on a mother-and-child clinic outreach to Kwinka-Maminga. 

This was the road from Kwinka Maminga which joined the Hagen road near Nengil. 

The nurses were providing medical advice and assistance to pregnant women and checking on newly born infants.  

There was a police station at Nengil and further on a large cattle station established by the colonial Administration authorities. In the 1970’s, the station was managed by Bill St George.

It was later closed for many years but in 2020 there were plans to reopen it. I do not know its present status.

Further along the Kwinka Maminga to Nengil road, if one turned right near the Baiyer River Patrol Post, was the Baiyer River Sanctuary or Zoo.

I visited it in the early 1970’s and saw Birds of Paradise and various local wildlife including cassowaries and possums.

Apparently this Baiyer River sanctuary has also been revitalised in recent times. See this recent article by Joe Ketan in the PNG Post-Courier.

View from Kwinka-Maminga of the main Hagen-Rugli-Nengil road in the Baiyer Gorge
View of the main Hagen-Rugli-Nengil road across the Baiyer Gorge 

There were a number of plantations in the Lower Baiyer and Jimi areas. John Collins, a relative of Danny Leahy, managed one at Tigi, and if I remember correctly Danny Ottley also had a plantation in the area.

While the Hagen (Melpa) language is spoken in much of Baiyer, the Baiyer-Lumusa area is mainly Enga speaking. The Baptist Church had a very good health centre at Lumusa.

Past the Sanctuary towards Ruti is a place called Lgeg where the Ukini tribe dominate.

I went there several times to conduct Sunday service and took the photo of the handsome couple at the top of this article - a local ward committeeman and his wife.


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Arthur Williams

I enjoy these stories of early days in PNG. They put meat on the more formal histories that you read about the place. My only complaint is that I wish they were longer.

I feel it is vital to place these historical tales, personalities events etc on record so future PNG researchers will have a fuller picture of the so-called colonisation era of their nation.

As a Baptist I would suggest two good historical stories of Baiyer area in 1949: 'Two Men and a Tiny Tent' and 'First interpreter at Baiyer River- Pii Nalu of Maranyie tribe'.

Both are tales of the first Baptist missionaries sent from Australia and can be read here:

The Piu Nalu story is perhaps a more interesting insight into the grassroots side of the story, and perhaps what were glory days of the Tinsley Mission.

I noted the goodwill between other denominations and nationalities that the first two Baptist found on their arrival in New Guinea.

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