After ten days at sea from Vanuatu to Papua New Guinea, we docked for two weeks in Port Moresby. Once my duties for the yacht maintenance completed, I had six days to discover more about the, apparently, dangerous capital and its locals. I informed Saipo, a Papuan friend I met in Australia, I was in his country. He sent his brother, Peter, to show me around. Peter introduced me to the Kumbon family residing in Gerehu stage 6 (division of the Gerehu neighborhood), known as one of the most unsafe suburbs in the city. The Kumbons were so welcoming that I lived a week with them. Besides that, I went to encounter people from the Keasu settlement (How Papuans call the slums). During all my stay, I never walked alone and never wanted to. My friends/guides/guards repeated me many times, “If you’re with us, nobody will make you trouble.” I concluded that Port Moresby was a hazardous place: gunshots, massive fight, police corruption, poverty and a huge lack of hygiene I experienced through my visit make up the daily life. But we can’t summarize PNG by its capital, the majority of Papuan (7 million out of 8) keep living in villages in deep paradise rainforest. Michael Kumbon remembered, they had an existence made of self-sufficiency, and money wasn’t as important. Many families come to town to send children to better schools and finally stay in the city. Some of them seem badly prepared to face the problems of a too different “modern” society they end up unemployed and often fall into extreme poverty without sufficient public help. Moreover, no roads connect the capital and south coast to the center or the north of the island. So, if people want to go back to the village they need to take a flight that costs around 150 euros. Michael Kumbon, my host, stated to me that he would “bring the two youngest with him in Kandep (his villages) to show them how the real Papuan way of life is.” I often noticed that Michael was very melancholic about days in the village. With the money he earns with his shop and his bus he can send his children to better schools, it’s also why they stay in the capital. This extreme contrast between the two lifestyles is probably what makes the city so dangerous. The people come from tribes and village life, where they grow their own food, to a capital where the food has to be bought and self-sufficiency is impossible. . However it’s not all right or all wrong, Yoksi frequently told me: “Some of us are so hungry they get jealous and do evil things. But we Papuans are good people.” I wouldn’t allow myself to limit Papua to the precariousness of its capital with 800+ different languages and as many tribes with even more rituals and beliefs, it is a country with an incredibly rich cultural diversity. The lives of these humans are worth telling, to demystify, and nuance the allegation of Port Moresby being “the most dangerous cities in the world,” which now seem to have become attractions to thrill an audience in search of sensations. The danger and the harsh conditions are real and have to be publicly known as much as the happiness of these people.

Another look at one of “the most dangerous city in the world”
One Week in Port Moresby

All images and Original text © 2018-2019 Léopold Deru