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Paiga Now

Paiga - no-one calls it Paigatasa up here - is one of a group of 15 villages in the Eastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea.

It's not very useful to describe Paiga's distance from other places in PNG in kilometres. It makes more sense to talk about it in terms of how long it takes to get there. So…

    * First you take a 1 hour flight from Port Moresby, the capital of PNG, to Goraka, the capital of the Eastern Highlands Province. You fly North East, basically.
    * Then, you hire a car if you have heaps of money, or you take a PMV - a public motor vehicle, which may be a ute, a minibus, a van - and head slightly South East, starting off along the main highway down to Lae from the Highlands, and then veering off toward Okapa.
    * Travel down the Okapa road for an hour, hour and a half, depending on the weather and the state of the road as a result (most of it is hardtop, but thin, and the rains wash out the underside and you get potholes and…..), and you get to Ke Efu, a small village with a school, church and a weekly market. This is also called The Junction, if you are from Paiga, that is.
    * Here you get down and walk - if you are a local, you can maybe do Ke Efu to Paiga itself in around an hour, carrying your market goods. If you are a visitor, get ready for a good few hours depending on your fitness and the state of the track. There are some very steep climbs, some vertiginous ridgebacks, and the occasional relief of a flat top.

 When you hit Kabuye, you are at the outer edge of the Paiga catchment area; that is, you have got to the outer perimeter of the servicing area for the Paiga Health Clinic. You still have, oh, maybe an hour, maybe two depending on you, before you get to Paiga village itself.

On this site, Paiga means both the specific village of Paigu (population 450 according to Denmark, the health worker you will meet on these pages), and the whole area of the 15 villages served by the clinic and the new primary school (both of which you can read about on this site).

All up, there are around 7800 people in the 15 villages. Look on the most recent topographic map of the area - a 1973 set of army photos with a 1976 detailing by foot patrols - and you won't find the names of many of the villages named on these pages. You'll find other names, and you'll find the word 'shifting cultivation' all around the area of Paiga. That's how fluid this area still is; you clear some land, you build some houses, you grow some crops. When the land loses its fertility, you move on and the village moves with you. Not all of them, of course, but between the two walks into Paiga I did in 2004 and 2007, I kept losing my sense of place because so much had sprung up and so much wasn't there anymore.

Can't think of any more appropriate site for the Internet, really; a shifting virtual world for a shifting real one.