A group of Australian and New Zealand tourists trekking through remote jungle in Papua New Guinea have been injured in a savage attack in which two of their porters were hacked to death.
The attack took place on Tuesday afternoon on the rugged Black Cat Track, in Morobe province, in the lawless Pacific nation’s northern highlands. The trekkers had just pitched tents when they were ambushed by six bandits wielding machetes, knives and spears. Two porters were killed and several others injured, while four tourists were wounded, none of them seriously.
According to reports, the tour leader, Christiana King – the only woman in the group – led the travellers out through the bush to find assistance. Workers from a local mining company were alerted, and helped the wounded to walk to their camp, which has a medical clinic. They were then taken to hospital in Lae, the provincial capital, before being flown to Port Moresby yesterday.
The Black Cat Track – a rough overland trail running from the village of Salamaua, on the coast of the Huon Gulf, to the mountain township of Wau – is popular with trekkers. The tour operators, PNG Trekking Adventures, said there had never been any trouble on the track before.
While robbery appeared to be the motive, with the tourists’ possessions and passports taken, some reports suggested that locals might have objected to porters from the lowlands bringing in visitors and reaping the financial rewards.
The group reportedly consisted of eight Australians and a New Zealander, led by Ms King, an an Australian who lives in Lae with her family. A police spokeswoman, Dominic Kakas, said one tourist was speared in the leg, one was slashed on the arm, and two others received severe cuts, one to the head. Sone of the surviving porters were more seriously injured.
Crime is rampant in Papua New Guinea, particularly in Port Moresby, where four Chinese nationals were hacked to death in June, with one reportedly beheaded and the others dismembered. Violence against women – both locals and visitors – is widespread. A US academic was gang-raped in April while trekking in the jungle with her husband and a guide.
The Black Cat Track – originally cut by gold prospectors, and the scene of heavy fighting during the Second World War – winds through leech- and mosquito-infested jungle. The Lonely Planet guide describes it as “suitable only for masochists and Israeli paratroopers”.