Discover the Land of a Million Journeys
Read about Ian’s incredible biking adventures across Papua New Guinea and discover the real side of the Pacific island country with our interactive map.
Papua New Guinea
Ian Lloyd Neubauer
Sydney-based journalist and photojournalist, Ian Lloyd Neubauer specialises in news, investigations and travel in destinations that are hard to get to but offer great experiential rewards for those who go the extra mile. Ian’s work has appeared in TIME, The Economist, The Guardian, The Telegraph, BBC, CNN, and Al Jazeera. Ian is a regular guest on Sky Business News 'Business Class' show and ABC Radio, and the author of two novels: Getafix (2003) and Maquis (2006).
Even for an adventure rider who'd tested his mettle in some of the most batshit crazy corners of the planet, the idea of riding a motorcycle through Papua New Guinea was daunting. A colonial construct of some 1,000 warring tribes occupying the eastern half of Southeast Asia's largest island, PNG is an almost mythical place where fact and fiction intertwine and stories about witch burnings, tribal warfare, highway bandits and other freakish stuff that most will only ever see in an episode of Game of Thrones pepper the evening news. “Be careful you don't get eaten,” was typical of the comments I received before my first trip to PNG in 2010. Well, they needn't have worried because they stopped eating people in PNG some time ago. More so, New Guineans are just about the most generous and warm-hearted people you could ever meet. In the half dozen times I've returned to the country, never once have I felt threatened or copped as much as an unkind word – and my experience is not unique. It's not uncommon to hear about tribes locked in pitched battle that will take time-out to let cars or trekking parties pass unharmed. Stories like these show how off-the-bell-curve PNG really is – a country few outsiders will ever truly understand. But the key to successful travel in PNG is much simpler: offer a smile and handshake to everyone you meet and in no time at all, you'll make legions of wantoks. In Tok Pisin – the pidgin English language spoken all over PNG – wantok means 'one talk' or speakers of the same language and members of the same tribe who offer each another unconditional protection and safe passage through their territory. In a country that where most of the land and the roads on it are still tribal-owned, the wantok system is more than a safety net; it's a passport for travel in PNG.