“Give me the car keys,» I heard in the dark, then I felt a knife stabbed in the collarbone. I stumbled and felt the knife penetrate the groin and abdomen, says Dennis (66), a Chinese born and raised in Papua New Guinea. He and his wife were attacked after playing tennis in 2004 and both were stabbed multiple times. I’m at the airport in Port Moresby, voted the world’s worst place to live, where gangs rule with machetes and machine guns. But my fears were soon replaced by an extreme fascination. God did not choose the golden mean when he created PNG. The country is the world’s premier league in everything from poverty, sexual violence and HIV to the fastest growing economy and most heterogeneous countries with over 848 languages ​​and 1,000 cultures. In addition, one of the last unexplored paradise on earth has a history spiced with headhunters and ritual cannibalism. Fascinating! Papua New Guinea, April 2014

The thine line between hotel and prison
I met Dennis at the airport in the capital Port Moresby, and his story reinforced the impression I had. A city in decay and despair, which won the dubious honour of being rated as the world’s No. 1 least desirable city to live (Economist 2004), with an unemployment rate of 60-90% and where «raskol» gangs ravaged with machetes and machine guns.

Stayed at the Gateway Hotel, a 4 star hotel, with high walls, security guards, swimming pool, restaurants and two pubs. A self-contained fortress located outside the city centre. Resembled a Norwegian prison, apart from the pubs and that the walls were to protect the insiders.

10001539_10152312920041970_280244163_nThe receptionists strongly advised not to explore the city, but curiosity killed the cat once again. A while later I found myself in the heart of the city. Poverty in all shapes and colors. Dusty market swarmed with sweaty, dirty individuals. A human anthill.

I went to the beach. Playful kids in the sand could be from any big city, with the exception of the groups of drunk teenagers and adults in the car parks nearby. Several can barely walk. People that would in the West have studied, worked or planned for a future. These had moved to Port Moresby to seek fortune, but only found poverty and drug abuse.

PNG is a poor country, where one third live on less than $ 1.25 day. But there are major changes going on and the nation is among the 10 fastest growing economies. Large investments in LNG are expected to double the nation’s GDP within a few years. P1070241

One of the world’s last unexplored paradise
A quick bus and boat ride from the capital’s chaos led me to an idyllic island Loloata. A surreal contrast. Small fish and large tuna boiling in the ocean, small kangaroos hopped around the island and parrots and enormous peacock-like pigeons explored the bungalow in search for a treat.

I spent several days there and the purpose was to explore almost untouched coral reefs and it was magical. All the Great Barrier Reef once was, before it was destroyed by millions of scuba tourists, overfishing and global warming. An unique variety of corals and numerous fish species appeared just off the shore. But PNG has much more than just one of the world’s best coral reefs.

922168_10152317245301970_592573157_oPNG is the largest tropical island with vast mountain ranges, which limits transport opportunities and the capital has no roads to other major cities. Several villages can only be reached by light aircraft or on foot, and the country has 578 airstrips, where few are paved. This combined with a lot of unrest, have resulted in that PNG is one of the least unexplored paradises, where many new species are constantly being discovered in the lush rain forests, deep valleys and high mountains.

A social anthropological goldmine
The country’s terrain and limited transport options are one of the reasons why natives have been able to follow their ancient traditions relatively unaffected by the outside world – for better or worse.

Better because they have been able to preserve their uniqueness and the country is one of the most heterogeneous nations with over 1,000 tribes, with its culture and language. The country has 848 languages​​, which constitute for 12 percent of all languages ​​of the world and neighboring tribes do often not understand each other.

Worse because some tribes have a history of eating their enemies and relatives and shrinking heads. Not popular in the nicer neighborhoods in Norway, but a goldmine for a social anthropologist. The country is also at the top of sexual violence, where a study by the Lancet in 2013 on Bougainville Island revealed that 41 percent of men had raped non-partners and according to UNICEF, half of girls were under 15 years. The nation also has the highest incidence of HIV around the Pacific.

Ying and Yang
Both Dennis and his wife survived the fateful evening. Before leaving the airport he looked at me and said: – After the attack, I decided. I refuse to be afraid. This is my home and I am proud of it, he said firmly.

One can write two stories about PNG, one depicting a beautiful, untouched paradise and one that portrays a pagan hell on earth. The fact is that it is both, Ying and Yang, which makes it one of the most fascinating countries I have visited.

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