Reporting from the jungles of Papua New Guinea deep in the volcano zone known as the Ring of Fire where according to wikipedia ninety percent of the world's earthquakes occur. It’s truly the Ends of the Earth. I’m talking remote and I don’t mean the TV clicker. It’s the dry season here in the rain forest, which means it only rains for part of each day instead of a constant downpour all day long. Yesterday we ventured off the LNG construction site we are here to shoot and wandered into the bush…
Within 3 meters (10ft) we were totally engulfed by strange vegetation. My footfalls were muted and softened by the mushy rotting plant matter that made up the jungle floor. If someone had blindfolded me and spun me around there is no way I could have pointed the way out when the blindfold was removed. It was claustrophobically dense.
Filtered sun made its way through the canopy in occasional bright shafts, highlighting the multitude of spider webs. The light level was low compared to the blinding equatorial sun just inches outside the jungle cover. The temperature was noticeably cooler, but the staggering humidity was no less oppressive and the bug population was multiplied a hundred fold, no make that a zillion-fold. The buzz of exotic insects grew with each step, along with my sense of awe and a uncomfortable prickly sensation heralding the Unknown.
We were advised to keep moving so the mosquitoes and other local creepy crawlers would have a harder time. Our malaria meds are rated 95% effective, but do nothing to stop dingy fever or just a really nasty bug bite and the subsequent potential of a jungle-rot infection. Our hosts strolled nonchalantly along like we were in the middle of Central Park instead of the middle of the largest contiguous jungle in the world. Meanwhile, Chris was slapping his sides and stomping his feet faster than an East Texas clogger at a Saturday night hoedown. I chose to whirl, arms flailing, like a demented but hopefully stylish dervish. Do you know how hard it is to look like an experienced professional when you are spinning like a top? It’s difficult, but I’m confident I managed to look ever calm and cool as I thrashed uncontrollably around in circles. I’m sure our clients were duly impressed with our command of the situation.
Meanwhile, my imagination turned every twig into a snake, and every leaf movement hid a stalking carnivorous beast, ready to lunge at my throat. I wouldn’t survive 24 hours here. If the animals didn’t kill me, my imagination would. Jane was nuts, no way Tarzan was worth living here. It’s CREEPY!
I had hoped to catch sight of one of the monkeys that shrieks us awake each morning or one of the nearly 700 species of birds that inhabit the region. I had to settle for a brief glimpse of an incredible blue iridescent butterfly that drifted too quickly past and then disappeared into the tangled grapevines and giant fern trees.
Jakarta, our jumping off spot for Papua, was hit by a series of mild to medium earthquakes, during our stay. The biggest registered 8.4 on the Richter Scale. That triggered a tsunami warning that included our area. Since we were within a rock’s throw of the sea, that’s something that perked up my ears.
Workers at the site were worried about their families living in highrise apartments in Jakarta. Some evacuated to Singapore or Thailand. One told the story of the first quake causing some worrisome structural damage to their highrise. The next quake caused the pool on the 24th floor to slosh violently out, sending torrents of water down the elevator shaft, which immediately shorted out all the lights in the building AND stopped the elevator. Yikes, I hate to think what it must have been like on that elevator ride! First the quaking, then darkness, then the flood!
Hurricanes are a walk in the park compared to what the people over here in the Ring of Fire deal with. At least you know when a hurricane is coming. I wonder why they don’t name earthquakes?