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Exotic Kutubu Kundu and Digaso Festival – 2015

By Peter Solo Kinjap

LAKE Kutubu is located in the Southern Highlands of Papua New Guinea, it is extremely remote. Traditional villages dot the shore and nearby rain forest. Like all virgin tropical rainforest areas the biodiversity is spectacular, but not obvious, unless you have a great passion for plants and insects. Mammals such as tree kangaroos, possums and other marsupials (New Guinea is evolutionary related to Australia) and birds such as spectacular Birds of Paradise and cassowaries are ever-present, but rarely spotted.

Cultural diversity is also rich, but off limits if you do not speak a local language - and there are many, PNG features hundreds of locale languages and dialects. The national lingua franca is Pidgin - and with it you can navigate or survive.

There are virtually some facilities for travellers unlike in the past - there are facilities for tourists - this is definitely a location for hearty travellers only. There are local flights that service the villages in the area, although plan on going by foot after that. You must plan on taking almost everything you need with you. Most villages do have a local store, but these are definitely bush stores that cater to local needs - tin fish, rice, sugar, powdered milk or tea.

Is it spectacular - yes, is it isolated - yes, will you see another western soul - unlikely, will you have any accessible safety net should you mess up - no.

On the north end of the lake Chevron New Guinea began oil and gas extraction in the 1990s. Their effort has resulted in a pipeline down the length of the Kikori River basin (through which waters from Lake Kutubu flow) to an offshore transfer platform approximately 80 km south in the Papuan Gulf.

Following the oil extraction, gas has been recently extracted by ExxonMobil in 2014, contraction work being started in 2008. The gas known as PNG LNG supplies the Asia and Europe markets. In the Pacific, it is the biggest LNG project ever that sustaining the energy needs of the world.

Geographically, the place is still untouched although research extraction activities have created road links connecting the basic to Kikori Wharf and main highlands highway to Mendi and Mt. Hagen.

Speaking the native culture, it’s unique and primitive. Beginning the oil extraction activities, they were this potential of culture fading away with sudden landing of western culture. Thus emerging of an annual local cultural festival that aims to sustain the culture in the wake of civilization.      

Kutubu Kundu Festival
The Kutubu Kundu and Digaso Festival was initiated by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) with the aim to revive some of the lost cultures, and to highlight the significance of the natural and cultural heritage of the area. The festival helps to promote the significance of Kutubu's rich biodiversity; preserve Kutubu's cultural heritage, and promote partnerships in sustainable resource development and biodiversity conservation.

From time to time, corporate companies like Oil Search Limited (OSL), Bank South Pacific Limited (BSP) and Exxon-Mobil Corporation (Esso Highlands Limited) become major sponsors of the festival event with donations of cash and kind. The event promotes Papua New Guinea's cultural diversity, sustainable livelihoods, tourism and other important areas that contribute to a better community.

The Kutubu region is one of the most important rainforest areas on the planet as seen by WWF. Lowland moist tropical rainforest, such as that around Lake Kutubu and the Kutubu region, contains more species of plant, animal and insect than any other habitat on earth. Local villagers rely on this resource for water, medicine and food. The lake itself is one of the most important freshwater sites in Papua New Guinea, bar none.

For this year 2015, the festival will be bigger and better with so many cultural groups coming from the Kikori basin. WWF is facilitating the festival again in mid-September 2015, 25th to 25th Sept.

Accommodation in Kutubu is rare, Tubo Lodge located on an island in the middle of Lake Kutubu, one of the most spectacular locations in the Southern Highlands province of Papua New Guinea.
The Lodge provides very excellent facilities and spectacular view of the lake and the surrounds.

There are 3 forms of transport available to get to Lake Kutubu. By airplane then by road and finally by boat to get to the Tubo Lodge. From Airplane, you can travel in from Port Moresby direct to Moro Airport or for hearty travellers; take the route to land in Mt. Hagen from Port Moresby and a cruise ride up the highlands highway to Lake Kutubu.

Kikori Basin
Lake Kutubu is a special lake in a special part of the world. The Kikori Basin is home to the world’s longest lizard, largest egg-laying mammal (the echidna), largest pigeon, largest moth, and second-largest butterfly. Lake Kutubu plays such a big role in maintaining the Earth’s natural diversity that in 1998 it was declared a Wetland of International Importance.

Salt Trade Link
Kutubu Festival traces a link for “Traditional Salt Trading”. The annual Kutubu Kundu and Digaso Festival that is in Kutubu area spearheaded by WWF has seen itself travelling all the way to Wabag, Enga Province.
This is the traditional Enga's black salt packed and exchanged for the Digaso Oil in Laiagam, Enga Province. The salt is natural and very fine crystals which are quite distinct with its natural and pure salt unlike the factory made. This package is here now in Kutubu. If you are interested to taste this fine natural salt, then don’t miss out on this year’s festival event 25th & 26th September, 2015.
The team from Kutubu that visited Enga presents the Kutubu's Digaso Oil to the Enga's Taik Anda Director Mr Akii Tumu in Wabag by the Kutubu Foe Culture Chairman, Mr Hahudi Farobo. The visit was made to identify the route of the Enga's traditional black salt that was traded for the Digaso Oil all the way from Kutubu. It was an experience for the team. The festival team is expecting an exchange trade this year’s festival.
The aim of the visit to these places was to revive this cultural knowledge of the trade of these two items within these two provinces.
The team consisting of Mike Diabe, Hahudi Farabo, Geoff Muri, Standfored Anebea, James Irimaru and the facilitator Saina Jeffrey Philyara with driver Kelly Kemane headed to Enga "Enga Taik Anda" for a cultural knowledge exchange expo tour. The hardworking team is hoping to link the traditional salt and Digaso Oil trading routes....
In preparation for the 05th event, the committees is paying a visit to the Enga Provincial Museum to digest the source knowledge of the traditional Engan salt and the Digaso oil. It’s a unique trip for the team to understand and verify the use and value of their Digaso oil.
To travel to the festival, or for me information contact via email at: howarigc@gmail.com or call: +67573081368.

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