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Introducing Maprik Area

There isn’t much to Maprik. There is a market, post office, two churches, a couple of shops selling the bare essentials and that’s about it. The town has little to draw travellers but it’s the logical base to explore the Prince Alexander Mountains and nearby Abelam villages notable for their yam cults, carvings and decorations. You’ll also find striking, forward-leaning haus tambarans (spirit houses), an architectural style echoed in such modern buildings as Parliament House in Port Moresby. The front facade of a Maprik haus tambaran is usually brightly painted in browns, ochres, whites and blacks, and in some cases can reach 30m high.

Traditionally haus tambarans were exclusively an initiated-man’s domain, but these days the rules are usually bent for Western travellers. Locals usually charge K5 to K20 to enter and an additional K5 to K10 photography fee. There isn’t much to see inside anymore, most of the art was sold to collectors decades ago. The tunnel-like entrance at the front is reserved for ceremonies, so you’ll be asked to enter by a door at the back.

Interesting back roads connect villages between Maprik and Lumi, some with spectacular haus tambarans and good carvings. You can walk between these villages but to explore the area thoroughly you’ll need your own transport

Another good base for exploration is Apangai, 10km from Maprik, which has three haus tambarans. Another particularly fine one can be found at Kumunibis, a small village not accessible by road but by a three-hour walk from Apangai.

To get to either Maprik or Apangi from Wewak catch a 3-10PMV (K20, Monday to Saturday, three to four hours) from opposite the post office. Maprik makes for a convenient overnight stop on the way to Pagwi (K10, two hours from Maprik).

There is a hotel and two guesthouses in Maprik, and Peter Yipimi offers homestays in Apangai.