Introduction

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, yam harvest celebrations in July/August, carvings and decorations. You’ll also find striking, forward-leaning haus tambarans (spirit houses). 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. The low, tunnel-like entrance at the front is reserved for ceremonies, so if visiting, 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 near Maprik, accessible by a dirt road.

To get to either Maprik or Apangi from Wewak catch a 3-10 PMV (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, 1½ hours).

There is a fairly shabby but friendly Wakin Hotel and though it looks rather like an abandoned factory, the simple rooms at the Kwara Jimbi Lodge are clean (even if the beds are meant for Hobbit-sized travellers) and staff are helpful.