When European explorers made it into Papua New Guinea’s rugged interior in the 1930s, they didn’t find the unbroken tangle of mountains they had expected. Instead they stumbled into broad, heavily cultivated valleys bordered with sawtooth mountains and home to a million-plus people.
These impressive mountains are are now accessible by road, and those with determination can seek out the celebrated birds of paradise, and even summit Mt Wilhelm (4509m), the tallest of them all. From its craggy top, you can see right across the country.
Today, the fiercely proud Highlanders maintain many aspects of the traditional culture that so fascinated the Europeans. During the region’s celebrated Highland shows, Western clothes are exchanged for flamboyant feathers, shells, wigs and skins. And while the massive investment in oil and natural gas fields will continue to bring change, the far west remains a treasure trove of extraordinary cultures and body adornment.