In the 1920s and '30s New Guinea’s gold rush made the mining towns of Wau (pronounced ‘wow’) and Bulolo thriving centres of industry. Not any more. A gold mine at nearby Hidden Valley had promised to boost the local economy but much of the wealth has ended up in Lae or offshore and unemployment in the area remains high.
Wau’s climate is a welcome change from the stifling heat and humidity of the coast and it is far friendlier than Lae down the road. At an altitude of about 1300m, the abundant pines give a refreshing slant on equatorial vegetation. Most who have come here recently did so to tackle either the Black Cat or Bulldog Trails; two of PNG’s most challenging treks. However following the horrific attack on a trekking party on the Black Cat in September 2013 tourism has dwindled and the trail was closed at the time of writing.