Four Corners: A Journey into the Heart of Papua New Guinea

Four Corners: A Journey into the Heart of Papua New GuineaAmazing and crazy tale recounting the Western, female perspective of travels through Papua New Guinea Having travelled there myself, I found the book culturally insightful and accurate A well written, engaging read. Lake MurrayTribesmen from Tari, PNGHighlandsBetween 2 and 3 stars Four Corners follows the journey of author Kira Salak, a then 24 year old graduate student through Papua New Guinea Salak has an impulsive urge to put herself in extreme situations and travel to distant places around the world to see what she can handle and that she can survive For instance, she rides on buses through tribal war faring territories She hikes through the jungle from one village to another, because she doesn t have the patience to wait for decent transportation She canoes with another traveler on the Sepik River, despite the warnings of locals that it is very dangerous At the end of her journey, she learns self acceptance I picked this book up, because I m very curious about Papua New Guinea It is a country that boasts over 700 different tribes and languages The highland regions of Papua New Guinea were unexplored until 1930, when Australian explorers in the search of gold, stumbled upon fertile valleys and a million people that lived completely disconnected from the rest of the world Also, I wanted to read about the Papua New Guinean perspective on the West Papua Independence Movement This book was published in 2001, and as I type, the West Papuan freedom struggle is sadly still ongoing and still a silent war It was hard to relate to the author At the time, she had a lot of unresolved issues with her family her parents preferred her brother over her, she was raised roughly like a boy and she just broke up with her boyfriend, because she was scared of being loved On top of that, what annoyed me the most, was her detailed description of every men she meets in Papua New Guinea and their flirtations It was incredibly tedious for me to read, when all I wanted wasof Papua New Guinean culture, people and every day life Unfortunately there isn t a lot of Papua New Guinean literature out there Nonetheless this is still a very difficult book to recommend. This book is one of the better solo traveler stories with its variety of landscapes and its ever changing cast of characters First, there s the scope of Salak s travels across the breadth and height of Papua New Guinea s terrain Leaving from Cairns, Australia, then Port Moresby, PNG, she navigates and hikes through and flies over the lowlands of kilometers of swampy jungle and steep mountains, navigating her course down uncertain, remote waterways and tributaries, first the Fly and May Rivers then the Sepik River Ascending to the 15,000 foot highlands, she boards the PMV passenger vans on roads obstructed by hooliganism rascals on payday and by intertribal warfare A solitary white woman wait meri she carries luck with her along with a machete bush knife and with a magical blessing from an Apowasi bigman Chief Second, the author combines fact with some obvious exaggeration Can someone sleep soundly with the astronomical numbers of roaches inside her mosquito netting Perhaps, they are preferred companions to the river guide Are the people encountered objectively described or as they fit her needs and wishes Finally, the story is a physical and spiritual voyage for Kira Salak, who hopes to transform herself into someone better, being compelled to move on continually to the next places to find contentment in paradise Without revealing the ending, the trip is successful in that it brings her a revelation at journey s end Apparently low on the list of touristy destinations when the book was written, PNG tells a lot about the autonomous country even while the author enjoys some authorial freedom Her solo travel to PNG at twenty four years old marked an important spiritual transition in her life. 3.5 starsThis is less a travel book than the memoir of the author s emotional journey Kira Salak seems to be a professional adventurer, which is pretty cool, and she s also a compelling storyteller, bringing to life her experience traveling around New Guinea s swamps, rainforests, mountains, crime ridden cities, and even a rebel refugee camp, in 1995 What she does not do quite so well is illuminate the lives of the people she meets she s in New Guinea to discover herself And I get the sense she s spent a lot of time analyzing herself, and no wonder, having receivedthan her share of dysfunction being raised by evangelical Objectivist parents, and feeling compelled to go off on life threatening journeys to prove herself But she was 24 when she took this trip and only a few years older when she wrote about it, and some of the ways she describes her emotional experiences seem a little simplistic I also couldn t help but shake my head at her idea that she was going to recover from the trauma of a previous kidnapping also on a dangerous trip by traveling through another dangerous place where, unfamiliar with the environment, she would be at the mercy of strangers It s no wonder this doesn t really work for her or it doesn t seem to, until the epilogue, which wraps everything up rather too neatly insisting, for instance, that she wasn t taught to fear like other girls, when she spent most of the preceding 400 pages preoccupied with danger and fear Her threshold for what she s willing to do anyway is certainly higher than most women s, but she rarely feels safe enough on this trip to enjoy herself.That said, Salak does write well about the places she experienced the grueling hikes through swamps and mountains the wonder of a helicopter ride over the jungle the tragedy of the refugees from the western portion of New Guinea, victims of genocide from Indonesia the hubris of missionaries trying to drag locals into a modern way of life When she does write about locals, it s really quite good I loved reading about the calm swamp village where tiny children learned to paddle in tiny canoes, and she was taken in by a man who had no plates or silverware because his wife took them all when she left and moved across the road And for that matter, about the truck drivers in Mozambique, where Salak s early attempt at adventure got her in well over her head But she rarely stays in one place long, and I was left wanting to learnabout these people for instance, about the women living away from their families at the YWCA in Port Moresby, despite rampant crime there.Overall, this was enjoyable reading it seems a bit long for what it is, but Salak has such an intense and varied journey that I m not sure what could be cut I think this book is worth reading, though if your primary interest in it is learning about New Guinea, you may come away frustrated. Reading this book, I was absolutely impressed by the feats of Kira Salak and all that she went through during her journey Her story is also absolutely riveting and I couldn t wait to see what would happen to her and what would be her next adventure But even though her mis adventures in New Guinea were fascinating, I think that this book is muchthe story of her internal journey than her journey through Papua New Guinea.And I must admit that even though it was really interesting to be in her mind during this trip, I couldn t help being really annoyed at her at times Her selfishness and self centeredness felt absolutely conceited seeing some of the places she went through She could have avoid most of the difficult situations she was in with a little bitcommon sense although let s be honest, the story wouldn t have been as interesting to read I also found it was a pity that because of her personal issues, it felt like she only skimmed over the fantastic places she has been to and never properly paid attention to them.I am myself a woman traveler who travels regularly alone, be it for my own pleasure and for work I admit that I never went to any places as dangerous as her, and that I would never consider it But I don t think it has anything to do with being a woman, just avoiding war torn places and hot spots Like her, being a woman never stopped me going anywhere, but contrary to her, I never really stopped to ponder the question And I don t believe it sdangerous to be a woman in some remote parts of the world than in our western countries, when it seemed to be an important issue to her But I have never been in trouble because of being a woman, it was difficult for me to relate to her on some of her fears Maybe a woman would riskthan a man in a dangerous situation, but I don t feel like I haveas in a bigger number of risky situations than a man would have But again, I have never been what she went through in Mozambic.Another thing that chaffed a little during this read was that I couldn t help wondering how much literary license she took with the truth Some points seemed a little too surreal, too perfect story wise to feel truly real But that s maybe because I am only putting my own expectations on this book.All in all, it was a very enjoyable read and a book hard to put down, even though it was sometime hard for me to approve of some of her thoughts, choices and actions. Four Corners is a fascinating travel memoir about Papua New Guinea, written by a young woman on a journey to find herself in a faraway land There is also a healthy dose of history and anthropology thrown in It was interesting to read about her attempts to trek across the interior and her encounters with locals, many of whom had not yet met a white woman traveling solo before I was also fascinated by the fact that her accounts of the jungle and village life were virtually identical to travel diaries of explorers who had trekked through the area in the 1930s, 40s, and 50s Time seems to have stood still in many of these villages, isolated from the political and cultural influences of the Western world However the changes which have occurred on the Indonesian side of the island were quite distressing to read about What I appreciated most about this book is the author s honesty As she points out, many travelers are charmed by the primitive nature of the villager s lifestyle and see it as an ideal society Westerns should strive to reach In reality, it is not a choice to grow and kill all of your own food and make your clothes from grass and tree barks, it is a reaction to their isolated location Many of these villages have no clothing stores, hospitals or grocery shops Anything that can t be grown has to be brought in by helicopter or canoe and transportation is not reliable thanks to the extreme weather conditions I have enormous respect for the villagers yet, like the author, I do not envy their situation.I identified strongly with this author and her perspectives on traveling, finding yourself and the people she met It was a pleasure to read about her adventures, her desire to challenge herself and seeof the world while doing it I highly recommend this book to adventure seekers and those interested in learningabout Papua New Guinea, as well as lovers of travel memoirs and travelogues. I found this to be a perplexing tale While I admire her achievement, the book had a number of error of fact such as stating Port Moresby had not been bomb in WWII, and her short discussion of Australia s involvement in Vietnam wasfull of errors than fact She did highlight the dreadful things going on in West Papua, OK Tedi mines and the impact of the missionaries.Salak said she wanted to be immersed in the various tribes and people of PNG but she seemed to move onto the next place before she knew she had arrived And there were many pages of conversations and exploits she shared with the many and various unusual ex pats, Missionaries and the occasional tourist I admire her guts and determination but if you want to find out about the people of PNG then this book provides slim pickings. There seems to be two kinds of travel memoirs those written by stable, wealthy people who travel around and talk to the locals, retelling their stories as well as giving some historical data on the place and those written by people who are searching for something and put themselves on the edge physically and emotionally I, by far, prefer the latter This book is one of those The author narrates her travels to Papua New Guinea She is 24, traveling alone into the jungles where few non locals go She carries a knife for protection and repeatedly puts herself in dangerous situations At times I felt upset with her thinking Why are you taking such risks are you crazy Which the author also searches herself for answers and shares honestly with the reader I appreciate people willing to take such extreme adventures, as I know I never will but through them I get an understanding of foreign people and their lives My only complaint about this book is I would have likedsex and romance Otherwise it was an awesome read. Part of me regrets giving this book only two stars because at times I really enjoyed the glimpses into the life and culture of Papua New Guinea I learned some things about its history, geography, and tribalism, but Salak never stays put in one village or town long enough to really immerse herself in a distinct tribal culture or establish lasting relationships with people she meets This is on purpose she doesn t actually WANT to stay put, but rather wants to visit as many towns and regions of the country as possible before she runs out of money or her health forces a return home More often than not Salak only skims the surface of everywhere she goes, stopping for a meal and supplies and a night of sleep but leaving again promptly before she really engages It s only when her travel plans are delayed that she stays anywhere long enough to have real conversations with the people, such as the Indonesian refugees in Pastor Carl s camp That segment of the book particularly irritated me because it seemed that the challenge for Salak is to see if she can actually get to the camp alive, not whether she can help or bring attention to the refugees It struck me as thinly veiled narcissism masquerading as altruism I guess the reader is supposed to be impressed that she continually puts herself in dangerous situations and narrowly escapes for no clear purpose I m not impressed More generally, I struggled with this book because there is almost NO part of me that can connect with Salak s choices, her attitude about relationships, and her stubborn, reckless treatment of her own life She says to readers many times that she cannot figure out why she s on this trip, but she also repeatedly states that she went on the trip to be changed Changed how She doesn t know To me it seems obvious that she thrives on doing what others says she can t do, and callously disregards her health and life in the pursuit of those goals She s shocked at the end of her trip when she hasn t been transformed I want to yell at her that she isn t transformed because all she did on the trip is do what she has always done run away from relationships, stubbornly try to prove herself to some undefined person or entity, talk the talk of looking inward and making thoughtful change and then do what she s always done and make no change The most aggravating part, perhaps, is a cheesy epilogue that jettisons her earlier comments saying the trip hadn t changed her in the way she wanted She claims to have been changed in the end, but having spent 400 pages watching her refuse to change her ways AT ALL, it reads very disingenuously. A Story Of Extraordinary Danger And Adventure As A Very Young Woman Attempts, Alone, A Trip Across Papua New Guinea After Her First Taste Of The Freedom Found In Travel At Age , Kira Salak Spent The Next Several Years Of Her Youth As A Constant, Impulsive Traveler Barely Old Enough To Drink, She Leaves Her Life Behind Graduate School, A Job, A Boyfriend Who Loves Her To Attempt The Impossible, Her Dream Of Following In The Footsteps Of British Explorer Ivan Champion, The First Person To Successfully Cross The Island Of Papua New Guinea InShe Is Motivated By Something Much Deeper Than Simply Wanting To Be The First Woman To Make Such A Crossing, And As She Composes This Memoir She Still Searches For Answers Why Would A Lone Traveler, A Very Young Woman At That, Want To Embark On Such A Dangerous And Mysterious Trip Where Was Her Fear Or Was This All An Attempt To Court And Indulge Her Fear For Some Larger Purpose No One, On The Road Or At Home, Could Quite Understand

Kira Salak won the PEN Award for journalism for her reporting on the war in Congo, and she has appeared five times in Best American Travel Writing A National Geographic Emerging Explorer and contributing editor for National Geographic Adventure magazine, she was the first woman to traverse Papua New Guinea and the first person to kayak solo 600 miles to Timbuktu She is the author of three books

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  • Hardcover
  • 401 pages
  • Four Corners: A Journey into the Heart of Papua New Guinea
  • Kira Salak
  • English
  • 08 June 2018
  • 9781582431659

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