Road Trip: Mt Hagen to Wabag on the Highlands Highway
If you are ever in Mt Hagen, Western Highlands, one thing to do is take a road trip from Mount Hagen to Wabag and upwards to Porgera along the Highlands Highway.
The Highlands Highway is the major road network for Enga. It begins in the coastal towns of Lae and Madang and snakes up into the Highlands Region. The part of the highway that come through Enga passes through Wapenamanda, Wabag, Laiagam and goes as far as Porgera, the site of the giant Porgera Gold Mine.
You can either travel by private car or catch a PMV Bus or Truck from anywhere along the highway to come to Enga. The road is sealed though in places it in is a bad state.
Your journey will begin in the valleys of Western Highlands and rapidly ascend up the Mt Hagen Range reaching the Kaugul Pass at almost 3000m before descending a narrow corridor and following the paths of the tributaries that feed the Laiagap and Lai rivers as you had towards Wabag.
There are spectacular waterfalls that lie along this route to Wabag. After you leave Wabag you climb up into the Lai Valley. In many places the road is close to the Lai River. These areas are quite scenic. As you go you will reach the Surunki area with the Surunki Lake visible. As you pass on, you travel up towards to the beautiful station of Laiagam and push on into the rugged interior of Enga towards Porgera. This area is marked by large mountains and limestone cliffs that the Highlands Highway snakes along. Sudden drops of the edge of the highway are almost 50 to 100 meters in places so drive carefully.
My Road Trip – Mt Hagen to Enga
I recently embarked on a road trip on the back of a PMV truck from Mt Hagen to Wabag, the capital of Enga Province.
The trip took over an hour and I really enjoyed it. There were a lot of things to see on the highway especially as you climbed higher along the slopes of the Mt Hagen Ranges.
The view was breath taking as we travelled higher, the vast and beautiful Nebiliyer, Waghi and other valleys and plains of Western Highlands Province, curved into the horizon, green and blue with life.
But the PMV drivers never really get to enjoy the scenery, as there are many sharp turns on the slopes and many vehicles have taken a tumble making the journey up or down the slopes.
At around 10 minutes, we reach a point at Tambul where the Highlands Highway forks. If you take the north road (on your right), you travel to Enga. If you take the south road ( on your left), you travel to Southern Highlands.
This PMV was heading to Enga.
Before we reach the Kagul Pass, the highest point of the Highlands Highway at 3000 meters, we took a break at the provincial border of Enga and Western Highlands. There was supposed to be a police checkpoint here but after some unrest, the checkpoint has been abandoned temporarily.
At this place, most of the PMV’s will stop so passengers can stretch their legs. You can get a good road side meal of roasted chicken, fried/boiled potatoes, cooked banana and large servings of freshly cooked broccoli for less than K15.00.
After everybody had jumped back on the truck, we headed toward Enga, climbing over the Kagul Pass and descending rapidly as the road followed the course of the Laiagap River.
This section of the Highlands Highway is noted for its waterfalls. There must have been 17 waterfalls in total that we passed, each one as magnificent as the next, thundering over the slopes of Mt Hagen ranges.
Apart from a few barren patches, villages and houses lined the Highlands Highway all the way to Wabag. Pigs, dogs, chickens and other animals were as frequent as the people you pass on the road.
We had to stop here and there to drop of different passengers, but finally we arrived in Wabag.
It was a great road trip. Later that day, I caught a PMV up to Surunki. This trip took about 10 minutes. The road was good condition and sealed in many places, and runs all the way to Porgera.
Road Conditions on my Trip
For the most part, the Highlands Highway from Mt Hagen to Enga is not bad. There are a few rough patches but one a scale of 10, it’s a 7.
However, when you come closer to Wabag, there is a marked change in the condition of the road. It actually becomes quite horrible, with many potholes and patches in need of desperate repair. And the sad thing is it’s like this all the way to Wabag. The poor road conditions here are the source of many bitter criticisms against Engan leaders (as I learnt from my fellow passengers).
The road from Wabag to Porgera is a different story, it’s actually quite good and regularly maintained, though not sealed in many places.
Thank you so much for reading this story. If you want to learn more about Enga, please visit here. Enjoy the images below. (90 in total)