The Stunning Yuo Waterfall in Enga Awaits
With muddy shoes and dirty jeans, a mud stained black jacket and digital camera in one hand and a video camera in the other, I boarded the Air Nuigini Dash 8 flight back to Port Moresby for Wapenamanda Airport, Enga Province on a beautiful and cold Monday morning in August.
The air hostess gave me a quizzical look and then half smiled at me when I smiled at her. I was minutes late. She wasn’t happy with me getting mud on the plane’s clean carpet. Oh well.
I was pumped, talking to everyone on the plane.
Less than an hour before I was hiking across sweet potato gardens, down dug out tracks with walls of red soil carpeted with green moss, slipping and sliding over mud, soil and rocks, crossing a slim wire bridge with-do-it-yourself repairs just to stand in front of the thundering, roaring Yuo Waterfall as it’s spray drenched me in seconds, all the while taking videos and photos.
After that I made the mad rush to get back to Wabag town to catch a bus to the airport, riding on a slow PMV that stopped every five minutes to pick up and drop of passengers.
I jumped off the bus at the roadside market at Wapenamanda and ran, probably 400 meters, to get to the Wapenamanda Airport.
The plane had already landed. I could see its tail through the over grown grass on the side of the road as large highway trucks drove past me.
When I arrived at the airport, everyone had checked in and boarded. I was the last passenger.
Saying good bye to Enga could not have been done in better fashion. Visiting the You Waterfall was awesome.
Enga Province is filled with waterfalls.
As you drive along the highlands highway up here, you are greeted by waterfall after waterfall plunging down the mountainsides and cliffs.
If you get to Wabag town, the capital of the highlands province, there is one water fall you need to see, less than a minute by road north of town and a good 15 minute hike as well to get to it.
It is the Yuo Waterfall, formed by the Lai River rushing through and over a narrow channel cracked between the bedrock to come crashing several down in a pool meters below, sanding white spray violently in the air and in every direction.
The sheer power of the falls can be felt 20 meters away, when you are hit with air and fine mist, threathening to blow you off your feet and drenching you in seconds.
I was in Enga travelling and writing and while in Wabag, I asked the locals if there was any good adventure to be had near Wabag town. Maybe a hike up the mountains or something.
Some local boys said look mate, we should go see the Yuo Waterfall.
“Is it big?” I asked. Yes, they replied. And it’s not far from Wabag, just up the road.
Great. I was heading up to the Surunki area the day I spoke to them, so promised that when I returned we would hike the mountains and then descend to see the waterfall.
I ended up spending a few more days then I planned in different places of Enga, so when I returned to Wabag late one afternoon, I didn’t have a day left. I was leaving for Port Moresby at 11 am the next day.
I called the boys. I said I was late arriving in Wabag, I apologised them. Then I asked if I could make it to the falls in an hour tomorrow. They said we should try. My flight was out at 11 am to Port Moresby.
It would take me about an hour by road to get to the airport, so I figured I’d need to start the travel out to the Waterfall by 8 am. Get back by 9 am and head straight to the airport. I was cutting it close, but hey, what the hell right.
The next morning I met up with Philip Kelly, one of the boys. Philip is a local Engan artist as well and does a lot of work as such. He was only to happy to take a writer to see the waterfall. He is also a local boy form the area, so at least my concerns of trespassing were soothed.
We went up to the bus stop and caught a bus north, up the Highlands Highway. The bus fare was K1 and the bus dropped us off a minute of two along the road side, next to a beautiful looking yellow house.
Even from up here you could hear the waterfall. It was a distant murmur, a soft continuous growl, like the engine of heavy machinery rumbling away in the jungle.
We hiked across sweet potato mounds, heading towards a traditional men’s house before taking a left and quickly descending down a muddy, well walked narrow path.
We passed through an interesting dug out section of the path which was like a tunnel, its ceiling created by overgrown plants and vines. Vivid green moss carpeted the red earth walls of this tunnel it was quite beautiful.
As we descended down, the roar became louder. ‘Is it close?’ I asked.
‘Yes, we have to walk down the river, across the bridge, go over the hill and then we will see it.’ Philip said.
Papua New Guineans explanation of distance can’t be taken literally. When they say ‘close,’ what you should understand is that they mean a bit farther than ‘close’…so I figured the waterfall was at least 100 meters or so ahead of us.
We headed down and crossed a suspended wire bridge over the Lai River. It rushed underneath us, showing of its big boulders and whirlpools. Quite intimidating. I held on to the camera’s carefully as we crossed.
After the bridge we walked through a forested area, up a steep mountain side slope with traditional fences and drainage ditches everywhere.
There were traditional thatched houses hidden the mountain side. We would pass overlooking one house and suddenly have another one appear above us. Beautiful flowers grew everywhere as every now and then barefooted children with no shirts on would appear, tearing down the mountain paths at fantastic pace, and then minutes later, run at the same pace back up.
All the while, the roar of the waterfall became louder and louder. Like a beautiful song, it enticed me forward.
And suddenly there it was a huge cloud of mist in front of us.
Philip said we have to go further down to get better shots.
We clambered down the slopes. The mist is everywhere. The plants are soaked. The soil is wet and muddy. Water is dripping of everything everywhere.
Some of the trees on the opposite embankment have grown facing away from the waterfall, the powerful force of air and mist blowing everything away from it.
It was an immense thundering beast, turbulent and mesmerizing. It was probably for me the best way to end my adventure in beautiful province they call Enga.
I spent a few minutes there taking pictures and shooting videos, then Philip and I began the mad rush back to Wabag, so I could make it to airport in time for my flight.
If you are in Wabag, I recommend that you visit the waterfall. Just call Philip on phone number, 73224263 or 7613 0421 head to the local tourism office and ask for some assistance
It takes about 20 minutes of good hiking to get to the Yuo Waterfall. You won’t be disappointed.
Special thanks to Enga Tourism people, Philip , and Papua New Guinea Tourism for making this adventure possible.
To learn more about Enga please visit. Enjoy the pics.