The following article was published by Bruce Copeland, a former RAAF Officer now living in PNG – it is a timely reminder for Australian trekkers considering a local PNG trekking company to save money.

ALMOST TREKKED KOKODA

I would like to tell a story mainly for PNG villagers who may plan to set up a trekking group either for Kokoda or Black Cat Tracks.  And tourist promotion authority.
I already have a report on Malum Nalu blog explaining why I would never trek with a village group. It is all about their not being reliable and professional enough.
Last week, I was approached by a PNG man and asked to be the team leader for his trek starting Sunday. He asked me my rates. I told him that I am paid good money by the expatriate
trekking groups. It is fund raising for AIDS awareness.
But I would drop my price for a village trekking group. He had asked me once before but I could not trek. He is known to me on the Track. And he spends much time in the email shop.
He suggested K300 a day for 7 days. That sounded OK. I am doing him a favour. I said I have all the gear except a personal back pack. He had one. We agreed to meet two days later at the
email shop.
We met and his first words were that he would drop the rate to K150 a day. Was it OK? Not really. He said that he would let me have a personal backpack for K50 a day. I was losing interest in the man. He said he would give an advance and would come to give it to me at the e-mail shop that afternoon. I came half an hour late but he had not arrived.
We met next day by accident and he introduced me to three young village men who were to come to make sure that I did the right thing. I sent him a text later to say I was no longer available. I told him that I was probably the only white man who would ever trek for him.
There are a number of issues here. In PNG, there is the attitude among many PNG businessmen that the key to being successful is to lie, cheat and keep changing the goal posts. Not with this white man. After dropping the price from K300 to K150, I would  not put it past him to refuse to pay at the end or drop    the price to K50 a day. Take out the rent of the back  pack which would be K200 for the week. Take it or leave it, white men.
Then there is another factor. I have experienced many men over the years who stop me in the street and tell me they want a meeting with me to discuss a business issue.They are probably after a free business lunch. My response is always positive. I say “My friend, I am very busy at the moment. Come to my house next Friday and talk to me”. The fact is they never know where I live and never come. We both smile. The first wanted me to be the manager of his security firm. But he did not have an office, vehicle, contracts or guards. That was my job. And no pay for me until I set it all up. Crazy. Next wanted me to be Director of his AIDS care group. He has land and is waiting for the funding. He  has been stopping me and telling me that for 3 years. I shake his hand and wish him well. He stopped last  week and advised someone was trying to steal his land. Progress at last.
I think my Kokoda trekking man is number three. If he   is not, the village trekking groups have much to learn.