On Bougainville’s higher ground: Mount Balbi


Bougainville’s Mount Balbi is an active volcano that rewards trekkers with stunning scenery, steaming fumaroles and a blue crater lake.

Mount Balbi’s Bougainville. Credit: Bruno Louey

Photographer Bruno Louey was recently among the first people in eight months to reach the summit of Bougainville’s 2715-metre Mount Balbi.

The track to the top of the active volcano had been closed for most of the year, while some issues were sorted out between land- owners and tourism operators. Louey took the photos on these pages for Paradise.

He says the three-day trek to the summit, which is the highest point of Bougainville, is tough.

He says the group set out from Buka and spent a night in a village before starting the ascent proper. ‘Our porters took turns to clear the track and the higher we went the colder it got. We walked and
climbed through jungle, jumped over fallen trees and crossed dry river beds.’

Louey says his group of 11, including porters, camped out at night and meals were prepared over open fires. Although the group was hit by some wet weather, the final day to the summit was in beautiful conditions.

‘Everyone was happy about this,’ he says. ‘We trekked along ridges and between fumaroles (spitting hot gas and steam) to the top.

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‘There was an overwhelming feeling of success standing right at the top of the highest peak [on Bougainville]. There are five craters up there, one with a big blue lake. The beauty of the place made all the effort worthwhile.’

If you want to go …

Bougainville Experience Tours (bougtours.com; tel. +675 7365 6050)
Rotokas Ecotourism (tel. +675 7078 0211, rotokas.ecotourism@gmail.com)
International Indigenous Tourism Marketing (+61 401 331 251, collincowellredcent@hotmail.com)

This article ‘On higher ground’ was first published in the November-December issue of Paradise, the in-flight magazine of Air Niugini.

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