Oro Province (OP), formerly known as Northern Province, covers 22,800 square kilometers on the northeast coast. Much of the province is taken up by rugged mountains, and much of the coastal plain is swampy, but there are considerable areas of fertile land. The province contains active volcanoes. An eruption of Mt Lamington in 1951 caused great damage and loss of life. The population rose from 77,400 in 1980 to 96,800 in 1990. At least 35 languages are spoken. The Constitution, adopted in 1977, provides for an Assembly of 20 elected members and one appointed member. There are six districts and the provincial headquarters is at Popondetta. The main exports are oil palm, timber, rubber, copra, cocoa and coffee.
Little archeological work has been done in Oro, and it is not known when the area was first occupied. At European contact, in the second half of the 19th century, the people practiced a system of shifting agriculture based on taro and yams. European gold miners exploited the Yodda-Kokoda Trough in the 1890s. The colonial Administration of British New Guinea established a station at Kokoda in 1898 and the Anglicans established a mission at Wanigela in the same year. In 1942 the Japanese landed troops on the coast at Buna. They captured the inland center of Kokoda, and moved down the Kokoda Trail in an attempt to capture Port Moresby. This attack was finally halted by Australian troops. Australian troops counter-attacked across the Owen Stanley Range. In heavy fighting along the coastal strip around Buna, Gona and Sananda, Australians were joined by American forces. The local people suffered much loss of life and damage to food gardens; many men were forced into acting as carriers for either the Japanese or Allied armies.
Things to see
Popondetta: The town services the large oil palm industry and there are banks and airline offices, supermarkets and a bakery. There is a memorial to the victims of the Mt. Lamington eruption in 1951, as well as a war memorial with a map of key battle sites.
Butterflies: The province’s symbol is the Queen Alexandra birdwing butterfly-the largest in the world with a wingspan of 30cm. You can see the birdwing in the Managalas area of the Oro province and three similar species at Ondahari Village about 40 minutes north of Popondetta.
Arts & crafts: Tapa cloth, beaten from the bark of the paper mulberry, is made at Ui-Aku on Collingwood Bay. You can buy it at Popondetta, St Christopher’s Diocesan Office, just before the Catholic cathedral, the Oro Guesthouse Ph: +675 629 7127, and the Vocational Centre.
War relics and sites: Most sites are scattered around Popondetta, Buna and Gona on the coast, so take a local guide.
Things to do
Diving & snorkelling: Tufi at Cape Nelson has exceptionally clear waters, abundant fish and beautiful corals in its fijord-like rias. There are easily accessible wrecks and reefs with drop-offs, hammerhead sharks and moray eels. Wanigela, on Collingwood Bay, has great places for snorkelling and can be reached by boat from Tufi. Airlines PNG flies direct into Tufi and Wanigela from Port Moresby on a weekly basis, Ph: +675 325 0555 or www.apng.com
Canoeing: Outrigger canoes are available from many of the guesthouses around Tufi and are an ideal way to explore. For a close-up of river life you can canoe down the Embogo River. Check at Oro Guesthouse for options.
Trekking & walking: Kokoda and its guesthouses are about a two-hour drive from Popondetta. Guides and information on the Kokoda Trail are available there. Mt. Lamington volcano (1585m) can be climbed from Sasembatta Mission, and the views are superb. Get permission and guides from one of the local villages. The Tufi area also has many walks around the rias.
Fishing: Bendoroda Fishing Lodge offers fishing adventures from a scenic location. Contact Dale McCarthy, Ph: 675 629 7841 or email [email protected]
FYI: PNG’s 4 Regions & 22 Provinces
|Highlands||Eastern Highlands Province||Goroka|
|Western Highlands Province||Mt. Hagen|
|Southern Highlands Province||Mendi|
|Southern||National Capital District||Port Moresby|
|Central Province||Port Moresby|
|Oro (Northern) Province||Popondetta|
|Milne Bay Province||Alotau|
|East Sepik Province||Wewak|
|Sandaun (West Sepik) Province||Vanimo|
|New Guinea Islands||Manus Province||Lorengau|
|New Ireland Province||Kavieng|
|East New Britain Province||Kokopo|
|West New Britain Province||Kimbe|
|Autonomous Region of Bougainville||Buka|