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Making a difference in Papua New Guinea

FRIEND INDEED: Craig ‘Crackers’ Hand with the remote tribe in Papua New Guinea. Photo: Contributed
FRIEND INDEED: Craig ‘Crackers’ Hand with the remote tribe in Papua New Guinea. Photo: Contributed
AFTER living with a remote Papua New Guinean tribe for several months, former Lismore resident Craig 'Crackers' Hand is unsure how he'll settle back into Australian life.
He boarded a four-metre boat in May last year and departed Darwin in hope of taking medical supplies to a remote Papua New Guinean tribe located in the country's Western Province.
He delivered the supplies but his boat was swamped, forcing him to remain with the tribe for eight weeks.
"Living there was completely different. I basically lived on what we hunted and gathered, which included bandicoots, crocodiles, pythons, ants, pigs and wallabies," he said.
"I had an absolute ball there with the people and wasn't really ready to come home."
The locals have only been in contact with six white people, the first of whom visited in the 1950s.
The PNG boat trip was Mr Hand's third and his goal this time around was to deliver basic medicines.
"I treated the whole tribe for worms - 200 people - and I also treated as many kids as I could with ring worm cream," he said.
"One of the kids has got it from head to foot and it looks like he'll need treatment for about another six weeks.
"I also treated one fellow with a crocodile bite to his foot. It was touch and go whether he'd keep his leg."
According to Mr Hand, dental problems are a major issue in the tribe, with many going to extreme lengths to try to cure their pain.
"They get tooth-aches and have no one to see so they end up cutting their own gums with shells off the beach," he said.
A handful of locals who knew basic English translated Mr Hand's words to other tribe members during his time there.
However he said they were all keen to learn English and he helped them get started by donating primary school readers and books.
The accomplished traveller recently arrived in Cooktown, Queensland, but plans to travel back to PNG with more supplies soon.

The Northen Star

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