Hiritano Highway: Brown River to Vanapa River

Map of Hiritano Highway from Brown River to Vanapa River.
click to enlarge map

[see also visits to Hiritano Hwy road trips in 2006 & 2008]

(view out from POM)
View upstream.
Brown River bridge through the rain trees.
View downstream.

The Brown River road is epitimised by the two dead straight 6.5km stretches between the Brown and Vanapa Rivers, that could be Roman roads they are so direct, and broken only by a bend at the halfway point on the Veikabu Creek bridge. The road is a causeway across a wide wetland area that is subject to seasonal flooding. This is an area of particular interest to the AVRU snakebite project since a large number of snakebite victims seen at Port Moresby General Hospital, both death adder and taipan, come from the villages along the road, and beyond to Veimauri and Kuriva Rivers.

Brown River Flats looking northwest.
Brown River Flats looking southeast.
PMVs in distance in both photos = heavy road traffic.


(view back towards POM)
View upstream.
Veikabu Creek bridge.

The Veikabu Creek bridge is a wide expanse across an area of dense kunai through which a small creek flows. This is a great area for frog calls during and after rains.

Apart from the potholes, which punctuate the entire road, the only obstacle on the 13kms Brown and Vanapa River Flats run is a speed bump across the highway just after the Veikabu Creek bridge.

Roadside wetland habitat on Vanapa River Flats.

Further on towards Vanapa Bridge the wetland area extends close to the road in the form of a kunai and other litoral grass fringed lagoon. This may be possible Papuan blacksnake (Pseudechis papuanus) country. On the 2010 trip a dark snake, possibly a taipan, disappeared into the kunai opposite this lagoon as the car pulled up but further identification and pursuit were impossible.

(view back towards POM)
View upstream.
Vanapa River bridge.
View downstream.

On road cruising nights the entire 13km Brown/Vanapa River Flats road is driven slowly, especially after rain. During the 2010 trip this road was driven well over a dozen times over the six weeks but on occasion the rain was so heavy it was impossible to see and snakes were certainly not in evidence. Generally the road cruising turning point, to return to Port Moresby, is just after the Vanapa bridge. Our number one nocturnal quarry are theSmooth-scaled death adders (Acanthophis laevis) that cause so many snakebites to the villagers living along the Hiritano Highway.

Typical Vanapa River dwelling where snakebites occur to barefooted villagers.
Vanapa River death adder, Acanthophis laevis
in AVRU Serpentarium

Frogs are usually present on the Flats, especially after rains, but increasing numbers of introduced Cane toads (Rhinella marina) may have had a deliterious effect on native frog populations.

click on an image to enlarge
Little green treefrog, Litoria chloristona
Southern treefrog, Litoria congenita
White-lipped treefrog, Litoria infrafrenata

During the entire trips only a few DOR snakes were seen, and two Slatey-grey snakes (Stegonotus cucullatus), one a gravid female, were captured on the Hiritano Highway.

Slatey-grey snake, Stegonotus cucullatus (female)

[see also visits to Hiritano Hwy road trips in 2006 & 2008]