Magi Highway: Mt Diamond

Map showing the Magi Highway (Rigo Road) showing Mt Diamond and City Mission.
click to enlarge map

The Magi Highway (aka Rigo Road) starts in the unprepossessing area known as 6-Mile, with a stretch of atrociously pot-holed road where locals with buckets of gravel and shovels hold out their hands, requesting donations from drivers for doing the repairs the Works Department should be doing. Once the highway passes through a gap in the hills it enters typical lowland coastal savanna habitat andruns almost straight, southeast with the Owen Stanley Range on the right, until a roundabout surrounded by billboards. There are three other roads entering the roundabout: left is the Magi Highway continuing down the coast, straight across goes to Central City* and right goes towards Mt Diamond with the Varirata Plateau and the Astrolabe Range beyond.

* Central City was to be the provincial capital of Central Province. Every other province has its provincial capital but Central Province has had to share Port Moresby with the National Capital District. Many years later Central City consists of nothing more than a handful of houses.

View towards Varirata Plateau and the Astrolabe Range, Mt Diamond Mission in middle distance.

The road to Mt Diamond is a muddy track with numerous deep water-filled potholes, but with a 4x4 it only takes 20minutes to drive. The surrounding habitat consists of rolling hills covered with kunai grass and eucalypts. On sunny days, Two-striped lashtail dragons (Lophognathus temporalis) sit in the road and can be approached closely by vehicles, but they sprint for the kunai if a foot appears from a car door.

Two-striped lashtail dragons, Lophognathus temporalis

At the end of the road is the Mt Diamond Pacific Adventist High School, where having obtained the permission of the Principal, we planned to hunt for venomous snakes, and in the process uncover other interesting herps etc.

Jasper and Roger outside Mt Diamond Mission at the start of a morning's herping

We made several trips out to the Mt Diamond School and searched its entire extensive perimeter twice. The only serpentine sign we found was the slough of a large Papuan olive python (Apodora papuana) but we did find a few lizards and arachnids in the gardens and kunai beyound the compound fences.

Kunai grass is higher than a man and tough to cut through,
and it is also home to taipan and death adders

The commonest lizards encountered were the ubiquitous Pelagic gecko (Nactus cf. pelagicus) and the Dusky skink (Emoia obscura), but ground-dwelling Tarantulas (Selenocosmia sp.) were also much in evidence and the author recieved a painful bite from one on the shin.

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Pelagic gecko, Nactus cf. pelagicus
Dusky skink, Emoia obscura


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Mt Diamond tarantula, Selenocosmia sp.
Mt Diamond tarantula, Selenocosmia sp. in strike position
Mt Diamond tarantula, Selenocosmia sp. fangs
Bite to author's shin from Mt Diamond tarantula