PAPUA NEW GUINEA 2010

 

Sogeri Road: Varirata National Park


Map showing the Varirata Plateau and Varirata National Park.

click to enlarge map


The Sogeri Road begins to rise steeply once past the Bluff Inn and Sapphire Creek. At the Rouna Lookout there is a viewpoint where it is possible to photograph the Rouna Falls on the Laloki River, although they were more impressive before the hydroelectic dam back in the 1980s.

The Rouna Lookout looking back towards Port Moresby.
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The Laloki River valley.

The Rouna Lookout overlooking the Rouna Falls on the Laloki River.
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The Sogeri Road begins to rise steeply once past the Bluff Inn and Sapphire Creek. At the Rouna Lookout there is a viewpoint where it is possible to photograph the Rouna Falls on the Laloki River, although they were more impressive before the hydroelectic dam back in the 1980s.

At the Rouna Lookout a male
Black-cowled four-fingered skink
,
Carlia luctuosa, looks out from under the vegetation.
Problem is, wrong lens!

 

 

Looking back down the Sogeri Road, Hombrum Bluff on the right, 14-Mile and Mt Lawes in the distance, and Little Mt Lawes in the haze beyond - the Hiritano Highway passes between these two peaks.
click on image to enlarge

 

Varirata National Park entrance sign.

The main reason for visiting Varirata on two occasions during the 2010 expedition, was to check out the location where Andrew Taplin (Strategic Policy and Management Advisor to the PNG Department of Environment and Conservation) had captured a Papuan blacksnake (Pseudechis papuanus) whilst trekking in the Park.

 

This snake has seemingly become increasingly rare in Central Province, despite there still being a fairly strong population in Western Province (where I have encountered four specimens). Whether this decline is real or imagined, due to cane toad (Rhinella marina) introduction or habitat loss, is not yet known but we certainly did not know the species occurred as high as Varirata (860m).

 

The view from Varirata Lookout: Bootless Bay to the left, Port Moresby and Jackson's Airport in the centre, and Mt Lawes and the Sogeri Road on the right.
click on image to enlarge

This specimen is now doing extremely well, feeding and growing, in the AVRU Serpentarium in Port Moresby. However, we did not find any snakes on either visit to Varirata in 2010.

Based on his directions, this is the spot where I believe Andrew caught the Papuan blacksnake.
Papuan blacksnake, Pseudechis papuanus (in AVRU Serpentarium)

The forest of Varirata is an exciting place to herp, but as with many locations in New Guinea you have to work hard to find anything at all.

Views on the trail in Varirata National Park in the early morning mist.

The forest of Varirata is an exciting place to herp, but as with many locations in New Guinea you have to work hard to find anything at all.

Put your back into it Steve !

In the end we found the ubiquitous Dusky skink (Emoia obscura), the related but less common Jobi River skink (Emoia cf. jobiensis), a probable complex of several species under the same name, and a small frog beleived to be a juvenile Arfak Mountain frog (Hylarana arfaki).

HERPS from VARIRATA NATIONAL PARK
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Arfak Mountain frog, Hylarana arfaki
Dusky skink, Emoia obscura
Jobi River skink, Emoia cf. jobiensis

We also found a very attractive Spiny orb-weaver (Gasteracantha sp.) and a curious colony of thousands of small spiders which seemed to be cooperating to capture lager invertebrates.

SPIDERS from VARIRATA NATIONAL PARK
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Spiny orb-weaver, Gasteracantha sp.

A colony of spiders found by Steve. There were literally thousands under the leaves of a small scrub.
Are they social spiders ? They seem to be cooperating to capture larger invertebrates.
To get this image it was necessary to get under the nest and shoot upwards.

Macro-photographs taken with a Canon EOS 7D, MP-E65mm macro lens and MT-EX24 Macro Twin Lite.
These small spiders appear to differ yet they were in the same colony.

 

Mark O'Shea taking photographs with his favourite camera setup: Canon EOS 7D, MP-E65mm macro lens and MT-EX24 Macro Twin Lite.

At the end a tiring day, a quite beer in the Bluff Inn is an ideal solution for fatigue, just a shame about the company!

It was him!
Two "raskols" looking for trouble.
Jasper and Steve relax in the Bluff Inn
at the end of a tiring day.

 

The corner of the Bluff Inn wall, unchanged since the 1990s;
notice O'Shea postcards
amongst the beermats.