Four Corners: A Journey into the Heart of Papua New Guinea

Four Corners: A Journey into the Heart of Papua New Guinea

by Kira Salak

A New York Times Notable Travel Book, Four Corners: A Journey into the Heart of Papua New Guinea is a must-read for world travelers and adventurous spirits.

  • Language: English
  • Category: Travel
  • Rating: 4.02
  • Pages: 336
  • Publish Date: November 1st 2004 by National Geographic
  • Isbn10: 0792274172
  • Isbn13: 9780792274179

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I was happy to start with Papua New Guinea, the site of one of my roads not traveled. I learned more about Indonesia's violence against people groups in West Papua (officially called Irian Jaya at the time), and Salak travels deep into the country at great personal risk, eager to meet the minister heading up the OPM guerilla resistance movement. It details the author's own journey through the places she sees, the difficulties she encounters, and some of the people she meets.

I learned some things about its history, geography, and tribalism, but Salak never stays put in one village or town long enough to really immerse herself in a distinct tribal culture or establish lasting relationships with people she meets. I want to yell at her that she isn't transformed because all she did on the trip is do what she has always done--run away from relationships, stubbornly try to prove herself to some undefined person or entity, talk the talk of looking inward and making thoughtful change and then do what she's always done and make no change. The most aggravating part, perhaps, is a cheesy epilogue that jettisons her earlier comments saying the trip hadn't changed her in the way she wanted.

This book is one of the better solo traveler stories with its variety of landscapes and its ever-changing cast of characters. Her solo travel to PNG at twenty-four years old marked an important spiritual transition in her life.

Kira Salak seems to be a professional adventurer, which is pretty cool, and shes also a compelling storyteller, bringing to life her experience traveling around New Guineas swamps, rainforests, mountains, crime-ridden cities, and even a rebel refugee camp, in 1995. That said, Salak does write well about the places she experienced: the grueling hikes through swamps and mountains; the wonder of a helicopter ride over the jungle; the tragedy of the refugees from the western portion of New Guinea, victims of genocide from Indonesia; the hubris of missionaries trying to drag locals into a modern way of life.

"Four Corners" follows the journey of author Kira Salak, a then 24 year old graduate student through Papua New Guinea. At the end of her journey, she learns "self-acceptance." I picked this book up, because I'm very curious about Papua New Guinea. The highland regions of Papua New Guinea were unexplored until 1930, when Australian explorers in the search of gold, stumbled upon fertile valleys and a million people that lived completely disconnected from the rest of the world!

Four Corners is a fascinating travel memoir about Papua New Guinea, written by a young woman on a journey to find herself in a faraway land. It was interesting to read about her attempts to trek across the interior and her encounters with locals, many of whom had not yet met a white woman traveling solo before. I highly recommend this book to adventure seekers and those interested in learning more about Papua New Guinea, as well as lovers of travel memoirs and travelogues.

Reading this book, I was absolutely impressed by the feats of Kira Salak and all that she went through during her journey. I admit that I never went to any places as dangerous as her, and that I would never consider it. Maybe a woman would risk more than a man in a dangerous situation, but I dont feel like I have more (as in a bigger number of) risky situations than a man would have.

I admire her guts and determination but if you want to find out about the people of PNG then this book provides slim pickings.

There seems to be two kinds of travel memoirs: those written by stable, wealthy people who travel around and talk to the locals, retelling their stories as well as giving some historical data on the place; and those written by people who are searching for something and put themselves on the edge physically and emotionally. She is 24, traveling alone into the jungles where few non-locals go.

I never made the journey, but the appeal remained, making Kira Salaks book of her adventures into PNG one that I had long wanted to read. For Kiras adventures, and particularly her experiences in PNG, represent a journey into her own personal heart of darkness. But it is what she encounters in the remote villages and missions of the highlands, particularly those close to the border of West Papua (Irian Jaya) that leads to the most dramatic revelations, and causes her to question the very nature of what she is doing and what she hopes to find on her travels.

She is the author of three booksthe critically acclaimed work of fiction, The White Mary, and two works of nonfiction: Four Corners: A Journey into the Heart of Papua New Guinea (a New York Times Notable Travel Book) and The Cruelest Journey: Six Hundred Miles to Timbuktu.