Traveler Matt Scheurich Shot With Arrows By Tribesmen In Papua New Guinea

A group of Papua New Guinean tribesman hunted a foreign couple through the forest to a river, then shot them with arrows and pelted them with rocks, the Associated Press reported Tuesday. Matt Scheurich, a 28-year-old New Zealander, was struck in the chest and stomach by arrows as the tribesmen attempted to molest his french girlfriend, an anthropologist, last month.

Though Scheurich and his girlfriend escaped and were airlifted out of the remote North Fly district, the attack sheds light on potential risks of travel well-beyond the beaten path.

Tours to villages in PNG's remote highlands, which are marketed as unique opportunities to visit fascinating indigenous communities, are becoming increasingly popular. Unfortunately, violence is perhaps the only common theme among native cultures.

PNG's terrain is so rough that many villages have entirely different traditions and languages than their neighbors. One rite of passage many of these peoples shared (and may still share in places) is headhunting: Young men are not considered adult until they kill an enemy in battle and behead him. Think of it as a strange combination bar mitzvah and bris.

While Scheurich's head was probably not the prize the tribesmen were after, it can be inferred that their intentions were probably not benign.

Meeting diverse peoples has become a priority for international travelers - no doubt a positive development - but talking to strangers can be risky even for adults. Not all savages are noble (and some nobles are savage).

The premium placed on the exotic has driven a certain sort of person to take increasingly extreme risks as the beaten path has gotten beaten wider and wider. India is easy, so travelers head to Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka is peaceful, so they move on to Borneo. Borneo is accessible, so travelers look to PNG.

PNG is incredibly dangerous. Hurrah.

The U.S. State Department recommends that visitors take precautions before traveling in the highlands and in the capital Port Moresby, which is basically Mos Eisley on the ocean.

Apparently an addendum should be added to those recommendations advising visitors to cover their tracks.

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