A Travellerspoint blog

Papua New Guinea

New Britain to New Ireland with a smattering of New Zealand

Kavieng: 19-22 Feb '14

all seasons in one day 33 °C
View The Great South East Asia Adventure on GoonishPython's travel map.

Flights in Papua New Guinea are of a different breed. There are no lights at any airports except Jacksons, in the capital, Port Moresby, so flights have to leave when the sun comes up and arrive by the time the sun sets. Hoskins, near Kimbe, is a tiny airport - it can only take propeller planes. It has a bench where they put the bags that have just come off the plane and one building. There is definitely no security scanner, just a couple of guys asking you what's in your bag. Kavieng is pretty similar. Except the building is bigger, they have two benches for bags, and they can take small jet planes. They have three people asking about your bag. It's luxury. Port Moresby is a-whole-nother level. It has a couple of shops and cafes. One does an excellent bacon and egg roll. Trust me, this is the most exciting thing about Port Moresby airport. I spent a lot of hours there. I also got to see Lae and Kokopo airports. Even if I'd been allowed to get off, I wouldn't have in Lae. It's dangerous. A guy from the Highlands that we met in Walindi said you see dead bodies on the streets. Bits of Papua New Guinea are like that, but that's not the part I saw.

In New Ireland I was meant to be staying in a lovely little bamboo bungalow on the beach on a tiny island, but the weather defeated me. A few days before I was due to fly to Kavieng, I got a phone call saying the weather was too bad and they just couldn't get the boat over. Damn. That was my plans for snorkelling off a deserted beach over. Suddenly I was faced with finding accommodation at short notice in the middle of surf season. I found some, but accommodation in Kavieng is significantly more expensive than on the islands. The owners of my guesthouse, Stephen and Cecilia, were absolutely lovely, and really took care of me, feeding me breakfast and dinner far too much, including traditional New Ireland mumu (the meal is cooked in banana leaves in the coals of the fire - we had chicken with two types of taro, it melted in the mouth) and ferrying me to and from the airport. Very kind and welcoming. I also met some other lovely people there - the girl whose house I'd been staying in in Mahonia, Asi, had links to another volunteer in Kavieng, so the very kind Arnold, also from New Zealand, picked me up and took me for dinner, where I met Maureen, a Red Cross volunteer. So I had a pleasant evening with them both, and met up with Maureen, an Aussie, and another New Zealander for drinks the next day. Again, the kindness of complete strangers overwhelmed me. I was touched.

To satisfy my snorkelling cravings and slight Robinson Crusoe empty island fantasy, one day I headed over to Nusa Island, where there is a surf/scuba dive resort. As some of the staff were heading over to another tiny island, Nago, to do some building work, they took me with them and left me to snorkel off a deserted beach and wander round an almost deserted island. I got to see hermit crabs in tiny green shells and sit on golden sand with trees reaching out over the water. It was bliss. If only the waves had been less strong (I kept getting pushed towards the coral) it would have been absolute bliss. I loved it. And the people really took care of me. I even had a lovely chat with one of the kitchen staff when I had lunch back at the resort. And a green lizard joined me for lunch too.

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Kavieng, even when it was raining, was beautiful in its own way. It had a stunning setting, and the islands just off the mainland New Ireland are simply gorgeous, but the town has its own beauty in the people. To Western standards its a pretty poor town, but the people there are so kind and friendly. I know I stood out, being white and with red-brown hair and blue eyes, but almost everyone said hello to me, whether it was in a store or just walking down the street. Two girls came running up to talk to me, and they were so shy, but they hugged me when it was time to say goodbye. Another lady just came straight out with something like 'and aren't you brightening up the day?' as I walked past in a red dress in the rain and smiled at her. The people of Kavieng were brilliant. Its what I loved most about it.

And that's the impression Papua New Guinea left me with: stunning scenery, even in rainy season, and such amazingly friendly helpful and smiling people!

Posted by GoonishPython 02:13 Archived in Papua New Guinea Comments (0)

Welcome to Paradise

Kimbe: 11-19 Feb '14

all seasons in one day 33 °C
View The Great South East Asia Adventure on GoonishPython's travel map.

Luckily we never planned to stay long in Kuta - just a couple of days before Elin and I went our separate ways - her to the Philippines, and me to Papua New Guinea...

As you begin to descend into Hoskins, you see the volcanoes pushing through the clouds towards you, and as the little propeller plane descends further, the green trees slope down to the coastline spreading beneath you, and as you circle, tiny islands, little more than sandbanks, loom out as a shade of yellow and turquoise in the murkier deep blue depths of the ocean, as you seemingly almost skim the waves and then the treetops as you arrive at the tiny airport, set in such a majestic landscape. This is West New Britain province, the left half of the large island to the east of "mainland" Papua New Guinea, itself the east half of an enormous island. West New Britain is home to twenty-one volcanoes, five still active, massive palm oil plantations, WWII relics, and spectacular marine life. I was heading to Kimbe Bay (just past the provincial capital of Kimbe), where there are reputedly "more than 350 types of hard coral and 860 types of fish" - as Lonely Planet puts it, "you might see anything from a tiny glass prawn to a pod of killer whales". And that's just under the sea.

My real reason for heading here was my friend Eve, researching for her PhD in Anthropology, currently staying at Mahonia Na Dari, a conservation and marine research centre. Quite a few of the bungalows are rented out to Westerners based in the area. The (almost) waterfront bungalow I joined Eve in was the home of Asinate, a Fijian-New Zealander Seventh-Day Adventist working at Mahonia as part of a volunteer project - and her newly acquired puppy to be her guard dog - Gabriel, or Gaby for short. So I settled down to a quiet week, punctuated by the puppy's mad adventures and a flavour of what West New Britain had to offer. Kayaking and snorkelling were tried once, but a little unsuccessfully as I had a cold (which makes snorkelling surprisingly difficult, despite you not breathing through your nose) and the current was really strong that day - we ended up a good few hundred metres up the coast from where we started.

Most evenings were quiet affairs, although a few were spent at the neighbouring dive resort (i.e. nearest bar), Walindi, and on one evening we were invited to a dinner party at some local expats house. This was an intriguing affair - Anne and Ifor, a Welsh couple running the school in Kimbe, were lovely and Anne a brilliant cook (the walnut cake was wow) - the other guests were all of a similar age (45-65?) and although very nice, very much living an expats lifestyle - driving around in their big 4WD cars, living in aircon houses with servants (a house-murray I believe), and not really interacting with locals much at all. They were pretty shocked at Eve being in PNG alone, even more so at her imminent move to Bialla (a small local village, where she would be even more isolated and with no Westerners), at my travelling there and onwards alone, and most definitely at our using the PMV (essentially like a bus, but just a minivan run by anyone who fancies it). Now I know the PMV has a bad rep - attacks and rapes etc. - but when you have no transport and live 20 mins drive from town, it makes sense as long as you keep your wits about you - you wait for a PMV full of women and children, not one with just 2 guys. Besides, we kind of got the impression that any problem at all in PNG gets magnified out of all proportion.

Our trips on the PMV were to Kimbe town, the provincial capital of West New Britain. It is tiny. It's probably smaller than Sawston, the town I went to secondary school in. It has a few shops, and some of them are wicked. The local clothes shops are excellent - they get clothes from Australia and New Zealand - some new, some second hand - and it looks like TK Maxx - essentially you trawl through racks and racks of stuff, but you get some great clothes - new Billabong for a quarter of the price in Aus, or a second-hand vintage style dress for under 20p. Sorted. Everyone in the streets is so friendly - they're interested to see you wandering around, and everyone says hello. I liked Kimbe.

At the weekend we joined some new friends for a trip to the hot river at Garu - this is basically a river that has been heated by the many volcanoes nearby - and its pretty cool. You basically climb up a river/mini waterfall in the middle of the jungle, and its like having a hot bath. It had been raining that week so it was significantly cooler than the time my friend had been before, but it was still pretty hot! And there is blue mud on the bottom which is apparently good for the skin. So while everyone else went in for the beauty aspects, Eve and I of course we ended up with angry eyebrows and dodgy moustaches. Good fun.

Basically the area is pretty damn beautiful, everyone is friendly, I got to properly catch up on my sleep, and it was wicked to see miss Eve the amazing Houghton again! Kimbe rocked.

Posted by GoonishPython 01:57 Archived in Papua New Guinea Comments (0)

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