Kavieng: 19-22 Feb '14
Wed 19 Feb 14 - Sat 22 Feb 14 33 °C
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.
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!