A Travel Tale from Papua New Guinea

Well I think, although I may be wrong that the last time you were blessed with my prose was somewhere on The Gold Coast. Since then my dears.....well, so much has happened. The last two weeks has been spent in PNG. One of the most mucked up country's I have ever been to. I arrived, early morning, in Port Moresby having taken a flight from Brisbane to what felt like a war zone.

Fortunately, Anna and Matt, were waiting for me at the airport, having
just fought there way through the jungle. I would have given my sister a welcome hug, but she smelt particularly offensive not having showered for 12 days. They had been doing the Kokoda track across some fairly inhospitable jungle with beastly mud and oomshka everywhere.

You could almost see the musty haze rising off them. We were staying that night in a Secure Compound, which is exactly as it sounds. A compound for Westerners, surrounded in razor wire, body guards that snarled and growled at you if you looked at them, until you smiled and gave them half a packet of fags and they were your friend for life, well at least for as long as it took them to smoke the fags and come back boldly asking for more.

Learned however fairly early on, make friends with the bodyguards and
carry lots of fags. We were not allowed out of the compound unless accompanied by a posse of baseball wielding locals. The phrase 'What the Goddam are we doing in this place' was uttered on more than one occasion.

That first night we got an armed escort to one of the local hotels, which although not physically, rips your arm off, charging over GBP8 for a beer, which incidentally still tastes like unadulterated child's urine. It was an expensive night considering Anna and Matt had
invited along there porters and guide from the trek, who proceeded to drink me, and the other two under the table.

Cab back, our escorts had to take a detour as they had heard earlier in the evening that there was a legitimate Police Road block that was searching all passengers and confiscating everything. Only giving passports etc back when a large sum of money was handed over. Didn't't fancy sweet talking them and it did not seem appropriate to offer 10 Bensons.

Woke up the next day with a stinker, and a light wallet. I was missing Oz, safety and civilisation. Next day got a flight to Tufi on the North Coast, and had a few nights of luxury again in a secure compound, before we made the mistake of staying in a local village.

I wish I could tell you all of the stories but they are too numerous and too involved, so lets just say, that many of them had never seen a white man b4. You went to shake hands with the unemployed (that's taking a leak for those who don't know) and you looked up and there where upwards of 12 kids leaning over the wicker fence staring at you. You walk back to your lodgings, which was a shack, but I will come onto that later, with them hanging off your arms stroking them, because they had never seen body hair before. The novelty wore off after 45 seconds. When you ate, the village came out. It felt like we were a circus act.

Food was bad!

I am always one to say support the local community try and spread your spending out blah blah rubbish. And the cost of each night in the village was US$40. For that we stayed in a Banana Leaf Shack, that leaked when it rained. And roger me...did it rain. Your bed was a sponge sheet, on a wooden base, and the sheets that stank of Ozzie beer (refer to above) and the pillow.....that was worse. We were to find out that the sheets were donated by some Swiss......

in 1976. I was one year old then, my Dad had hair.......Cliff was in the charts, and Clive Sinclair still had some respect. The sheets had seen their day way back with the stones, and I was sleeping on them. The Village had been kind enough to provide a mosquito net, complete with holes big enough for me to crawl through, let alone a bloody mozzie.

It didnt fit the bed either, so either my head or my legs were gonna get bitten. I rotated which end each night. The bites on my face have pretty much healed now, but there are one or two on my legs and feet which are still causing me some difficulty walking. I am on a course of antibiotics, and am having it treated with Iodine on a daily basis by my two travelling quacks.

No shower, , food that was comical, no fresh water. This place sucked. To add to the torture, every night after diving ...whatever we did, we were subjected to a question and answer session from the Chief of the Village. Fortunately, as it would have been difficult otherwise, he spoke English, my tribal vocab is limited.

Wont go into it in too much detail, but this guy was money obsessed, which it tricky when he hasn't got any, and we have. He wanted to charge me for taking a photograph of his Village. Remembering that he probably last tasted Man Flesh just over 20 years ago, I suggested politely that we would discuss it later in the security of the Tufi Dive Resort.

We endured this rubbish for 6 night before Anna had a fit of tears and we decided to move back to The resort.

Although truly truly mucked up, PNG is a beautiful country to be in, it really is National Geographic. Plenty of Photos to back up. The diving was spectacular, Hammerhead Sharks, Grey Reef Sharks both in the region of 3-4m, pretty big, and lots of wonderful reefs bursting with life. Again photos a plenty.

The rest of the stay was pretty uneventful, apart from the trip back to Port Moresby. We caught the flight in a small Otter, for those of you who don't know (and I didn't ) but this is a light aircraft for about 12 people.

Took off from the grass landing strip in Tufi no problem. Landed 10 mins up the coast in a place called Popendata. Picked up a few supplies and then headed off inland to a small village in the hills.

There are no landing strips up there, and I wonder now if I have ever been this close to death before. We were descending through Cloud. As we banked I became aware of a few things vaguely visible through the mist. Trees..... trees. We were near on vertical when the alarm went off. I was sitting behind the pilot, and although I haven't the first idea how to fly I plane, I can read.

A red switch about the size of a credit card was bleeping and read DANGER ENGINE STALL.

Fortunately I had changed out of my beige shorts and was now in the blue ones.

We circled again, and suddenly came down through the cloud, below the trees, and thump and bounce we had hit land. It doesn't seem frightening now, even when I read it. But believe me. They call these flights the granite flights because so many of them go through Cloud and hit......Granite.

Landed in P. Moresby without hitch a few stone lighter, and never b4 so happy to be on solid ground.

Took a cab to our hotel, where someone....with a baby tried to jump in front of us, presumably seeking some form of compensation. Once at the hotel, and back behind the razor wire that's where we stayed until our flight to Cairns yesterday.

And that's where I am now, in Cairns, sunny clean safe Cairns, drinking unadulterated water and happy. The tropical sores and fungal growths are clearing, the tan is outrageous, and tomorrow we fly to Alice Springs and Ulluru... for some Abo stuff. Steaks are good and life is fine.

However beautiful PNG was, I shouldn't think that I will be going back there again.

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