A Travellerspoint blog

Papua New Guinea: expect the unexpected

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After the founder/owner of this website wrote me a very positive email on my Solomons story and featured my pictures on the homepage, I got new inspiration for writing the first part of my PNG trip.


PNG is Papua New Guinea. It has 5 million people, very friendly people and a developing economy. But it also has a major security problem with Raskals (bandits) doing whatever they want. People still solve problems by chopping each others heads or hiring a killer. I was so smart to come during elections; well you can imagine what that could mean. But most of the time it just means election parties:


taking taxis everywhere and several helpful locals walking with me on the streets. And it is not so bad if you are cautious in Port Moresby, the other big cities and the highlands; What remains are very nice (and generally) safe islands, great for snorkeling and diving. Most of the country most people and infrastructure looks developed than the Solomons. But other areas are still very remote and traditional. People use zoom (benzine/oil) as money. Without the reputation for security problems, the country and tourism (now 22,000 people per year) would be booming; Nature is unparalleled. Birds like parrots, hornbills and kakatoes (there we go again) and other birds with complicated names are everywhere, and f.i. a Rhino beetle (with strange claws) used me as airstrip today. Amazing coral landscapes and the best biodiversity in the world await.

In the first week, diving was difficult because the dive centers guy almost died and left PNG. So we rented some tanks and went diving ourselves. After five minutes in the water (still snorkeling), this big gentle creature was my first intro to the underwater scenery in PNG.

Manta at Samarai

This was quickly followed by a less nice creature: an attacking trigger fish, taking some bites out of my leg. The next day solo diving (very normal here) on a wreck, gave my a big freight. As I was making pictires of a nemo, a strange creature dropped itself one meter next to me, saying, "hello, why aren't you making picture of me".


The place were I staid had a nice pet

kasuari at Wagawaga/Alotau

Slowly I get to be a real diver, like, I am getting interested in critters, normal people would call this small stuff. This is a serious condition, because it will lead to isolation from landpeople; And to the need to do 10 day live-a-boards followed by the same 10 day live-a-board direct after (some lady really did this). It also leads to mentioning as the highlight of this 10-day live-a-board some kind of hairy shrimp. By the way, why do they call it live-a-board if people are underwater five hours a day? Can somebody save me. I even made a picture of a shrimp and a stupid crab...

Pffff, fuck live-a-boards, one diveguide did 1000 dives on this live-a-boards and never saw one hammerhead. He went with me yesterday, I actually swam off from the group, down to 50 meters and into the blue and he went after me and Bingo: up to a few meters and 3 to 4 meters (no kidding) long.
Picture_029.jpg Picture_028.jpg

Well, I thought, I try an artistic picture, just an experiment, sorry...
Picture_030.jpg perfect bubble

And then of course more sharks, sorry, I am still obsessed. Here is a grey reef shark:
and here is a silvertip, my first one

And a suckerfish that preferred me above a shark

I realize I should make some land pictures too. I will try next time, but I am afraid being killed here on land, so... we will see.

So, then some more underwater pictures
Picture_0043.jpg turtlehead at walindi (that featured as homepage picture of the website yesterday)

And do not do this at home, playing with a morray eal

Posted by Sander938 15:14 Archived in Papua New Guinea Comments (2)

Solomon Islands: amazing(ly raw)

First some boring facts: The Solomon Islands have a lot of islands with about 600,000 people living on them. Being very west in the Pacific, close to Australia, most people are Melanesian, like people from Vanuatu and Papua-New-Guinea and much blacker than the Polynesians. They speak pidgeon, which is part English. They say "Look'm you" (means see you) and Goodie (good night). They have the highest mortality rate in the world caused by Malaria. I witnessed two children in the hospital dying of it. Only about 1 out of 8 women did not have a child that died. It is terrible, but this is a kind of normal part of live here...But people are again, again, again very friendly. We can really learn a lot from these people. They are happy with what they got and are genuine friendly and do everything to make you happy...And they are very very very patient; me too now...a bit.

The Solomons try everything to keep tourists away: corrupt government, very little infrastructure for tourists, riots in 2005 in the capital (now very peaceful), airlines and ships that are more often in repair than in service and a few months ago and the best try: an earthquake/tsunami. And I forgot mentioning the food: basically terrible: if kasave, two minute noodles and a variety of plant products is your thing, you are in he right place...But the worst was that I only found two internet places in three weeks...the ammount of problems I encounter is immense...

Highlight of "adventure" was trying to get a boat from one island to the other: no boat: engine problems. Plan B: take a plane; But too bad, problem too; Not an option because the runway was to wet. Normally not too big a problem, but when the runway is grass... By the way, before attempting landing, the goats, that are responsible for maintaining the runway, are first removed. So, plan C, with a small boat to an other airport. I got on the plain and everything seems OK. The pilot informs us he will "try" to land and "hopes" it will be OK (still because of the rain). So, to my big surprise, we had a safe landing. relieved I get off the plane. Until I notice the plane is moving back to the runway, with my luggage still on board! So, the Solomon airlines guy and I risk our lives by jumping in front of it, stop it and take the luggage out. In the process, we break the hatch. Half an hour delay. An Australian surf dude eventually repairs the hatch with a piece of rope...But, what we (espec. I) learnt, that in the end (almost) everything works out just fine. By the way, also interesting is how they fuel the plane. A guy literally pumps fuel into the plane, assisted by a fire extinguisher for just in case.Picture_020.jpg

So, what about the Tsunami. Basically, a combination of the Tsunami and earthquake destroyed a lot of houses and killed 50 people on the "dive island" Gizo. People are now living in the hills. Hundreds of Unicef, red cross, save the child, etc. people help building tents and restoring houses and water supply. I (the only tourist) still went to Gizo to show a little bit commitment/support, by still spending a little money there. Fish life is very good, but corals are smashed. I hope the village will survive...

So, after all this, why then is the Sollie's my favorite place in the Pacific? Well; the raw adventure and the rewards in the form of unbeatable nature are immense!!! On all islands I saw hundreds of sharks while snorkeling and diving: black tips,
Picture_0042.jpgwhite tips, grey reef, grey whalers and even the ellusive bronze whaler. Incredible, the blacktips came right to the beach and swam around my legs.

We also saw Pygmee (small) manta. Picture_0111.jpg

Furthermore, Parrots and kakatoes (shit, how do you spell that), all over the place. But highlight was Tetepare, a large untouched island with the most intact rainforest and an eco/research/conservation center. The day started with a snake in the toilet and a snake on the beach (see movie).

Then turtle rodeo tagging (see movie too).

This involves chasing the turtle with a boat, jumping on them, tagging them and putting them back in the water! Poor turtles, but in the end better for them. if this was not enough, a pod of bottlenose dolphins decided to follow us. We jumped in the water and snorkeled with them (see more movies), holding on the boat; amazing.


After lunch, some snorkeling with sharks, lion fish and bumped-head parrot fish and an afternoon search for dugong. And yes, what a luck, a large dugong swam by and checked us out a few times (see the last movie of my overheated camera).

Amazing again. I really start to think, fish like me because I do not eat them! The best "water-day" in my live!!!! In the evening hornbills flew over to end a perfect day. This whole day cost 25 euro (for accommodation and fuel!!!!). Unfortunately then dinner followed...

To end, a few more bush lessons:
- Always look in your bed and on the toilet before entering (fire ants like people)
- Attract sharks by making noise with a plastic bottle (or do not attract sharks by not doing this)
- buy a lot of two minute noodles and cookies

Picture_0022.jpgPicture_0091.jpgPicture_0061.jpgPicture_0012.jpg WOII wreck just of the beach

So, off to Papua-New-Guinea now, the only place on earth with a higher coral and fish biodiversity than Solomons...And after all this excitement, I am off to a well deserved skiing holiday in NZ:-)

Posted by Sander938 19:09 Archived in Solomon Islands Comments (3)

Vanuatu: cannibals, bungee and happiest people

OK, you know the drill: Vanuatu used to be French until twenty years ago, but fortunately, it does not really show. English influence is also substantial, although they drive on the right hand side (most of the time, kava sometimes prevents this). It has again a few hundred thousand people (I think), that look completely different than the other Pacific Islanders until know. These are namely very black with wide noses and very curly hear, like the Solomon people and the Papua's (see proof ).Picture_011.jpg. They are namely Melenasian in stead of Polynesian!! Chances are you have never heart of Vanuatu, although it is famous forn othing less than three things: 1. they were the last to stop with Canabalism (like 50 years ago), although I heard they still do it for special occasions (like weddings may be). Also they still eat a lot of turtles and dugongs (you remember, sea sows that I also saw in Florida). By the way, highlight of my trip and very lucky (although I flew solely for this reason to an island called Epi), I saw one while snorkeling (see pictures and video)!!!

. But back to my three points, number 2. Inventors of bungee jumping: to accept manhood they jump from a tower with a kind of rope made from a tree (and most of the time life to tell). Kiwi guy AJ Hackett saw this and then introduced bungee jumping to the world. And 3. they are kind of officially judged as happiest people in the world by WHO or so. Some say because they enjoy what they have (not much money, but great nature and beaches), others say because they are always "stoned" by the Kava. Well, what I can say is that they are very very very friendly (like the Fijiiaans) and they did not try to eat me. Then of course my obligatory chapter on diving and snorkeling. Diving resulted in a crocodile fish; pretty strange animal
and with snorkeling I saw a sea snake Picture_016.jpg

a blue spotted stingray
and an annoyingly small stupid naked snail animal, called nudibranch

Not to withhold from you should be the local transport. The first I used to (very slowly) find the dugong, the second was to provide us with banana's and the third was the pretty scary landing on grass on Epi (after a cow was removed, really!)

I thought the next picture would be a nice last one to make you jealous (view from the swimming pool in a resort on an island with a happy hour beer, just quite your job and become dive instructor is my advice)

To finish off, I would like to share my top 5 bush lessons:
1. A coconut is ripe when you hear its juice
2. Mosquito's are not attracted by light
3. Shave with shampoo (better even conditioner) to save space
4. Do not ask the locals when and why, just wait and hope...
5. Mice eat toothpaste and sun cream

So, tomorrow it is off to the Solomons; I am slowly building to a climax (remoteness, danger and beauty) ending (not my life hopefully) with Papua New Guinea...

Posted by Sander938 03:25 Archived in Vanuatu Comments (1)

Samoa: too short a time

Let me start with my usual intro: Samoa for dummy's. Like Tonga, Samoa has a few hundred thousand people, spread over two islands of about 50x50 km. Samoa is much less traditional than Tonga, more stable and a little bit richer. Problems are less. One of problems I encountered is dogs biting tourists and hospitals treating the wounds with banana leafs. Unfortunately I spend only a week in Samoa and only saw the more civilized main island: Upola. The village Lalamona had a great beach(bar) and that was about it for me...hear are some pictures of fishes practizing for the Olympics, my standard hut on the beach (still my favorite, although TV would be nice) and the very colorful way of transport (with wooden benches on the inside). Nice, that was quick. See you in a minute because my Vanuatu visit is coming to an end today too and I will blog it now too...


Posted by Sander938 03:08 Archived in Samoa Comments (1)

Tonga: malo e lelei

To start with, a little bit of Tonga for dummies: Tonga is a Kingdom, consisting of four more or less large islands (30 sqm) and 100,000 people. It lies between Fiji and Samoa, or more dummy, between Australia and US.

Tonga faces a clash between tradition and modern society. The king still rules. As the old king died in November 2006, riots for democracy resulted in an burned down city center (incl. their cinema, not so smart). Police was just watching. Now, everything is back to "normal". Working on Sunday is still illegal, although bakeries and taxi's are exempted. People go to church the whole day, but some would rather do something else. The Mormon churches rules here with 200 churches for 50,000 people on the main island. Funerals and weddings are the highlights of the Tongans. Working is not so important (but is becoming more), family much more. I attended a funeral, which took all day. Mainly sitting and talking...Everybody in black, but wrapped in very uncomfortable, heavy, not so fashionable mats, that we use in our living room! I had to go to the beach for a few hours to give my ass a rest. I also played tennis with the locals and learnt from that they live from their land awith almost no money. So for tennis stuff they rely on help. They said their live was mainly about tennis, working in the plantation and drinking kava tonga all night. By the way, what sheep are for New Zeeland, are pigs for Tonga. They are f... everywhere.

Then what can you say about the countryside? Well, in one word great!!! Not so much on the main island, but Haapai and Vavau have incredible beaches and one thousand small islands and hills. the first days I was on an island with only the "resort" owners and ten empty huts. Kind of Robinson experience. Water from a well, no electricity and great snorkeling (turtle!) from the beach. also a big spider in the toilet and mice in my hut that even managed to get into a bag with cookies that hang on a rope from the ceiling. After a few hours waiting I got a lift on a fishermen boat to an even more remote island, where I slept in a guest house. People that were evaluating a fishery project took me to even more remote islands. One had not seen a tourist since a year. They thought I was a new peace worker. The previous one left in a not so good mental state, after feeling kind of isolated. The last weeks I spend mainly living on the beach and taking the kayak to discover smaller islands.

By the way, flying to two of these islands appeared somewhat erratic. A hurricane resulted in the cancellation of my flight. because it was eastern I had to go to the bakery (!?) to ask when the next flight would go. This was in a few days (of course no flying on Sunday). However, a few hours later, the pilot stood in front of my door telling me we were leaving now and if I wanted a ride!? They decided to land on the way to an other destination. In the plane the pilot checked if we were all going to the same place...

Then the diving and snorkeling: really good. Highlight were reef sharks in caves and overhangs and even a leopard shark on the bottom (no picture because I forgot my camera...rrrr). Also, a highlight was our second dive being replaced by saving the boat from a hurricane. We got it out of the water on a trailer, which was not easy. But the real difficult part was driving through town, cutting trees with machetes and holding up electricity wires. Very safe practice!! Well still live and kicking, my next report will be from Samoa!IMG_0070.jpgIMG_0072.jpgIMG_0479.jpgIMG_0256.jpgIMG_0278.jpgIMG_0280.jpgIMG_0282.jpgIMG_0315.jpgIMG_0323.jpgIMG_0349.jpgIMG_0031.jpgIMG_0225.jpgIMG_0250.jpgIMG_0330.jpgIMG_0402.jpg

Posted by Sander938 20:55 Archived in Tonga Comments (0)

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