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And played with the kiddos of the island. These are surfboards! Carved from ingenuity after an Australian visited them with his fiberglass board in the 80s. The ritual continues...if you are out there Mr Ausie, know you've changed this island's work ethic (in a good way) forever.
The Lae Market stocks a rich variety of food, as Lae is the terminus of the Highlands Highway and is a busy harbour city. Fruit, vegetables and bushmeat from the highlands sit alongside fish and sea foods from the surrounding bay. These common bats are easy to find at PNG markets, and are being sold for around US$3 each.
From the Highlands to the Sepik River... this is where I had the fortunate experience of seeing a country & culture that rarely is seen by Western eyes. It took about 2 years in the planning to ensure my safety as this is not one of the most secure areas in the world for a young, American, female, traveling ALONE. However, I must say overall little issues to be had in regards to my safety, but I did have MANY unique experiences along the way! None of which i would trade in! My journey started from Australia, flying into the capital city of Port Moresby, PNG. Then up to the Western Highlands. This is where I stayed for 3 days to attend the annual Mt. Hagen Sing Sing Festival. The most overwhelming festival I have ever attended - in a good way! It was sensory overload with over 1500+ tribes people from ~50+ tribes throughout the country. All dressed in their tribal attire, headdresses, playing music on homemade instruments, etc. Having the opportunity to walk amongst them was phenomenal. It was from here I had the chance to fly with the missionaries up to the Sepik River basin. I "boarded" a dugout canoe for the next half of my adventure. Several days canoeing down the river, staying IN the villages with the tribes people. Living the way they do, sleeping where they sleep, eating (well sort of) what they eat. There is too much to talk about here, so please visit my website listed below to read in detail about this fantastic journey as well as see MANY photos!
There is always something special about diving in PNG. The lack of crowds and abundant marine life. Here we were diving Fan Gardens of Alotoa. Just after this shot a hammerhead cruised past in the distance. Truly awesome!
Mornings in Rabaul are magical, the water in Simpson Harbour is glassy reflecting the steam rising high into the air from the Mount Tavuvera volcano. One or two small fishing boats work the harbour while everyone else is still asleep.
After saying "why YES!" to a dinner invite from a soon-to-be-NOT-stranger on the cargo boat, we are whisked away in the back of an open air truck towards the mouth of the great Sepik River.
This is what $150/night will get you in PNG. There is no tourist infrastructure so prices for everything except betelnut & rice are pretty pricey. The pay off- there is no tourist infrastructure!
Papua New Guinea's capital of Port Moresby is surrounded by squatter settlements and villages. Where land is scarce, villagers have found other ways to create accommodation, like these ingenious stilt houses that extend into the harbour. Hanuabada seems small, but around 15,000 people live in the stilt houses and surrounding village. Despite Hanuabada being the birthplace of pre-independence Papua New Guinea - it was here that the flag was first raised for the British in 1884 - conditions in the village remain poor, with most lacking running water, electricity, sewage or other modern facilities.
Kimbe, on the island of New Britain, is the third largest port in Papua New Guinea. Home to a well developed and internationally competitive palm oil industry, New Britain is also well known for its male duk duk and female tubuan masks. The island is beautiful, peaceful and scenic, rich in culture with volcanoes that only occasionally erupt (the last time was 1994).
When I told friends I was going to Papua New Guinea eyebrows were raised; when I mentioned I was staying with a Highlands tribe, jaws dropped. I flew into Tari, a small dusty town with a small dusty airstrip and there I got my first sight of the Huli wigmen. The tribe’s Fortune Teller, traditionally dressed with “arse grass” covering his behind, an ornamental wig made of his own hair, and a cassowary quill through his nose, was in complete contrast to the plane that he’d come to meet. The following day I began my time with the tribe itself and was lucky enough to meet this Wigman preparing for a sing sing – a traditional celebratory dance. I sat down beside him as he prepared his face: an ‘undercoat’ of oily white, then a clay ochre base and finally earthly red highlights. Using hand signals he demonstrated what he was going to do next, before picking up a broken mirror and carefully applying the final strokes. He may not have fully realised how brilliant he looked in the afternoon Sun, but for me, watching him go through this ritual was more inspiring than the dance itself.
These traditional boats are still widely used for fishing and travelling. While outboard motors are faster, they have two disadvantages: they're expensive to buy and run, and they're easy to steal. Traditional boats like this one are seen around even busy ports like Lae, and are symbolic of the Pacific Islands.
Barramundi farming is a growing industry in Papua New Guinea. Also called Asian Seabass, Barramundi are a popular tablefish farmed in coastal waters and estuaries, and much, if not all, of the production in PNG goes to the local restaurant industry. Barramundi in Lae are commercially farmed, but some are also farmed using a smallholder model, where members of the landowning communities raise fish in pens before selling them, fully grown, to the farming company. Not seen in this photo was a large group of children whose job was to watch the pens - a task most easily accomplished while swimming.
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