A port by port account of the voyage Ingrid and I are about to take around Papua New Guinea.
12-14 October: Cairns. Promotes itself as the “safest tropical city in the world” although I don’t intend to test that assertion by crossing a croc infested river at midnight with a raw steak in my back pocket. Rated the third most popular tourist destination in Australia after Sydney and Brisbane.
16 October: Alotau. The scenic capital of PNG’s Milne Bay Province is located in the area where the invading Japanese army suffered their first land defeat in the Pacific war in 1942, even before the Kokoda Trail battle.
17 October: Deboyne Lagoon in the Louisiade Archipelago is home to the islands' master canoe builders. It had a brief role as a Japanese base during the Battle of the Coral Sea, when the Japanese invaded taking three Australian Army signallers prisoner. The four zeros that itched in the lagoon during the battle are clearly visible to snorkellers.
18 October: Trobriand Islands. The famed ‘islands of love’. Not even the missionaries have been able to alter the Islanders’ view that their place is a sensual paradise. Their culture of self-reliance and magic has changed little over generations.
20 October: Gizo, in the west of the Solomon Islands is 350 kilometres from Honiara, is a small town of 3,000 spread over the southern end of a small island. One report notes: “It is a fairly busy little town, with lots of cars and trucks moving about during the day. The only noise at night were the dog fights about 2 am and the 3 am roosters”.
21 October: Kennedy Island. A picturesque speck in the ocean, formerly known as Plum Pudding Island, was renamed in honour of a famous castaway. In August 1943 the US motor torpedo boat PT109 was rammed and sunk by a Japanese destroyer. Amongst the 11 survivors who swam to shore was its commander - one John F Kennedy.
23 – 25 October: Rabaul. My 1970 stamping ground (Assistant Manager, Radio Rabaul), when the Mataungan Association confronted John Gorton’s government with serious civil strife. Devastated by a volcanic eruption in 1994 and experienced another just five days ago when Tavurvur blew its top.
27 October: Sepik River. My first PNG posting as a young teacher in 1963 (I arrived a week before John Kennedy’s assassination) was to Wewak in the Sepik District. At 1,126 km the Sepik is the longest river in PNG and is navigable for most of its length. The tribes living along the river are noted for their magnificent carvings and elaborate manhood initiation ceremonies.
28 October: Madang boasts that it is “the prettiest town in the South Pacific". First settled by the Germans in the 19th century, its peninsula setting is a showplace of parks, waterways, luxuriant shade trees and sparkling tropical islands.
29 October: Tami Islands. Offshore from Lae, the Tami islanders are renowned for their carving. Former kiap Paul Oates has written: “The Tami Islands were wood carvers par excellence. A difference between their carvings and other areas was how they carved the wood across the grain, not lengthways. Their turtle bowls were much sought after”.
30 October: Tufi is 250 km east of Port Moresby and lies between Lae and Alotau on the tip of Cape Nelson. The Lonely Planet Guide calls it "PNG’s best kept secret". Tufi is a place of great natural beauty and is located among spectacular volcanic fjords.
31 October: D’Entrecasteaux Islandsare located near the eastern tip of PNG. One of the group, Fergusson Island, is famed for hosting Maria (Sound of Music) von Trapp in 1957 as she began to scope a major missionary project in PNG.
1 November: Samarai is a small island at the south-eastern tip of PNG. Two kilometres away is Kwato Island, where Rev Charles Abel established a London Missionary Society station in 1891. Kwato developed as an industrial mission with Papuan run plantations and a thriving boat-building facility.
2 November: Alotau.
4 November: Cairns.