PHIL CHARLEY COUNTRY
DEATH BY FJORD

WHERE DOLPHINS SPIN

Orion_from_island Tami Islands, Sunday – These islands, situated perhaps ten kilometres east of Finschhafen, are best known for their great natural beauty and across-the-grain bowl carvings which are traded as far south as the Trobriand Islands.  Orion anchored just outside the reef and, as we headed to shore, dozens of high spirited dolphins leaped and spun around the Zodiacs in magical display. I write this as we depart the islands and, through the stateroom window, a large dolphin pod is racing alongside the ship as we begin our passage to Tufi.

We waded ashore from the Zodiac to be greeted by a singsing group which was providing a rhythmic counterpoint to another ‘theatre’ group which, in music and dance, told a series of stories about the Tami people in a ‘set’ framed to represent a canoe. In all my years in Papua New Guinea, I’d never seen such a precisely staged or exquisitely danced performance.

Blackboard Local villagers dragged rough hewn desks and benches from the nearby schoolhouse to provide seating in a natural limestone amphitheatre. The rhythms and melodies were hypnotic. “I think I was here in a previous life,” murmured a fellow passenger.

Class_rules After the dancing, Ingrid and I inspected the local elementary school, taking in the Grade 6 classroom at close quarters. I thought I’d share a couple of interior shots with fellow ex-PNG chalkies who I know have a passion for such pedagogical minutiae.

Then, accompanied by 20 fellow passengers, Ingrid and I clambered five metres up a rugged limestone sea cliff and picked our way through gardens pockmarked with rocky outcrops of ancient coral. Then down the other side for a flat 20-minute walk along a flotsam strewn path (thongs and parts thereof being the most common items) to a village of about one hundred people.

Here a new Lutheran church was being constructed – the only western material building in the place. “It’s cost 20,000 kina so far,” a villager confided, “and we’ve run out of money.” Alongside it, the old bush material church was cuter, cooler - and cheaper.

Then a walk-and-wade around the island before variously motoring and canoeing to a beach where the galley crew had established on of Orion’s spectacular desert island lunches – rum punch and barbecued tiger prawns. I’ll let you into a secret, travel doesn’t come much better than this!

Comments

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Brian & Pauline Jenner

Is there anyone out there who was at Dregerhafen Boys Primary T School or the nearby Girls High School in the early 1960s, either as teachers or students? I (Brian) was teaching at the former, and Pauline at the latter. Have lived in a lot of other places since and travelled the world, but will never forget our PNG
years

Colin Huggins

For 4 years I looked out from Dregerhafen towards Tami, so it's quite a surprise that it has taken so long to see what the place actually looks like.
I remember the locals in their long canoes with sails coming across for purchasing food etc from the mainland.I often had weird thoughts of getting a mainlander with a canoe to paddle/sail me across for a weekend on the mysterious isle! Perhaps I was slightly troppo!!!!
The only memento I have left from PNG is a Tami carving!
Great travelogue news, Keith.

Diane Bohlen

What a fabulous trip down memory lane and in 5* comfort. It must be very emotional for you. I'm glad to hear Madang is still a nice place. I have very fond memories of Madang as that is where Bill and I had our honeymoon in 1969.It was very romantic.
Have you bumped into any passengers called Franco and Adrianna Hoeltsch? We know them from our wine tours.

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