Papua New Guinea Stories and Tips

Bougainville Island

Papua New Guinea (PNG) is, in my opinion, one of the 10 most interesting countries in the world together with India, Mexico, Indonesia, Egypt, Ethiopia, Spain, and the three giants: China, Russia, and United States of America.

During the year 1992 I entered in Bougainville Island from the Solomon’s, by motorboat, from the isle of Shortland to Koromira. The journey took me 4 hours.

At the beginning I was not welcome in Bougainville. Some local people in Koromira, with rifles, sent me to Arawa to meet the leader of a revolutionary movement for the independence from Papua New Guinea, called BRA, or Bougainville Revolutionary Army.

In Arawa I met the leader of BRA, Sam Kauona, who, after talking with me for about one hour, decided to let me stay in Bougainville for a few days, but not to continue further to the island of New Guinea, or even to the nearby island of Buka. I had to go back to the Solomon's.

I stayed in a Catholic mission in Kieta, the main port, thanks to be invited by the German priest, since there were no hotels in Bougainville when I was there.

Germans controlled Bougainville Island and some of the Solomon’s during part of the XIX and the XX centuries. Then Santa Isabel, Choiseul and Shortland were exchanged to the British for Western Samoa, but they did not give Bougainville, although culturally and ethnically is related to the Solomon, but not to Papua New Guinea. Bougainville was later Australian and when they gave independence to PNG, Bougainville remained within this country, instead of the more logical Solomon Islands.

Today the main richest is the fabulous copper mine of Panguna, which was closed when I was in Bougainville.
After five days I returned disappointed from Koromira to Shortland Island by motorboat, then to Gizo, Honiara, etc.

Bougainville people practice cargo cultism.

For your guidance, Bougainville is named in honour of the earl Louis Antoine de Bougainville (the first French to circumnavigate our planet, in the XVIII century), who explored the island.

After that frustrating experience to visit one of the most exotic and original countries on Earth I felt the “duty” to try again in the future. The occasion arrived in 1997.

I flew to Port Moresby from Honiara. The PNG visa can be obtained at the airport.
No much to see in Moresby, as it is called by the locals. Perhaps the “palaffitos” are worth a visit. I had to spend two days there in order to get my visa to Indonesia. In fact in the days I was in PNG you needed not an Indonesian visa, but if you plan to enter this country from Vanimo, in the north of PNG, to Jayapura in Irian Jaya (Indonesia), as I did, then you need an Indonesian visa beforehand.

Moresby is dangerous because of the so-called “rascals,” and there was a curfew when I was there.
There were no roads up to the north of the country. There is a trekking called Kokoda from Moresby to Popondetta, but at the time I was in the country (June) the land was muddy and the trekking impracticable.
I flew from Moresby to Tari, in the Highlands, the beginning of the mayor fantasy in Oceania.

In the airport some local people offered me accommodation for a few kinas.

Many people in Tari were dressed with grass, or hanging hair from their wives or children. And even saw some young boys with pencils around their noses and with spectacles without glasses, just the frames.

Most tourists go to PNG during the Sing sing period, when thousands and thousands of local people join in Mount Hagen and Goroka dressed fantastically. That festival is as amazing as the Carnival of Rio, the Chinese New Year in Singapore, the Kumbha Mela’s in India or the Feria de Sevilla in Spain.

In Lae I stayed one day in honour of Amelia Earhardt, the famous North American pilot who disappeared after leaving Lae with her airplane in her around the world journey. She was only 39.

The hostels offered by the protestant missions are very useful and charge very little to spend the night. They even can arrange you flights in their airplanes (I flew with them from Vanima to Jayapura for less than $40), and they have ferries from Madang to Wewak.

One of the wonders of PNG is the Sepik River and the tribes, where I spent one week. I got there from Wewak. I slept the first night in a hostel owned by a German ex-priest in Wewak. Then I hitchhiked until Angoram. From Angoram you can get up the river with local canoes. First you have to meet the chief of the village to ask permission to sleep. He will show you a local family where you can sleep and eat. I asked the chief to sleep in the House of the Spirits, called Haus Tambaram, but was refused. From Angoram I hired canoes and visited Kambaramba and Swagup and spent several nights with the exotic people who sold me masks made with beetles. And back to Wewak I continued my trip to Vanimo and then I flew to Jayapura, in Indonesia, to visit the Dani tribes in Baliem Valley, near Wamena, and navigate during 3 months along the islands until Sumatra. But that is another travel and another country.

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