Papua New Guinea - Cannibals still exist here?

Spent nearly three weeks in Papua New Guinea. The itinerary included diving and traveling upwards the country, towards the Sepik area. From there I didn't know how to continue, but it worked out fantastic.

November 7  - Welcome to Papua New Guinea

Arrived yesterday in Port Moresby and went to the tourist information where met the Muriel, the lady who runs the tourist agency. I spent about one hour there and asked so many questions, which she probably gets asked during one week. It was her office and she closed it earlier so that afterward she was able to drop me off at the Lutheran guest house.

The prices in Port Moresby are very high compared to other poor countries. I mean even in the supermarket the products are nearly the same price as in Australia sometimes, but the people here are 100 times poorer. Also, the prices in simple restaurants (which particularly do not exist) and takeaways are too high - not to mention the prices of accommodation. So I really wonder how the economic system can work, when the locals have to pay the same prices.

But on the other side, I don't wonder why there is so much negative energy against the government and sometimes between the locals.

In the guesthouse I met Samuel, he is an old pastor and for some days in Port Moresby. We talked and he invited me to pass by in Mount Hagen, in the Highlands of PNG, to visit him and his family next week.

Map Cairns to PNG

The PNG locals I have met until now are unbelievable friendly. I guess I never ever expected such a friendliness like that. Especially cause Port Moresby is said to be one of the most dangerous cities in the world. The two days that I'm here in PNG, I didn't have once the feeling being in a dangerous country.

Everybody says PNG is dangerous and you will get robbed and so on.

I wondered who PERSONALLY ever got robbed or was in a violent situation here in PNG. Until now, I didn't meet one. To me, those people are some of the friendliest and welcoming people I've ever met.

MarketPaga HillPort Moresby CBD

As there is no road connection from Port Moresby to another city in PNG, I took the plane to Lae. Its a city in the eastern province in the mid of PNG and a so-called gateway to the further cities like Madang or Mount Hagen. Here I'm staying at the Lutheran guesthouse and as I'm a "proud" "catholic church member", I tried to apply for the special rate - and it worked.

The next destination will be Madang, where I'm going to dive and afterward I probably will go to Mount Hagen to visit the highlands. It all depends how fast I'm able to move on. The buses are not running at fixed times, they just run when a bus is full packed with people - and it can last for several hours.

Map Port Moresby to Madang

November 9 - Continue to Lae and Madang

Moutains Highland PNG
Beautiful Green Mountains
After a 6-hour rough bus ride, where we passengers were squeezed into like chickens, I arrived in Madang. Compared to Port Moresby or Lae, its a more laid back and little bit cleaner city (even when clean is the wrong word).

It has a few supermarkets, one restaurant, one bigger resort with dive facilities and lots of unemployed locals.

Since I arrived here I just was working on my itinerary for the next few days. Cause there is so less information about anything, collecting and puzzling information were the main parts of my activities here.

But first, its time to dive. Tomorrow morning I will go diving and I'm excited how it will be. But the dive instructor himself didn't make a very positive and enthusiastic impression. I think he doesn't like his job. Hopefully I'm right about that and hopefully, the dives will be awesome.

And already tomorrow evening, I will take the ship to Wewak. It is a 15 hour trip along the coast upwards.

November 10 - Diving in Madang is fantastic, spectacular!

The diving in Madang was actually awesome. I just had two diving days, but there were wonderful things. For example the huge swarm of barracudas, which was hunting circling around the tunas. Or the two big sepias which weren't shy at all - unlike other places, where I have seen them.

November 11 - Me: "What is that bright red thing in the middle of the night, so far away?" Local:"Oh, no worries, just a Volcano!"

The trip with the boat to Wewak with the cargo ship took more time than expected. We left the wharf two hours too late and the trip itself lasted for about more than 20 hours.

While waiting for the ship, I met different local people. One of them, Isaac, is a betel nut mover and he travels this route every month. He was something like a VIP and was able to get on the ship as the first passenger.

Somehow he managed that I didn't have to wait in the line with all the other passengers and could enter the ship as the second passenger right after him. Another experience that shows me how friendly these people are (and no, he didn't ask for money).

The ship had a dorm with about 30 bunk beds. So the first 30 passengers were the lucky ones who had a bed. The other ones had to sit or stand on the cargo platform beside all the containers for the next 20 hours :)

In the middle of the night, i woke up and suddenly saw something curious. There was far away some kind of orange, red stripe visible in the dark. The locals told me that it is the active living volcano and this red thing is flowing lava...


For about one hour I was able to see the lava pouring down on the side of the volcano and it was very nice to watch that.

Active Volcano in Papua New Guinea with lava flowing down on the side:
Lava runns down the mountain

The next morning on the ship, after i slept very well, i left my camera for some seconds beside me without watchig it. And "zaaasch" - yeah it was gone. I reported it to Isaac, the mister betel nut, and he immediately went somewhere i couldnt see. Suddendly he showed up with a group of guys. They introduced themself as the captain and some of the crewmembers and they will do everything to get my camera back. So they said, they will call the police and when the ship arrives in the warf. The police will search every single bag of every passenger until the camera shows up!!! People on the boat started talking and it went quite nosiy around there. 15 minutes later, suddendly one guy from the crew came along and asked me how my camera looks like. I explained him and then showed me my camera - i got it back! Unbelievable!!!
I asked the guy who saw the robber of my camera, if he can tell me which person it was, but he didn’t find him again. Maybe its better that way. Otherwise I probably would have seen that this gangster looks like a normal person, and my trust in other, friendly local people would have decreased.

On the boat i met different other people and there was this familiy, which lives beside the Sepik river in a tribes village. As i mentioned that i wanted to go to the sepik river and visit one of these villages, they invited me to come with them and live with them in their house. For me, of course totally unexpected, but an incredible chance to get easy and cheap access to the sepik. So i decided to go with them.

Acutally, i didn't have any hesitation about going with them without knowing them. Probably it was because I just trusted my feeling I had about these person and the family. I saw very good and friendly human beings in them. But it was indeed little bit strange the first night, when I was with them. As there was no light in the house, I just saw some strange looking faces sitting around me and wanted to hear me talking something – even they didn’t understand it …hahaha.. and pantomime was not possible in the dark ..:D!

November 14 - Deep inside the Sepik River Villages
After i arrived with the ship in Wewak, the family already organized transport to their village. We drove with a people and goods full packed 4wd on a dirt road with lots of waterholes and muddy ground, all the way down through the jungle to a village called "Timbunke". The drive lasted for about 4 hours and we arrived in the dark night. From Timbunke, we changed to a motorboat and drove for about 1.5 hours along the sepik river to the final destination "Tambunun".

The boat dropped me and the father of the family at the families house, right beside the sepik. And there i was, in the middle of nowhere, with a 7 headed tribes family, some chickens and a dog with 5 puppies which were born the day before i arrived. The family owned two wood houses and a wood canoe. One house was for cooking, eating, served as sleeping room for the children and now also as accomodation for me. The other house was the sleeping room for the parents. Per house there is one room. So cooking, living and sleeping is all in one. No lights, no electricity, no beds, no toilet. Thankfully i had my sleeping bag and the mosquito net with me, which i was very lucky of. When i arrived, it was actually a bit scary, cause in the dark there were just the black skinned people and i didnt have a clue where i gotta have to live and how i gotta have to live. Raymond, the father, speaks little bit english and mother Christine, a few words. My challenge that first dark night was try to come across as a friendly person and finding the right words or gestics to keep the tensioned atmosphere calm. Just not make any mistake.

Tambunun is a tribe village with catholic background. They have something like a church and a school on the other side of the river. But there are no shops. Just some families are selling fish or a couple of packages of bisquits.
On the second day Raymond wanted to go to church and wanted to take me there too. So we left the homestead with the 40cm thick, 5 meters long wooden canoe and crossed the 150 meters broad Sepik river. Actually it is a very uncommon feeling driving with this tight midage canoe along a strong flowing river, which is filled with crocodiles and snakes. We were 45 minutes to late at the church and so we waited infront until the the people came out. Its a little bit a strange feeling, being the only white person between all these tribes poeple who havent seen a white one for weeks. Everybody stares at me and i didnt know what expression i should put up on my face. Smiling, starring on the ground, greeting them? But then some of them came over and welcomed me with shaking hands. So from then i knew these people are all friendly and somehow civilized.

Raymond guided me through the villages and introduced me to all this relatives and friends. And im impressed how big these families are. Everybody in the 1500 people village is somehow with nearly everybody in relative. Later the day we went to a spot somewhere along the sepik, where the people kept the catched crocodiles. They keep them there, grow them and when they are big enough, they eat them. I also was able hold one of the small crocs and its impressive how strong these little things already are.
After arriving with the ship in Wewak i stocked up with corned beef, biscuits and some water. This was my dinner in the village and i was thankfully, that i bought that stuff before i went here. Cause now i have a impression of what it means to be poor and not having always enough to eat. Cause when i didnt have bought my food, i would have eaten the family the food away. They only had some parts of fish and a dish called "Sago", which looks like pizza without anything.

November 15 - Stranded at the Sepik River - I really want to get out now!
The other day I went fishing and they showed me how to fish with the spear. And the little boys had their slingshot, with which they were hunting for birds. Unbelievable how good their aim is. Even if they missed the most shots, the stone missed the target only by few cm, which is 30 metres away. In the village ,i was allowed to walk around and make pictures of the houses, the sculptures and the famous carvings.
Actually i planned to leave the village on monday. But plans dont have any meaning in the Sepik area. Cause finally i left the village on tuesday evening. The reasons are the lack of communication possibilities in the villages. There is no mobile connection and just a few of those people have cellphones. The houses are scattered for several km's along the sepik and the boat, the driver and the passengers are all long distances away from each other. So organizing a fully loaded boat is not that easy. Also they have to organize the poorly available petrol, which is so expensive that it only makes sense to drive in a fully loaded boat. Beside this, the people are not familiar with timetables. It seems, their timetable is their mood.

Well, it was said the boat is running on sunday evening. Then cause there was no boat, it was obvious that it will be some time during monday. As there was no boat on monday, cause they had some troubles and fightings in the neigbour village, the boat was rescheduled to tuesday early morning. So i packed all my things again and looked forward to finally leave from there that morning. But all the waiting didnt help and after a son of Raymond went with the canoe to the boat driver, for finding out what the problem is, it was said that the boat is definately driving on tuesday afternoon. And so it did. We left Tambunun in the late afternoon and had to drive up to Angoram, the final destination. The trip is bit more than 3 hours, but as we run out of petrol 4km before angoram, we had to flow with the water for some 100 meters to the next tribe village and get some more petrol. By night we arrived then in Angoram and i had to wait there until after midnight, when the bus arrived to pick me up for the next 6 hours long way and super rough road to Wewak. So today by 7am i arrived in the guesthouse here in Wewak and first went to sleep for some hours.

Actually i planned being in Mount Hagen today. But as i didnt have a chance to get on the flight yesterday, Im no more able to go there and stuck here in Wewak until Friday. I will fly back straight to Port Moresby.

November 17 - Meeting a REAL crocodile hunter in Wewak
Sitting now in the plane from Madeng to Port Moresby. After the trip from Angoram to Wewak during the night with a public bus, i first slept for several hours in an old run down guesthouse. After waking up i noticed some pain in my eyes, which have turned red. I think it was some kind of infection from the sepik river water, which splashed in my eyes while driving with the boat from Tambunun back to Angoram.

Yesterday i walked around several km's in Wewak. There was this japanes WW2 memorial site, based on the edge of a hill. The machine guns are still there and were used to attack the australian planes. In the afternoon i walked around in the town, in the middle of the crowd inside the market area. Very busy and smelly. Ugly betel nut chewing and spitting people everywhere. And the market seems to exist only to provide those people new "ammo" to chew. Betel nuts are literally everywhere and the ground all around the town is turned red from the spit.

Sava "The Croc-Hunter"
In the guesthouse I met another guest - or better said - patron of the guesthouse. It was Sava Maksic, an 75 year old crocodile hunter who is originaly from europe, but moved to PNG in 1967. He told me interesting stories about the live in PNG from those days. He also wrote a book about crocodile hunting and he is a notorious crocodile hunter and well known as Master Sava in the Sepik River area. Also he told me the stories from the highland fightings he experienced personally, where the tribes fought each other with spears and bows.

Today, when arriving in Port Moresby, i will reside in the same guesthouse as two weeks ago and tomorrow i go to Loloata Islands for diving.

November 19 - Back in Port Moresby for scuba diving

The diving in Loloata was nice, but compared to other south east asia spots very cold. Just 26 degrees. So therefore i had to put on a rented short sleeved neopren, which looked so old that it nearly fall appart while even touching it. The diving brought some nice seasnails, a huge seasnake that looked like a phyton, an eagle ray and nice corals.

On my last day here in PNG, i roamed around Port Moresby and went with the public buses to Boroko and Ela Beach area. While walking up to "Paga Hill", i passed some seriously strange looking people and finally i got approached by some security guards, which told me strictly not going up there alone, cause up there live the shelterless people. So i offered them 5 Kina, and those 4 guards brought me up there with their fenced-window truck (incl a guard dog).

Its a pitty, that "Paga Hill" is so dirty and home of shelterless people. Its probably the nicest viewpoint to see Port Moresby Harbour. In addition there is a historical WW2 tunnel, which served as protection and base for the japanese soldiers. As of today, its occupied by the shelterless people.

View from Paga Hill

Diving around Loloata in Port Moresby

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