An Australian volunteer who was doing whatever volunteers do in PNG.
I was there for 2 years until Dec 2005 .. I hope I made the most of it.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Finally On The Way

Released next month, after a long wait, the niupela Lonely Planet for PNG, and now also including the Solomon Islands.

I didn't realise how long these things take to go from the ground work to final product. I met Andrew Burke here eight months ago. Better late than never I guess, the last LP for PNG was published way back in Feburary 1998.

I wonder if AVI will give us a copy, they did with the old one. I shall find out.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Meri, Meri, Be Quite Wary

We had a little episode yesterday in the office and it has got me thinking again about the local women. One thing I have gathered since being here is that you don't want to mess with a Melanesian woman when they are mad. Hell hath no fury like a Melanesian meri.

The said episode was a student disputing a payment for a transcript. She said she had already paid it but we could not find any evidence. The end result was her standing in the office waving her arms about and screaming in loud, angry, rapid and aggressive pidgin. Quite a sight. It took a while to get her calm and out the door.

Like I said it got me thinking about the women here and how you don't want to mess with them. I have heard quite a few stories of these termagants and they all scare me.

One that sticks out in my mind was last year when a woman accused another of adultery with her husband. Apparently there was quite a rage that occurred and the end result was that the accused woman ended up dead from being stabbed. The scary part was that this all happened in the Mt Hagen airport terminal in front of normal passengers waiting to catch their flight. The blood seeping from the body filled most of the terminal floor and ended up with the other passengers huddling against a wall.

Another incident with a similar plot-line occurred here in Lae and to someone I know. He is an ex-pat and had a local girlfriend. He broke up with this original girlfriend and found himself another. The consequence was that the original girlfriend came back and attacked his new girlfriend at a PMV bus-stop with a knife. No death occurred this time but she did have a stab wound injury.

There are quite a few other incidents that have happened to people I know regarding their girlfriends to make think "hold on this is something to be wary about". Which is what I have been.

Perhaps I am missing out because of it. But then again why take on something that will ultimately end in pain. I have no intentions of staying in PNG forever, so therefore I think it is particularly unfair for me to start something only to end it a few months down the track.

Other volunteers before me have braved the cross cultural differences and made a go at love with a local woman/man, but they usually end up staying in PNG indefinitely, because of the problems associated in taking them away and because they obviously like it here. The problems with the PNG spouse leaving are not just because of immigration issues, but also because of the close-nit families that PNGns grow up in. Taking them away would be particularly hard for them.

I am not saying I am not impartial to local women. To start off with I used to think of them as not particularly attractive, but like a lot of my views towards PNG this has mellowed and I can now see beauty everywhere. But that doesn't necessarily make me want to start something. Besides I know all about their temper now.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

"Like An English Village"

When I was back in Madang the other weekend, I took Larissa (volunteer mate from Moresby) and her mum around Kranket island. It turned out to be a great day.

What made it great - besides the snorkelling on the other side of the island where the guesthouse is - is the fact the island is "just like an English village". Larissa's mum said this and I think it is pretty apt in a PNG kind of way.

For starters there are little hedged lined lanes running throughout the island. They are the main thoroughfares. There are no vehicles anywhere - bit like Venice in this regard (without the canals). The houses are all little cottage style - some made from bush materials some made from normal housing materials. And everywhere are flowerbeds.

A hedged lane

It is obvious that the locals take great pride in the island. I can't remember seeing any rubbish. And all the houses where neatly tended and looked after. The place really is a bit of a novelty for PNG, especially when you go to other villages with rubbish lying around.

Another reason that it was a great day was that we didn't get the guided tour like I did last time. Which meant that I had to be the impromptu tour guide for the three of us. My memory is fairly good at the best of times, but I must admit at one point going down the wrong track and coming up to a dead end. This caused no end of scorn of course for me later, but it did enable us to have a little gathering of kids come to our aid and help us head off to the guest house. Something that made it a pleasant and special walk.

Our impromptu entourage

On the way back from the swim and picnic we had another little troupe follow us along, which made us feel like pied pipers. And on the boat back I had the chance to have a chat to an old guy going back to his neighbouring island. He was 71 and I got him reminiscing about the war and being a pikinini during it.

A nice day all round, ohh and the weather was perfect, which is more than I can say about Lae at the moment - Wet Season.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

A Day Off ... Whatever You Call It

ANZAC day / Remembrance Day / National Day ... it is still a holiday no matter what it is called. And yesterdays turned out to be an eventful one at that ... with most of it was happening before breakfast.

As stated before the dawn service was planned to be attended and we did. Although it was a close call. The rain overnight was a big factor in this. It absolutely dumped down all night. Not to mention serious thunder and lightning that occurred. I don't usually wake for much, but during the night I was awoken at least half a dozen times by the sheer noise of the roof being drummed at fever pitch by an incessant storm and the thunder that literally shook the house for 5 seconds at a time, so violently that it felt like an earthquake.

Getting up and getting ready pre-dawn was difficult because the storm knocked out the power at some point but in pitch-blackness I managed to get ready.

Roger came and picked me up just after 5 and we collected another participant and then headed off to the Lae War Memorial in the dark and rain.

At the Memorial we met up with others and joined the smallish crowd around the cenotaph. The crowds were down on other years, no doubt because of the rain. The service was a typical ANZAC service with the local PNG Defence Force guys making up the catafalque party. The four Australian Defence Force guys from the local barracks were there as well, and seemed to provide all of the logistics for the event. The funny thing for me to note was that a local security company had turned out in force. There were more security guards manning the place than actual locals that turned up. Perhaps the PNGDF need protecting?

Afterwards we all headed down to the Yacht Club to have a gunfire breakfast put on for the day. The only problem was that this was dampened - literally - by the fact that my mate's company's boat was now berthed underwater. The rain had been heavy enough to sink the open style 18 footer. To make matters worse a brand new Yamaha engine had just been fitted a few days before and my mate was officially in charge of it for the weekend.

The thing is usually on the back of a trailer and in a warehouse, but for this weekend with the testing of the engine it ended up berthed at the yacht club overnight. It hadn't rained for 4 nights.

After initial worries about how we were going to remedy the problem turned out to be not a particularly hard task in the end. We attached ropes to it and hauled the listing hull back up the right way and to the surface. With some delicate weight balancing, with people standing at the bow, the water was then bailed out. The trailer was brought down and what should have happened the day before was brought to fruition with it being lugged back to the warehouse, with the immediate remedy work to be carried out on the saltwater drenched engine.

Breakfast was good. The early beers a novelty and so was being drunk before lunchtime. A sleep in the afternoon was definately needed after a memorable day.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Postcard Plea

There was a quiet little call out previously at the bottom of a comments section. A call out to see if anyone would send me a postcard. I thought it would go unnoticed ... until one arrived the other day.

All the way from Byron Bay, NSW, Australia.

Friday, April 22, 2005

National Day?

There is a new public holiday on the calendar, National Day. Last year it was called Remembrance Day and was held on July 25th, this year it has been moved two months forward to April 25th and given a name change.

April 25 corresponds of course with another public holiday celebrated down south, ANZAC day. While this is good news for me - I will go to the dawn service at the war memorial on Monday - I can't help but think why move it at all. July 25 had been PNG's day of remembrance for a long time.

Is this a case of merging the day of remembrance to align it with a more appropriate war remembrance date as the politicians who made the change state? Why ANZAC day then? That is a date for the invasion of Gallipoli in WWI and has got nothing to do with PNG. Why not use the more internationally recognised Remembrance day of November the 11th? Or pick a date significant to PNG, like when the War in the Pacific ended or when the Japanese finally retreated from PNG's shores - perhaps this was the case already with the July 25 date, I am not sure.

And as to why call it National Day, I have no idea.

Cacao or Cocoa?

I had a little lesson last weekend. I went to a cacao plantation. Cacao what?

I never really bothered wondering what cocoa looks like in it's natural state. It had not crossed my mind what the source for chocolate was. I have now been brought up to speed.

Cocoa beans are from a pod from the cacao tree. When the pod is ready it turns yellow. They hang limply from the tree from the truck or branches.

Boys working for the plantation walk around all day and collect the ripe pods. They then crack (or slice) the pods open and gather the beans, wash off all the whitish slime and dry them.

A cacao pod cracked open

The drying is done on a huge tray, which can be covered by a sliding roof on a track. The beans are left sweating in the sun for a few days, being raked over, where the outer husks ferment and peel off (I learned this bit from the Wikipedia article).

This is about the extent of what happens at the plantation. The beans are shipped off to wherever and get turned into the chocolate that everybody loves. PNG by the looks of it has a good export business happening in this regard.

Interesting to note (from Wikipedia) that the Netherlands are the worlds leading processor of cocoa beans, but Belgium is the leading consumer at 5.5kg per person a year. At least those two lead the world in something.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Highlight Without Comment

A couple of related small stories have featured in the Post Courier newspaper over the last week. They tell of how there was an attempted rape of a female student at a major PNG educational institution.

The story plays out that a student came back from a dance late at night and was heading to her residence when she was dragged to a dark spot by a group of men. She managed to shout for assistance and the attackers ran away.

The post incident reaction from the institution, published in the Post-Courier, is what I want to highlight. Unfortunately the Post Courier has not put these stories on it's web site.

In the first story on Thursday the 14th of April the Post Courier said how the head of the institution told ...
the information he got from security was that the girl may have been under the influence of liquor after the dance.

In the second story on Tuesday the 19th of April the Post Courier states that the institution ...
blamed the incident on the carelessness by the female student.

and goes on to quote the security services saying ...
"Looking at the circumstances in the attempted rape incident that happened ... the female student was apparently drunk after returning from a nightclub in the early hours of the morning with her male counterparts".

If you have been reading this blog for a while you can probably work out what my opinion of this is. I wont be making any comment though for various reasons. Biting my tongue.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

The Pukpuk Races

One of the best fundraising events I have been to and certainly one of the most unique. Saturday night was spent at the Madang Country Club for the Pukpuk Races.

To get up to speed pukpuk is the pidgin word for crocodile. But to make sure people didn't stay away, no real crocs were ever used for the races. Instead they ingeniously had craved wooden pukpuks that were attached to fishing line and a reel spindle contraption at the end of the lanes. Jockeys volunteered or were drafted to wind in the pukpuks.

Pukpuks at the starting line

Winding them in

The real fun was on the betting. You purchased a form guide for 10 Kina and with that you got 100 "Madang Dollars" for betting. A bookmaker set odds for the different pukpuks, ranging from 4 to 1 to 20 to 1. No idea how the bookmaker set the odds as they were usually set before the jockeys even turned up.

Each pukpuk was given a name in the form guide and showed the organisation that sponsored it for the 9 different races. The names were cleverly made up, with things like Deliverance or Satisfaction (I wish I had kept my form guide now as the whole thing was very cleverly written).

My luck in the betting was not particularly successful. I started by just going by the name and realised that this was stupid as I lost my Madang Dollars. Then I waited until I saw the jockeys and picked a big guy. This was not successful either. I quickly reduced my 100 MD to nothing after 3 races.

Others had much better luck and managed to do quite well after a few races and a few wins. And then there were others who found the loophole and rigged the system by just spread betting on all the jockeys. This seemed to be the most successful method and by the end of the 9 (+ one for a female only race) some of the VSO volunteers had turned their 100 MD in 33,000.

The best part of the night was after the races though. With all the MD you win you are then expected to use that money to bid on wrapped up boxes with gifts inside. The gifts can be anything, but are all items that are donated by a particular sponsor. A box donated by RD Tuna Cannery is not hard to work out exactly what that will be.

It didn't stop the fun in bidding though. When you have 33,000 worthless Madang Dollars why not just have some fun and go to town on anything. My mates from VSO were doing exactly this and had a lot of fun and made it fun for the rest of us.

Four thousand thanks

Great, a twelve pack of Globe Honey Chicken for only 9,500

The whole event was a great night and great idea. Pity it was so hot though. After I went and jockeyed - managing a close second - I felt like I was going to pass out. There was no breeze and I had sweat dripping off me. Sitting outside with a cold beer seemed to help.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Happiness II

A great e-mail from my sister - thanks babe - good enough to share.
A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, he picked up a very large and empty jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls.

He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed it was. So the professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar slightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls.

He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was. The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course the sand filled up everything else.

He asked once more if the jar was full. All the students responded with a "yes."

The professor then produced two cans of beer from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar, effectively filling the empty spaces between the sand. The students laughed.

"Now" said the professor as laughter subsided, "I want you to recognise that the jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things - your loved ones and dear friends, your health, your favourite passions - those things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full. The pebbles are the other things that matter, like your job, your house, your car. The sand is everything else - the small stuff."

"If you put the sand into the jar first," he continued, "there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you."

Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Take time to get medical check ups. Really have some fun! There will always be time to clean the house and fix the disposal. Take care of the golf balls first - the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand."

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the beer represented.

The professor smiled. "I'm glad you asked; it just goes to show that no matter how full your life may seem, there's always room for a couple of beers."

Isn't that great? If it wasn't the golf balls it would be perfect - don't ask.

Had a great time in Madang again. Am back in Lae now. Will share the highlights from the weekend soon.

Thursday, April 14, 2005


What makes me happy?

I tend to think of happiness as a basic fundamental. Part of what makes us tick. If you're not happy, what is the point? But more importantly if you can't make yourself happy in a place then you need to look at your approach to life or move on. I would like to think that I could make myself happy no matter where I was dropped.

Last year I divulged some of my dislikes, bugs and annoyances. But they are just that, small pet hates. Nothing to make me depressed - thankfully that is not for me. Happiness though is a different kettle of fish and very hard to quantify. It is a combination of a lot of things, a mixture of many foibles, quirks and ultimately our perception. It is extremely hard to put into words but I do like a challenge.

So here is a small window into the mind that is the enigma of my thoughts on what makes me happy whilst in PNG. Casting a narrow abbreviated beam onto the factors that mostly make it a joy to live and work in this place.

Side trips, big trips, adventure, out and about
Seeing new culture. Exploring new places. Meeting vastly different people. Planning the next trip. The sense of adventure. More planning. More buzz. Being on the trip. Immersed in the new sights. Returning. Planning for the next trip.

Friends, mates, volunteers, social life
The bonus that is the volunteer system. The eclectic mix of similar yet completely different characters. Thrown together. Being a minority. Drinking together. Dinners and parties. Staying at their houses. Good chats and laughs.

Heat, precipitation, sun, humidity - the weather
Initially you sweat. Extra showers are needed. A feeling of being constantly sticky. Your fan is a friend. Then you get used to it. Adapt to it. Grow to like it. Enjoy it. The warmth. The constant 6am sunrise, 6pm sunset. Heavy rain at night. Lashing storms. A smile on your dial.

Their moans and gripes are there. Bitchiness is universal. But they are fun, full of life and make it a joy to go to work. Being taken under their wing. Taking them under your wing. Sharing life experiences, very different, yet again similar.

Creativity, time, learning
Writing is now fun. Photography remains an expressive outlet. Reading is revisited. Movies are borrowed and loaned. Time seems more plentiful. The left side of the brain is expanded. English is not the nightmare of high school. Blogging is enjoyed. Comments are appreciated.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005


I keep harping on about this Tropfest caper. I am not sure why. I get easily excited I suppose. The e-mail invites I sent out though are a pure example of what happens when you have too much time on your hands.

It is that time of year again. The time when PNG's greatest cinematic event takes place. A time of comfy chairs, good wine, great company and 16 short films. It is of course this years Lae Tropfest festival.

This years festival will be very special event indeed as it will not only feature the 16 Tropfest finalists but also include the world premiere of All and Nothing - a story of one man's escape from modernity only to be trapped in primordial stagnation. Written and directed by our very own recently departed creativity oozing friend, Wendy, and staring none other than extra-extraordinaire turned A-list mega-star Roger.

Tropfest 2004, The Living Room, Lae

Tropfest 2005
So what is Tropfest? For the uninitiated it is a short-film festival where each year a call goes out to the best short-filmmakers in the world. They are invited to make and submit a short film to the festival with the requirements specifically including:
  • Each film must be made specifically for Tropfest
  • Tropfest must be your film's first public screening
  • Each film must be no longer than seven minutes
  • Each film must contain the loosely interpreted Tropfest Signature Item. This year being Umbrella

From all the entries received (792 this year) 16 finalists will be selected. These will be the ones shown on the Lae Tropfest 2005 night.

There are other screening sites around - some reputably gaining more than 100,000 spectators - but none will be matching the uniqueness of Unitech Lae.

The latest technology will be again be on display including a personal computer, stereophonic speakers, a multimedia projector and a suspended screen.

Take your seats and enjoy

Not too sad I hope?

The finished e-mail actually looked a lot classier than this with some tweaked HTML and funky orange borders around the images - to make it look like the genuine web site. But it is not compatible to reproduce it in it's full glory here on this blog. My Styles completely screw it up. You get the idea though.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Search Queries part II

Following on the previous listing of crazy searches that point to my blog, here are some more from Yahoo and Google ...

... the misdirected celebrity searcher ... "rod stewarts ex wife". - Rachel Hunter can be found elsewhere I am sure, not here.

... the strange ... "pics of a lonely boy with a new life". - Can't say I can really help with this, Google seemed to think so though.

... the perverted ... "hard pinis". - A dyslexic pervert? or tok pisin linguist?

... the concerned? ... "pics of starving people". - Better luck on the World Vision website. Not many people actually go starving in PNG.

... the educational ... "I wont to know the life cycle of the Kangaroo/ I'm a kid". - Try an encyclopaedia.

... the pondering ... "how do Papua New Guinea cope". - Good question, pity about your grammar.

... the downright weird ... "funny strange dancing guinea pigs music video". - I have no idea.

Monday, April 11, 2005

What To Do

I have been busy making plans for things to do over the next few months. As I keep saying I am here so I had better make the most of it. So for the next few months I plan to be up to the following:

I am off to Madang again this weekend. This time for a small holiday not work. I will be catching up with a couple of volunteers I came over here with. It is the start of the school holidays here in PNG so a good time for volunteers that are teachers to catch up. I will be only there for a few days - the weekend really - before coming back, but I will be living it up at the Madang Resort where us blessed volunteers get a 50% discount! Here's hopping it is fine weather.

No I am not suddenly addicted. I am still impartial to the taste and smell. But I am planning on going up to Goroka for this years Coffee Festival on the 7th and 8th of May. Apparently I have been told it is better than the Goroka show which if that is an indicator it should be fantastic.

Yes the much hyped - by me - Tropfest festival is taking place in May. I have sent out the invites and people near and far have informed me they are coming. The big attraction this year is the premiere of Wendy's film (the one we made last year) "All and Nothing". I can't wait it should be a blast. I have been testing out the big screen and projector in my living room again. On Saturday I had a few people over to watch "21 Grams".

Something I am not organising but will be going to again this year, the Lae Soroptimist Trivia Night. It was good fun last year. Our table proceeded to get blotto on too much red and still managed to win the thing by a massive margin. It was an impressive effort all round, out of the 20 tables we won with 82 out of a 100 questions and the next best was a pathetic 70 odd. Pity the first prize was a crap set of cheap pots.

Black Cating
My masochistic tendencies are surfacing again. They seem to after I have recently been on a hike. This time I am planning on walking the legendary Black Cat Track in June. It is legendary as it was the path that a whole host of prospective gold diggers used in the 20's and 30's to walk from the coast up into the interior in search of gold. I will be doing it in reverse from Wau down to Salamaua. The hike apparently takes three days but I will stretch it over five with travel time to Wau and from Salamaua taken into account. There is a really good reason I am going to hike this not just because I want to but because it will be good preparation for ...

Even more legendary than the Black Cat, in fact it immediately springs to mind when thinking of PNG and hiking, is the Kokoda Track. This I am gearing up for in early July. A couple of people will be coming up from Australia to do this with me, and it should be hell but very rewarding. In case you don't know, which if you're not Australian shouldn't be hard, the Kokoda track is the scene of one of Australia's finest military victories. It was where the Japanese were first defeated in a land campaign during WWII. The track is a 96km one from Kokoda, south of Popondetta, to Ower's Corner, north of Port Moresby. It takes 6-8 days of relentless up and down hiking, through jungle and crossing rivers etc. All sounds good.

Not surprisingly due to the last couple of planned activities this book has become a bit of a bible:

12 years old but still good. Maybe LP might want me to update a new edition. Might have to see if they do.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Taming The Shoe Incident

Bad pun I know, but if you haven't heard - which is highly likely - there is a current simmering of tensions between Australia and PNG. This time it is over an incident at Brisbane airport as Sir Michael Somare was on his way for a visit to New Zealand.

The security guys had Somare walk through the metal detector a few times and then he was asked to remove his shoes and walk through. Highly undignified for a Prime Minister of a foreign country, to go through that - is he going to have a bomb in his shoe - especially as he was only on transit to another country anyway.

So the incident hit the papers here and was front page stuff. "Disgraceful!" screamed the Post Courier. The people hit the streets - well about 1000 anyway - and they marched twice - once on Thursday 31st of March and then on April fools day - to the Australian High Commission.

The marching incident caused a few concerns with-in the High Commision in Moresby, they proceeded to send a warning out to all the Australian volunteers in PNG - including me - stating:
"A large protest march on the Australian High Commission in Port Moresby is planned for 1 April. We are told protestors will be seeking a response to the petition handed to the High Commissioner by a small group of protestors today. A sizeable police presence has been requested. It is highly likely that the High Commission will be closed to the public. While we hope that the protest will be a peaceful one, there is a possibility the situation could deteriorate. We would suggest that personnel avoid the area of the High commission and maintain a heightened sense of security in their workplace and social circumstances. It is recommended that all personnel monitor the DFAT website for consular bulletins."

Not much good me knowing this. I don't live in Moresby and I am not planning on going to the High Commission, guess it is just another case of them worrying about their perceived importance.

My country's esteemed Foreign Minister Mr Downer really made a mess of it by saying "no apology will be made forthcoming" and this has been like a red rag to a bull. Somare's advisers and Chief of Staff are now filling the air waves and column inches demanding an apology. Fair enough I have no problem with that. PNG is once again being treated like a poor cousin and a backwater.

The only problem is now they are overstepping the mark and have suspended the Enhanced Cooperation Program (ECP) and the Au$800 million it represents. They would be mad to scuttle this as it would set the country back years. Though as the Post Courier states in today's editorial they could just be using this incident for a new bit diplomatic leveraging:
"We wonder whether the reservations initially expressed about the ECP package have festered and finally burst out into the open with the Somare search episode at Brisbane airport.
Whether the motives were purely to defend the honour of our nation and the longtime leader against the crass behaviour of airport security guards, or to leverage a new look at the aid package, only time will tell."

Unfortunately that still does not deny the fact that the Australian government is running rough shod over their closest neighbour again. To state, as a spokesman for Downer did yesterday, that "We have a non-discriminatory security policy" is just rubbish. I am sure the US President or the Chinese President when they came at the end of 2003 did not get made to take their shoes off.

Time I think that Howard and Downer did the respectable thing and said sorry. For once.

Thursday, April 07, 2005


There is a massacre happening on campus. The trees are the victims.

Grounds maintenance has decided that any tree of decent size and age - even if they are healthy - must go. No idea why. There was a concern about some trees a little while ago that they may fall and damage property, but now it seems like open season on the trees.

I had the sad sight yesterday afternoon of seeing four massive Rain Trees reduced to firewood and stumps. They were not near any property, but obviously deemed risky anyway. These were trees planted forty years ago when the university was started. Who's to say that replacement trees will be planted? Not while the chainsaw wielding fiend is on the loose I imagine.

Massacre on Finisterre road
Massacre on Finisterre road

Last month about half a dozen other trees around the campus were attacked. At this rate there will be no trees left for shade from the tropical sun.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005


Some people love me. Either that or I am blessed.

Just as I was about to head off to make a mid morning cup of tea. Wishing that I had something nice to go with it. Along comes a package.

Some people love me!

Inside a collection of chocies from England which "makes the best chocolate in the world, um, compared to Australia ...". Hard to disagree with when you are scoffing it down. Unfortunately it is not melt or squash resistant .. not that it matters to it's taste now.

p.s. If more people want to send me chocies .. please do:

Tech Officer,
DODL, Unitech,
Private Mail Bag,
Lae, Papua New Guinea.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Wrong Numbers

What is it with this country in dialling a phone number? Is it that people just randomly punch in numbers in the hope that they will get where they want? I am a little bit shitty at the moment after being woken up at 6 by yet another wrong number - someone asking for the Army barracks. And it is not the first time. In fact I think I have received more wrong numbers after being in this country than collectively in the rest of my lifetime.

It is not just me who gets wrong number calls either. Everyone I know says that get more than their fair share. And it is not because I have a cool home phone number with quite a lot of 5's in it, my mobile gets rung and I receive them at the office too.

Perhaps the reason is because there are less phone numbers here - the phone book for the entire country is about an inch thick - and therefore it is easier dial the wrong one. Also there are less digits needed to dial, a total of seven will get you to any phone in the country. Whatever the reason it is a bit of pain in the arse.

It is not just trying to talk to people that is the problem either. Last year after they brought in SMS for the mobile network, I proceeded to get text messages from someone asking for Ignoshu. When I replied multiple times that they had the wrong number they didn't believe me and kept bombarding with about 30 text messages of a love serenade. It was flattering but for someone else. Eventually I sent a text message saying "YOU HAVE THE WRONG NUMBER. FIND OUT THE RIGHT NUMBER AND LEAVE THIS ONE ALONE!". I got a phone call not long after and when I answered there was just breathing and then a hang up. She got the message and hasn't tried again.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Panorama Fun

Here are a couple of panoramas taken on the trip and stitched together later. Click to get a big pic.

Taken from the A-Frame hut at the lakes. The hut we stayed at is in the middle, a little hard to see but it is where the smoke is rising from. There is an out house nearby that is easier to spot.

From the top looking East through to South.

P.S. In case you hadn't realised there is in fact another version of events (similiar to the one I have written) about the expedition up Wilhelm. A link exists on this website ... find it yourself.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Wilhelm: The Sequel - Part Three

This part of the journey was when the tiredness started to kick in. I was sick of walking but there was nothing else to do. Being positive it was all downhill. Being negative, it was all downhill for 4 hours, then another section back to Keglsugl for 2 hours.

Luckily there was no rush, so we took it fairly easy. Along the way we passed some hikers headed up, one from the group of six. When we said we had reached the top two hours ago, I don't think she believed us.

Thomas led the way as usual. At the whacking spot he collected his cuscus from the bush. We got to have a close look in the daylight and discovered that it was an adolescent female; "em I meri, I gat pocket stap". With it swinging limply we continued on down.

After a couple of stops and meeting a German and Belgium couple - we had seen them a couple of times before at the lakes and Keglsugl - they were on their way down after getting as far as Sergeant Donnan's place, we went and visited the wreckage of an American plane the crashed into the side of the mountain. It seems the yanks forgot to check their charts properly and didn't fly high enough in the clouds. See it is not only in the movies that this happens.

Just a wing left from the wreckage

Most of the wreckage fell into the top lake, but a major chunk - a wing - is still high up on the side of the mountain. If anyone ever walks up Wilhelm following my tale here, make sure you get your guide to show you the wing, it can't be seen from the main track.

My knees were holding steadily as I trudged behind Thomas, who proceeded to plunk the fur from the cuscus, it was on for lunch. I asked him whether he was going to roast or boil it. He replied asking how I wanted it done. How would I know, I replied. "Mi bai putim long pot" was the answer.

With a trail of cuscus fur we made it back to the hut at 10:30. I was completely stuffed and a sleep was on. When I woke an hour later the cuscus was ready. Doc and me were given the nice cuts of the forelegs. Still having all the skin left on was a tad off putting so I asked whether we remove that or eat it as well. It was cool to remove. So the verdict of what a cuscus tastes like, well it tastes like ... it tastes like ... lamb.

Backpack repacked we headed off down the track to Martin's place. The phrase that summed up this walk was "mi less long wokabaut nau" (I can't be bothered walking). We made it though of course, just before it started to rain heavily. Our good luck with the weather was spot on.

Thomas and me, midway between the lakes and Keglsugl

Zombie like we stayed around the fire in Martin's men's house and storied for the whole afternoon. Once darkness came we made an attempt at finishing off whatever food we had left, which wasn't very appetising when it is the same you had eaten for the last three days. It wasn't too late before the hay was hit, ready for one more early rise.

The rise was at 5:30, in preparation to get down to the trade store in time to catch the PMV that would be leaving from there. Walking down in a foggy dawn we got down at 6:30, only to find that the blue Land Cruiser had a few mechanical problems with its front wheel. This wasn't going anywhere so we kept on going down the road, winding round and down the hills.

At a small market, we stopped and waited. Apparently a PMV would show eventually. And it did an hour later. In the mean time we chatted munching over a locally grown and roasted nut for breakfast. I was told the name but recalling it now is beyond me.

No inside seat for the PMV down, this was just a single cab Mitsubishi ute. Martin, Doc and me jumped on the back with a couple of locals and headed off. I tried sitting in the back corner which proved harder and was more uncomfortable than it looked as I was thrown around over the rough track.

At a stop to collect passengers, I decided to do my trick from travels around Europe and sit on my backpack. A very sensible option it turned out in the end as it gave my arse the necessary padding and recalled more comfortable trips travelling in train luggage cars when all the seats were full.

The passengers we picked up really loaded the back down with billums galore of market vegetables and cash crops. The tray was now full and the passengers sat on top of these bags. The amount of people in the back was now a cosy size and any more would have made it a squish. And a squish is what it became as more and more passengers jumped on the back at various spots along the road.

It physically became impossible to fit more people in the back. I decided to tally as we went along and counted 20 people including myself but not a baby. Chock-a-block was an apt term. I had seen these type of utes numerously on the roads of PNG and now I was part of one of these villages in a ute.

My corner is there somewhere

To get some space at one point I decided to sit on the edge of the tray. Not a great idea, and my arse had a few bruises for days. The local guys seemed to be able to manage it alright. Must be like a horse and the first time you try you get a sore arse, then every time after it is fine.

We made it to Kundiawa after three hours of this rough ride. At one point there was a queue of cars and trucks trying to get through a muddy uphill section. The open back truck at the front of it was a good advertisement to why new tyres should be bought. Its bald back tyres spun and the truck slid and swerved while being pulled up the hill by a gang of guys. The women on the tray seemed to be having fun as the thing threw itself around. We passed them without a hitch.

A bus to Lae was found. We jumped on and said goodbye to our mate Martin. He was headed in the opposite direction to go back to teach at his school. I was not particularly looking forward to having to sit on this bus for the next 7-8 hours, but I did. Doc was luckily dropped off at Goroka after two hours and I continued on.

The bus hammered the downhill corners and a few times got in trouble from the passengers; "isi isi driva". I can see why accidents from these buses feature in the news quite often. This guy was a maniac. He threw it through the corners and around the potholes like a turbo charged shopping trolley.

It was after dark when we did get down to Lae safely. Usually if the buses get you there in the daylight they will just dump you in town and you have to change onto another bus to get home. At this time of day they take you where you want to go, most probably because they know there is no public transport running after dark in Lae. This was something I had worried about for the whole trip and luckily it all turned out OK in the end.

After the huge weekend I was understandably very tired and glad to be back. Walking from the Uni gate to home there was one little ironic twist. Martin had told me around the fire in Keglsugl about his brother who works at the Uni Library. Me and another guy got off the bus at the Uni gate and surprise surprise it was Martin's brother John. He had got on after seeing his family in Goroka.

Back in my home at 7:30, it was night of an easy meal and early bed. It was very good to be back. My adventuring had now been satisfied. My folly now extinguished - until next time.