Australia to Papau New Guinea – Nov 2014

untitled-40 sing sing performersuntitled-43 sing sing performersuntitled-50 sing sing performersuntitled-53 typical houseuntitled-57 typical boatuntitled-60 Bedel nut mixesuntitled-70 sing sing performersuntitled-82performersuntitled-94 pig to barbecueuntitled-113 chiefuntitled-72Papau New Guinea – November 7, 2014 to November 9, 2014

After two days at sea from Cairns, Australia, we crossed the Coral Sea and landed about noon at Alotau in Milne Bay Province, Papau New Guinea to an amazing array of activities including the famous canoe races. But first, we were greeted by local guides who wanted us to know the World War II history of the peninsula. We boarded mini buses to drive to the beachhead where the Japanese landed early in 1942 taking possession of this part of PNG. Once Pearl Harbor was bombed, the Japanese very quickly progressed across the Pacific taking as many islands as they could on their way to Australia. They were hungry for minerals to support their avarice war machine appetite. The Japanese came ashore at night and quickly conscripted the PNG men into their fighting force. The Battle of Milne Bay was fought here and said to be Japan’s first defeat to Allied Forces in 1942.

 

Alotau means “Bay of Views” and indeed it is a beautiful bay with towering volcanic hills covered with much vegetation. Today, the memorial park was packed with people—families who came both by land and by sailing canoes to celebrate their tribe’s culture with a “sing sing” and to trade with each other. We watched as many families arrived by sailing canoe outriggers from islands spread quite far. Others may have walked for several days to join the festivities. There are no roads in this remote area of PNG. One by one the dancers began. Dressed in their tribal costumes their stories were told through song and dance.

 

But anomalies existed such the truck going through the grounds reading “Sexual domestic violence patrol,” the American/Western music blaring over the loudspeaker, and almost everyone with cell phones. And, then the sounds of pigs that had come to supply the festival with spare ribs, “oinked” as their feet were bound and they were hoisted onto boards to be butchered and barbequed.

 

And, finally, the dragon boats sat ready on the beach to be launched and raced. Beautifully decorated with paint and carvings, they represented a long tradition of canoe racing. This sport is only for men and the men stand in the boat while paddling.

 

The next two days we visited remote areas of PNG people on islands to the east of Alotau. The first visit was to Deboyne, a remote village with stilted thatched homes perched along the water’s edge. After a welcoming ceremony where the tribal leader who said he was both a politician and wood carver, read to us about his village, and then we watched as the clan held a “sing-sing.” Men danced to tell the story of an eel that was eaten by a tribal member and then the man died. The entire village gathered to enjoy this entertainment, laughing and clapping as the dancing and story progressed. The mother next to me nursed her 1 year old on one side, while clinging to her 2 year old on the other side. Ebony carvings, straw woven mats and purses were sold at their village center. Villagers said they were raising money for the school to be built there. TB, AIDS and Malaria are the big killers on these islands, we were told. I loved the sign reading, “ Plez washam yu hanz belongun to yuz.”

 

Sunday in Samarai Island, PNG brought us church, dancing, crafts and more history. As before, traditional dancers greeted us as we disembarked the zodiacs, then walked to the town square where church was being held under a huge banyan tree. Guitar singers, traditional dancers, and the sermon were all included in the church service. Ladies, gentlemen and children were dressed in their Sunday best. The sermon was about a lady who bled for many days until she touched Christ’s robes and was suddenly healed. The pastor stressed a belief in Christ who could heal most ills. Following this service we learned there were three other services held throughout the town of 500 people. Samarai was once the capitol of this province, but now it is Alotau leaving this a town almost a ghost town. Pigs and gardens were not evident here. But, the pearl industry is still thriving. And, the Chinese own the thriving store on this island.

 

Both days after our island visits we were taken by zodiacs to snorkel. The first day over a Japanese zero plane that had ditched here after his aircraft carrier was sunk in the Battle of Coral Sea. The pilot survived, May 7, 1942. The second day we snorkeled at Nivani Island to enjoy a beautiful reef exhibiting tremendous diversity of corals all with healthy new growth.

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