SPELLBOUND IN PNG’S TROBRIAND ISLANDS

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SPELLBOUND IN PNG’S TROBRIAND ISLANDS

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, March 30) – When the Papua New Guinea treasurer’s conference was held on Kiriwina Island last year, many of the delegates were housed at Kaibola Beach, less than an hour’s drive from Butia Lodge where they were meeting.

[PIR editor’s note: Kiriwina Island is the largest island in the Trobriand Island Group,off the northeastern tip of the Papua New Guinea peninsula. The island served a U.S. air base during World War II.]

One-man bungalows were built a few metres from the seashore with a long bench in front that served as a food table.

Toku Sesem, from Butia Lodge, showed us the remnants of last year’s tourism bonanza.

"Here was the food table; when the public servants came down from the conference, it was always covered with food and they just filled themselves up, lounging on the beach, enjoying the atmosphere well into the night," Toku said.

With plenty of fresh air, good food, genuine hospitality and the sound of breakers, digging heels into the sand was the most natural thing to do.

When done, climbing into the doorless bungalows and dropping off [to sleep] was too easy for the tired conference delegates.

And emerging the next day, all the Kaibola magic was still there, which meant, it’d be still there when they came down again, made weary by the conference.

The island of love, Tuma, which gave rise to the Trobriands’ popular trademark visible from Kaibola, creates a magical spell over the visitors with its intriguing folklore. And while the locals told stories of old, the breakers would have agreed with their constant pounding of the beach, making the visitor totally spellbound.

Find Losuia on the map and allow your fingers to scan through the atolls toward Alotau. If you want to see all the islands, you can do it by air with Airlines PNG, which goes POM-Losuia-Gurney-Misima-Losuia-POM.

At the Lousia strip, you will be greeted by locals selling lime gourds or the biggest crabs you’ve seen, tied up in a bundle and carried like shopping.

Milne Bay is the biggest bay you’ll ever see. Geographically, bays are found between capes so you have the longest cape in PNG, which is East Cape, sticking out like a sore thumb, almost linking up with some islands off the coast and the tail end of PNG, which plunges into the swim at Samarai. In between you have a body of water eroding carelessly into the hills in a horseshoe shape, creating a natural deep water harbour. Around the horseshoe, mountains rise from which hundreds of creeks flow into the sea, creating a belt of lush green coastal flood plain where the people live.

The villages between KB Mission to Maiwara, Gamadoudou to Wagawaga and Kila Kilana, all the way to Kainakope are absolute jewels.

On the north shore from Wahahuba beach where the Japanese mistakenly landed in 1942, all the way to East Cape, to Awaiama and places beyond Dogura, Boianai, Menapi and Tarakwaruru are places whose tourism potential cannot be quantified. I am not saying this because the bar conversation at Napatana Lodge is outrageously wonderful; I’ve ploughed the mountains and the coast of PNG.

Napatana is refreshing — log cabin–type bungalows with timber for ceiling and spacious rooms with open windows and private veranda.

Education Milne Bay will easily drop the jaw of anyone — a massive building, all built of timber and gigantic kwila posts that don’t want to mess around. It is a new concept of tourism that deserves a story of its own.

Another new concept which being planned is historical tourism. To be centred around the WWII famous Turnbull strip, it is the brainchild of Mathilda Pilacapio. At the Masurina Lodge during a family night, Dave Lornie and I heard a Kerema man sing John Denver’s Country Road that made us momentarily forget we were in Alotau. It’s karaoke Milne Bay style; you sing to a live band.

At Warren Dipole’s Ulumani Treetops Lodge in Waga Waga, we not only got hot water and a million-dollar view of the bay, but Dave received a visitor in the night — a stink bug who harassed him because instead of sleeping in bed, he was out on the floor in the veranda.

Clean pillows, towel, white sheet and shower, toilets with running water.

Then Warren took us to Samarai in his 72-horsepower launch, hugging the shoreline so we saw dozens of villages — very peaceful, laid back and children running down to the beach to greet us. We cut straight across to Alotau from Samarai and the bay was dotted by fishermen in flimsy canoes. They did not seem to mind the rising wind and the squall that stood like a shower curtain in the east.

At the Alotau town market, you soon forgot the bay because all the fish would be there, nicely smoked. You could almost eat them straightaway away. There was plenty of food, the prices affordable and the chatter of the women at the stalls made you think what a stranger in town you really must be.

March 30, 2006

Papua New Guinea Post-Courier: www.postcourier.com.pg/

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