Madang is Located HERE
Known as the 'prettiest town in the South Pacific', Madang is located along the reef-strewn shore of Astrolabe Bay on the north coast of Papua New Guinea. The clear waters of the Bismarck Sea combined with airplane and ship wrecks makes this area a popular diving attraction for tourists. In addition, the MV 'Melanesian Discoverer', a 42-passenger luxury catamaran is available for cruises to world renowned attractions along the coast in both directions. To the northwest, five-day cruises are available up the Sepik River to experience what life is like in this lush and isolated rain-forest area (the largest remaining one outside of the Amazon). Alternatively, week-long cruises to the southeast will take you to the Trobriand Islands (just visible at the bottom right corner of the map, below the 'n' of 'Solomon'), noted for their beauty and friendly inhabitants.
The map also shows that Madang is linked by road to the central part of the country. After crossing the Finisterre Mountain range behind the town, the road swings east once it reaches the Ramu River valley. It subsequently splits, with which way you go depending on whether you want to continue to Lae on the coastal flats, or swing west up into the Highlands as you head for Goroka and the interior.
This is about as close as I got to sight-seeing in Madang - standing on the harbourfront behind the local diesel power station! Still, it was a pleasant scene with one of the many small off-shore islands visible in the distance and a banana tree to keep me company.
With both a 66,000 volt transmission terminal delivering hydro power from the central mountain ranges and a diesel power station for back-up in case of transmission problems, I had lots of things to keep me busy in Madang. On this particular trip, I was putting the finishing touches on two very big 3,300 kW Toshiba diesel generators that had been installed. One of the final tests was to make sure that their speed governors (something like an automobile 'cruise control') could hold the desired 50 Hz speed when additional customer load came on the system. This was easy enough to do thanks to the large wood chip mill located in Madang. As they fed another huge log from the rain forest into their electric motor-driven mechanical chippers we could see the frequency start to drop but could also hear the diesel grunt as it bore down to produce more power! Looked like things were working OK.
The experience I had dealing with power system commissioning and operational problems during my early career in Canada came in very handy in Papua New Guinea. The techniques that I had learned and applied seemed to be in short supply in PNG, so they were soon put to good use as I tried to educate the Technicians who were working for me. Over the course of my first two years in the country a lot of problems were found and corrected.
Near the end of my 3-year contract job tour of duty, a consulting firm was brought in from overseas to assess the state of the power system and I ended up escorting them around the country showing them the present status. One of these consultants took this photo while we were in Madang, as a couple of the local guys at the diesel station asked me to help them out with a problem. In the end, the consultants gave us a clean bill of health, so I left PNG a happy man when I decided not to renew my contract a few months later! After all that travelling and humidity, maybe those Canadian winters were not so bad after all!
Madang - Papua New Guinea's "Resort"
Of all the many places in Papua New Guinea that I managed to visit during my 3-years in the country, Madang struck me as the closest thing to a traditional Western type of resort location. Along with its beautiful location along the north coast of the country (see my 'General Tips' for a map) the city also has quite a long history, by PNG standards.
Although there is evidence of early contact with Chinese and Korean traders, the first European sighting of the north coast of New Guinea was by a Spaniard in 1528. In fact, the island was named New Guinea in 1545 by another Spaniard, Inigo Ortiz de Retes, who followed along the coastline and thought that the inhabitants he saw resembled those from the Guinea coast of Africa. The 'modern' history of Madang began in 1871 when Nikolai Miklouho-Maclay, a Russian explorer, naturalist and ethnographer, landed there. He remained for 3-years, studying the physical characteristics and culture of the local tribes. In 1884, the German New Guinea Company arrived and began to plant extensive plantations of tobacco, cotton and coffee near Madang. Architectural remnants from the German period of occupation (1884-1915) are still evident in the town today.
The popularity of Madang with tourists remains even to this day, long after I was last there. With plenty of local culture to experience, abundant off-shore reefs and volcanic islands, combined with its proximity to the mighty Sepik River flowing out of the mysterious heartland of Papua New Guinea, there is no shortage of things to enjoy.
My wife made a visit here with one of her lady friends from Port Moresby while I had to 'rough it' with 3-4 business trips! If you plan to head to mainland PNG in the near future, this could be a good bet!