Just on the outskirts of Port Moresby, as you head inland for the mountains behind the city, is the Moitaka Wildlife Farm. This facility carries out research on crocodiles and also has on display a few other animals and birds native to PNG.
Once per week, the crocs in this little pond are fed a meal of chickens. It was quite a tourist attraction, so we decided to check it out one weekend. Here, our two oldest girls are taking a stroll down to the feeding platform as the show is about to begin.
One other thing I remember about Moitaka is that Elcom had a 25 MW combustion turbine generator located near here. With the on-going drought affecting hydro production, power supply for the city was heavily dependent on this machine. One night, after the lights suddenly went out, I headed for Moitaka to see what was wrong. It turned out to be a transmission line fault here caused by a large Python snake that had crawled up a typical steel lattice-type tower and got itself electrocuted when it tried to get across the insulators. I found it lying on the ground beneath the tower - I never would have guessed that snakes would want to crawl up a 60-foot tower!
For our final New Year's Eve (bringing in 1982) in Papua New Guinea, we headed out to sea with our Australian friends in their 26-ft. schooner. This time, we went to Local Island not too far from Port Moresby. It had quite a nice sandy beach that beckoned quite a few people out on day-trips.
We were joined there by some other friends and, since we planned to stay overnight, just lashed the two boats together for one big party! A day in the sun and water with a few cold beers and then we watched the sun go down! Our two eldest daughters were in Malawi, Africa visiting relatives over the Christmas holidays, so we only had to tend to our 18-month old Papua New Guinea-born daughter!
It was an idyllic way to bring in a brand new year!
The original Port Moresbians, the Motu people lived in houses on stilts above the water. As you drive along the coasts, you will see suburbs like these. This one is farly modern and well maintained. Some are no-go zones for strangers and tourists.
This is in the heart of the city centre where banks and financial institutions are based. Although its the CBD, the atmosphere still has a country town feel about it with lots of locals loitering and sitting idly along the footpaths. The South Pacific Bank is quite eye-catching. Next to it is the Deloitte Tower which houses multinational companies in PNG's.
Go to Waigani suburbs where all the government office buildings are. At the centre is the PNG Parliament House. It's described as the best PNG architecture. Built in the mid-1970's the architecture is undeniably modern but with a local twist. The facade has the finest example of PNG artwork. This is Port Moresby's iconic symbol.
This is a wonderful place to enjoy the view of the harbour while having a few beers with mates and watching cricket or footy. It's often patronised by expats that sometimes you forget you're in PNG. It's very civilised at the Yacht Club. Great food and stay for the suset views against row upon row of expensive yachts.
We were not the only ones enjoying our perch above the waterfront. The locals turned out in great numbers as well and a few of them were up there with us for the view.
Port Moresby was a magnet for people from all over the country. However, because of the several hundred tribal languages spoken in various isolated communities, they needed a common 'lingua franca' so they could communicate with each other. This language was the very ingenious 'pidgin' English, which actually makes some sense if you use it long enough. A few examples:
How much does that cost?
Em i kostim hamas?
(Him he cost how much?)
When will the plane arrive?
Wataim bai balus i kam?
(What time by airplane he come?)
Where are you from?
Yu bilong wanem ples?
(You belong what name place?)
A real favourite of ours was Crystal Rapids on the Laloki River. Once again, this was up in the mountains of the 800-m high Sogeri Plateau in a nicely wooded area of rain forest.
The water was clear and cool and flowed over a series of very nice rapids, including this one which had a deep pool at the foot of the waterfall. Everyone had a great time jumping off and then clambering back up for another go. This park was set up with picnic areas so it was a very pleasant way to pass a Sunday afternoon before descending back down to the heat of the coastal plain.
Our middle daughter is in the air and the eldest is about to join her!
Being from the Maritime Provinces of Canada, I have always liked looking around harbours. Port Moresby was no exception, so we paid a visit one day to view two unusual vessels anchored there.
The 22,300-ton 'Fedor Shalyapin' was a Russian cruiseship touring the South Pacific, with its next scheduled stop in Sydney, Australia. She actually began life in 1955 when she made her maiden voyage from Scotland as the Cunard liner 'Ivernia'. When Cunard cut back on the cruise business, she was sold to the Russians in 1973. After a long and illustrious career, this old lady finally came to rest in Ukraine where she languished dock-side for a few years before being broken up for scrap in 2004.
In the foreground of the photo is a famous Tall Ship, the 150-ton 'Eye of the Wind', with her bowsprit sticking out toward the right side. This topsail schooner was originally built in Germany in 1911 as the 'Friedrich' and she has been around the world a few times since then. The 'Eye of the Wind' has also featured in the movies 'Blue Lagoon', 'Savage Islands' and 'The Bounty'. Little did I know that I would run into her over 20 years later at the Halifax, Canada Year 2000 Tall Ships regatta! Completely refitted in 2001, this vessel can accommodate 30 passengers.
These Estuarine Crocodiles are now threatened world-wide, surviving in only a few places like PNG, Australia, India and Southeast Asia. They normally inhabit the coastal waters in river mouths and mangrove swamps but they can also survive further up rivers in fresh water.
Males can grow to about 7-m (22-ft) in length but 4-m is a more common size. As they grow in size, their diet can change as well, from small fish and snakes to barramundi, sharks and even livestock and humans if the opportunity should arise!
Once the keepers of the wildlife farm began tossing out the chickens for feasting, the crocs went wild trying to claim their piece of the action! Note the dry eucalyptus type forest in the background, typical of the Port Moresby area.
Well, we made it! Three years after arriving in Papua New Guinea, we were all bare-foot but ready to head back to Canada. This time we had a new member of our family with us, Carolyn, born in Port Moresby 2 years earlier, in May, 1980. She has never forgiven us for travelling to all these places when she was too young to remember!
Although Elcom asked me to extend my contract for a few more years, we had decided it was time to head north again. My wife's family in England and mine in eastern Canada were just too far away on the other side of the world. In addition, our oldest daughter had reached the end of the school system in Port Moresby and would have to be sent away to boarding school if we stayed. The oldest girls are wearing their Malawi 'Warm Heart of Africa' T-shirts, which they received when they spent Christmas 1981 with friends in Malawi.
The Festival of Arts lasted 3 days, so we also had the chance to take in the major traditional dancing show that was put on at the Port Moresby fair grounds. This was packed with locals and expatriates alike and the quality of the dancing was excellent. We saw displays by groups of Aborigines, Cook Islanders, Tahitians, Manus Islanders off the north coast of PNG, Bougainvilleans and last but not least, this group from the North Solomon Islands. That island chain butts up against the southeastern border of PNG, and lies nextdoor to Bougainville Island.
After the fleet had landed and the canoes were drawn up on the shore, we descended for a walk along Ela Beach. It was quite interesting to see the many different types of South Pacific islanders who had turned up for the ceremonies.
This guy was getting ready to sample a coconut that he had with him in a traditional 'bilum' bag. These colourful bags are usually woven from wild tulip tree bark but can also be made from green banana leaves.
We were fortunate to be in Port Moresby in June, 1980 when the city hosted the 3rd South Pacific Festival of Arts. This was a major cultural show that drew participants from all over the South Pacific Ocean and Australia.
It kicked off with a huge armada of traditional canoes of all types sailing in to Ela Beach from the Coral Sea. We found ourselves a perch on Paga Point, a narrow strip of land that stuck out from the beach, so we could have a bird's eye view of the activities.
It was quite a sight to see the various colourful sails of the canoes and the many different types of boats.
The Botanical Gardens of Port Moresby are located on the large campus of the University of PNG. They were originally created in 1971 as a teaching aid for the university's Biology Department and also to act as a supply of various plants for decoration of the campus.
The Gardens were quite enjoyable when we visited, and they had even managed to create a mini-rain forest in this normally dry and dusty city! They had a good selection of trees, including various types of palms, bamboo, bougainvillea and even a large orchid garden.