It saddens me to see these types of travel advisories from tourists who are obviously too limited in their travel experiences to safely and enjoyably navigate Papua New Guinea. I've returned 4 out of the past 5 years for up to 4 months at a time and PNG is by far the most spectacular travel destination in the world for confident, rugged, seasoned, impassioned and determined travelers. I stay with Huli friends in their home near 5 mile in POM for a week or so before and after I embark on my jungle expeditions and i've never had a single stressful or worrisome encounter with anyone in the city. I've even spent a night in the Candlelight city of Erema drinking SP and throwing darts till the wee hours of the morning and walked home with a group of new friends. I shop at Gordon's and walk Ela beach consistently. My advise to you is to shake hands, be polite, maintain confidence, make friends, chew lots of buai, learn Pidgin and you'll be fine. Of course, the real beauty of PNG lies in the pristine jungles. By far the most hospitable, genuine, happy, generous and lovely people I've ever met are the individuals of traditional villages. Of course, it takes a bit of work and knowhow to get there, but once in, you will be in a whole different world--one that has excluded any other travel distination for me. PNG is it, and i'll be back for 4 months this winter guiding trips to other kick-ass travelers--I choose my clients becuase I offer my services for free as a means to give back and combat the frightful resourse extraction that is currently taking place.
The 'betal' nut of the areca palm tree contains a mild, central nervous system stimulant called arecoline. In PNG, it was common practise for the locals to chew the nut on its own or with a pastey mixture of tobacco, lime and a betel-climber leaf ( a vine which is usually found growing with the areca palm tree). Usually only one "chew" is prepared at a time and, sometimes, in order to prolong the chew, tobacco is added.
This mixture creates a red stain which colours the mouth of the chewer as well as any spot where 'spit' is projected. This is a major reason why it is a good idea to always use footwear in PNG. No matter where you are, the sidewalks will be covered by these red splotches of betal-nut juice! Continuation of this practice (which seems to be habit forming) turns the teeth black. Maybe the use of Betal nuts was a self-defense mechanism in the times before pain-killers were available? That being said, I can also remember one of my grandfathers and his use of chewing tobacco. With his habit of spitting it out the driver-side window while at speed, it was not a good idea to be sitting behind him with your window also down in the summertime!
Enlarge the photo and you will see (check out the bottom of the tree trunk) the red stream of what the young lady is depositing on the sidewalk. This photo was actually taken during a working trip to Rabaul on New Britain Island. However, this is common practise throughout the country, including Port Moresby.
One of the trees growing outside our house was an 8-m (25-ft) Octopus tree (schefflera actinophylla), a native of Australia. With its big green leaves and red-blossoms at the top, it made for quite a decorative tree. However, it also served as a perch for one of the early-rising birds in Papua New Guinea, the Helmeted Friar Bird (also known as a Leatherhead). This is a type of large Honeyeater that specializes in eucalyptus blossoms and a few insects. It is rather drab in appearance and has a bare head of dark skin (somewhat like a vulture) from whence it gets it's name. However, it has one of the strangest and loudest bird calls that I have ever heard. My PNG bird book says it has a 'loud, rollocking, coarsely whistled voice' and often a pair will perform duets! If it was not that waking us up in the early morning hours, it would be a colourful flock of Rainbow Lorikeets all perched in another of our trees! We were caught between a rock and a hard place because, with the heat and humidity, in the absence of air conditioning we were forced to sleep with our louvered bedroom windows open and the ceiling fan blasting away to catch a few cooling breezes. Any outside sounds had no trouble bringing us upright!
A month or two after we arrived in PNG, we got ourselves a smallish part-German Shepherd (Alsatian) dog that a departing resident had put up for adoption in the newspaper. 'Muppy', as she was called, seemed a bit skittish of humans, as if she had experienced some bad situations. It took quite some time for her to become used to even we who were feeding her.
Port Moresby could be unsafe, more so at night under the right circumstances, because of the great difference in wealth between the expatriate workers and the local villagers who constantly moved to the city seeking a different life. As a result, Elcom had its own huge housing complex in Hohola with the entire place surrounded by a barbed wire-topped fence. We were not housed there, instead being placed not too far away in one of five Elcom houses in a row along one side of a street. Each of these houses was individually fenced off, and I would lock our gates at night. In addition to the National Police, Elcom had its own security service which patrolled around its houses during the hours of darkness.
Muppy seemed to like being outside, so she made a good 'early-warning' system in the event of unexpected guests. She was not a vicious dog but she could make some noise! One advantage of a fenced-in yard is that it allowed Muppy free rein of the whole place. This view from our front balcony shows her waiting by the gate as the girls return home. In the end, we never did have a break-in or robbery during our 3 years here.