Fun things to do in Papua New Guinea

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    Get a job in Papua New Guinea – Instructions!

    by wabat Updated Mar 11, 2014

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    Perhaps not 'a thing to do' for the average visitor but it fits in this section as much as any other.

    Herein is the process (pretty unbelievable but true) I followed to secure a job in Papua New Guinea (you will need one to pay for any extended travel here!) – a step by step guide which may or may not work for you.

    Why Papua New Guinea?

    As I indicated in my introductory page I lived in Papua New Guinea (PNG) from 1989 to 1991. So why did someone, at the time, living in Belfast, Northern Ireland decide to go to the other end of the world to live (and work)? Well it’s a bit of a story so grab yourself a drink, relax and let me tell you.

    In September 1988, after three years apprenticeship and lots of exams I and about 12 others (the full 1985 intake) qualified as Chartered Accountants with a leading firm of accountants in Belfast. Within months all but one or two of us decided that we wanted to go overseas – put it down to the wanderlust of the Irish as opposed to a particular desire to get out of Belfast, unpleasant though living there was at times in the late 1980s.

    My colleagues determined to go to New York, Hong Kong, Sydney, Paris and the like. Never being one to follow the crowd, I opened an atlas and searched for the most obscure and out of the way place I could find. If I was going to go somewhere I wanted something different, something very different. I came across Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea. I knew absolutely nothing of the place but decided there and then it was the place for me. After fairly extensive research at the local library and the Papua New Guinea High Commission in London which confirmed the accuracy of my earlier decision – the internet didn’t exist in those days – I summoned up the courage to ring the London based international recruitment/transfer partner of the firm I worked for and asked for a transfer to Port Moresby (where I knew the firm had an office).

    I assumed he had never heard of Port Moresby when he offered to consider me for Nairobi, Johannesburg and various other parts of Africa which were then fashionable for those not interested in the mainstream places chosen by my colleagues. Fearing that the gentleman hadn’t heard me correctly, I repeated my desire to go to Port Moresby. He now responded by asking me for a second preference lest Port Moresby not be available. I responded that my second choice was to remain in Belfast.

    I imagine he assumed I was totally mad but rather than hanging up the phone he said that he was coming over to Dublin the following week and that he needed to see me. I agreed that this was indeed appropriate and a meeting was arranged in the Shelburne Hotel in Dublin for the following week.

    The meeting in Dublin

    We meet at the appointed mid afternoon hour and having secured suitable alcoholic beverages settled in for a chat. We chatted, drank, chatted, drank and so it went on. Our chat rarely touched on Papua New Guinea, much less my suitability for a role there. After what was probably a couple of hours, by which stage we were both reasonably well lubricated, the partner whipped out a camera and inquired if he could take a photo of me.

    I raised no objection to this odd request but did inquire at to whether or not there were any vacant positions in Port Moresby and if there were could I be considered/interviewed for the same.

    It was at this stage he informed me that about a month earlier he had, in fact, been in Port Moresby (so he did know where it was!) and that there was a vacant position. In regards to the second part of my inquiry he indicated that I had been considered and that the prior two hours could be construed as an interview if I wished to call it such.

    Pulling myself together and sitting up from the rather informal slouched state I had assumed by this stage, I ventured to ask when would I hear the outcome. He promptly told me I had the job and must start as soon as a plane ticket could be acquired – the work permit could wait until I got to Port Moresby.

    I asked him if it would not be a good idea if he were to send my curriculum vitae, etc to Port Moresby and discuss my suitability with the partner in charge of that office.

    He indicated that this would not be necessary, his exact words which I remember to this day being – “don’t worry they will take anybody in Port Moresby”.

    By the way I have no idea what he did with the photo he took of me. I do know, from subsequent inquiries, that it never made its way to Port Moresby which I understand was its intended destination. Clearly more important that they knew what I looked like than whether or not I had any accounting ability.

    It was early December at this stage and as he had been so decisive so I thought I would be too. I let him know that I would not be starting immediately (I was inwardly soiling my pants at this stage but didn’t tell him so) but would do so by the end of January – I needed time. He didn’t have to think long about this and immediately indicated that that would be fine. Clearly not only would they take anyone in Port Moresby but they would take them on any conditions. Obviously they were desperate!

    So it was that I secured employment in Port Moresby.

    By way of tip for readers with aspirations of securing employment in Port Moresby I suspect things have changed little since 1988, so all you need to do is ask and “don’t worry they will take anybody in Port Moresby”.

    Getting ready to go

    En route back to Belfast that night (I took the train) I panicked – what had I let myself in for?

    There was actually very little communication with London or Port Moresby over the next seven weeks during which time I accepted that I couldn’t get out of going, final employment details were settled, an air ticket was acquired and my permitted one cubic metre of earthly goods were packed and delivered for airfreighting to Port Moresby.

    One final formality was required and that was the work ‘going away’ party. The attached photo is of the cake – very fitting and proof that someone in Belfast knew something about Papua New Guinea, though not everyone did. One member of staff wishing to exhibit her superior knowledge of geography inquired of me thus – ‘Isn’t Papua New Guinea just south of the Canaries’?

    I smiled and said, “Yes darling*, I do believe it is”.

    *This was not a politically incorrect term in 1988 and was a term of endearment commonly used in Belfast at the time.

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    Dive the Reefs and Walls

    by jadedmuse Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    Walindi Plantation provided the dive boats, dive tanks, and the most experienced (and personable) dive masters. We were never pandered to or patronized, and the dive masters always consulted us on our likes/dislikes - so as to get a good feel for where we'd like to spend our time diving.

    We all had dive computers but the dive masters still accompanied us on our dives - we were basically let "loose" to do our own thing out on the reefs and walls...if that is how we wanted it.

    This was the best dive experience ever - and I've been scuba diving in a lot of places!

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    The kokoda trail..

    by KoanSeeker Written Jan 12, 2009

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    The Kokoda Trail is a 96 kilometre hike through the Owen Stanley Range in Papua New Guinea. It stands as a legacy to the Australian diggers who surpassed the Japanese forces here during World War II and prevented an invasion into Australia.

    In 2005 i was lucky enough to have the opportunity to hike the kokoda trail in papa new guinea...and it was one of the most profoundly challenging yet rewarding experiences in my so far short life. The hike is approximately 96 kilometers (thats 59.65 miles) through some of the most brutal, isolated terrain youll come across. Mountains so high they reach deep into the clouds and mud so thick youll loose your shoes...yet there is something so seemly rewarding about walking in the footsteps of such heros.

    The 12day hike usually starts in kokoda, ending in Owers Corner, however the track can be walked from either direction. Weather usually consists of extreamly hot days, cold nights and the occasional downpoor of rain. April to September is considered the 'dry' season, therefore it is best to travel between this period to avoid excess unessesary pain :)

    If you take the trail late August you might be lucky enought to witness the Kokoda Challenge Race...an endurance running race that requires individuals to run the entire 96km trail. The current record is held by Brendan Buka with a time of 16hrs 34mins and 5secs.

    I travelled with the Adventure Kokoda team and found them to be extreamly professional and reliable. They have porters who carry food and tents, whereas you are only required to carry your own belonging...clothes, sleeping bag, cutlery ect.. (my pac still weighted 17kg mind you). The porters are extreamly fun and happy people who provide an excellent insight into the PNG culture.

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    Harbour in a Volcano

    by Bwana_Brown Updated Jan 12, 2008

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    I always enjoyed flying into Rabaul on New Britain Island. Its harbour is in a volcano that has partially collapsed into the sea, with multiple cones visible around its edges. In Sept. 1994, another eruption partially buried the town such that its businesses and residents had to be relocated about 20 km distant to Kokopo. Eruptions are still occurring on and off even today. Photo of two of the volcano peaks surrounding the town, as seen on one of my trips to their local diesel station. Interestingly, even back then, when more electric power was required for the area, a new diesel station was built many kms distant in preparation for the fact that some day the volcano was going to blow again!

    I was amazed to still see relics of World War II in close proximity to the town. In the palm trees close to the airport were crashed Japanese bombers with the Rising Sun still visible on their wings. Also, around the harbour were caves with rail tracks leading into them so the Japanese ships could be hauled into cover from bombing raids. Some caves still contained the rusting relics (see my World War 2 Travelogue for more details).

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    Markham River valley

    by Bwana_Brown Updated Aug 6, 2007

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    Another area that I really enjoyed was heading up into the Highlands from Lae, on the other side of the mountains from Moresby. As one heads up the Markham River valley, the hillsides seem to be covered in a soft green velvet. The Highlands Highway was a quite good paved road that wound its way up into the centre of the country, even beyond Mt. Hagen. Not too far out of Lae, it branched off to the right for a poorer quality road to the resort town of Madang - this part requiring several river fords that required 4WD transportation. In my young and foolish days, I had to include in this photo the 66,000 volt transmission line that supplied the city of Lae from the hydro generation complex further inland and in the mountains, near Kainantu.

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    Explore the Island of Rabaul!

    by jadedmuse Written Dec 19, 2005

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    You can take half a day and explore the island by either renting a car, or hiring a guide (which is what we did). This was great for us because he not only offered us a native's point of view together with some real history of the island, but he knew some great places for photo opportunities and he also led us to some interesting spots along the shore where the Japanese hid artillery during WWII.

    As you can see, the hideout caves are quite small.

    I recommend hiring someone for a half day ride around the island - it's worth it!

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    Don't Miss Rabaul's Open Air Market

    by jadedmuse Written Dec 19, 2005

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    If you visit Rabaul, do NOT miss the chance to stroll along the famous open-air market where you'll find all kinds of lovely tropical fruits and vegetables, and an equally vibrant kaleidescope of native tropical attire worn by the locals.

    It is a real treat to see, smell and ultimately TASTE, while in Rabaul!

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    Dive the Harbor in Rabaul

    by jadedmuse Written Dec 19, 2005

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    Well, I don't have any photos of us diving the wrecks here, but we did a shore dive and explored a Mitsubishi bi-plane (some military expert will know what that means, to me it was just a sunken war plane!) which was at a depth of about 80 feet....

    The journey out there was half the fun as I recall.....bright BLUE starfish all over the ocean floor, with the water gradually getting deeper until we were finally able to submerge ourselves completely.....underneath the sea, life was teeming in and around the plane wreck. Clownfish were there to welcome us (well, more like defend their territory - if you know clownfish behavior) and it was really a pleasant dive...most memorable being those unbearably blue starfish...big and fat and all over the place!

    Another day had us diving in the harbor, deep down (a decompression dive to about 175 feet) to explore the bowels of a Japanese warship. We all brought along our underwater flashlights and were treated to a few unusual sights:
    1. Sake bottles that were waist-high
    2. A human mandible (lower jawbone)
    3. Some strange looking fish that resembled barracuda but I can't recall what they were....keeping us company as we hung out on the decompression bars before making our way back to the surface

    Yes, Rabaul has some TERRIFIC dives and these two are among my most memorable ones.

    Don't miss the chance to dive here, if you're certified.

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    Take Time to RELAX!

    by jadedmuse Written Dec 19, 2005

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    With so many great activities to choose from, it's easy to lose sight of why we go on vacation in the first place....to RELAX and ENJOY!

    On that note, I have to point out that you can't help but appreciate the beautiful sunsets provided courtesy of Walindi Plantation in Kimbe Bay.....

    Sometimes we'd be really tired from the day's dives....but we'd rouse ourselves around sunset time so that we could sit and enjoy the evening breeze while watching the sun set on this mysterious part of the world -it really made the stay here special!

    Don't forget to look for the sunsets, wherever you are...

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    Play Some New Games!

    by jadedmuse Written Dec 19, 2005

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    One of the greatest things I love about traveling to far away places is that I always meet interesting - and fun - people.

    This was definitely the case with our stay at Walindi Plantation in Kimbe Bay.

    Even if we didn't see some of the other guests during the day, we'd all usually convene at night in the "social hall" or next to it at the pool. After a few Special Export lagers (award winning PNG beer) or a couple of glasses of wine, everyone was usually ready to play "group games".

    Some were especially memorable...but I won't go into the sordid details.

    This photo is a small glimpse into some of the fun we had during these evenings together.....

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    Appreciate the Kimbe Locals!

    by jadedmuse Written Dec 19, 2005

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    On our excursion into town (in Kimbe), we passed by this young woman who was obviously pregnant, balancing both a child AND a heavy bucket of bottles on top of her head - and doing it all with an easy smile.

    We just had to pull over and ask her for a photo...she graciously obliged.

    We then went one step further and asked her to set the bucket down so that my friend and I could try placing it on our heads.

    I couldn't get the bucket off the ground.

    Amazing.

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    Explore Some Above Sea-Level Wrecks

    by jadedmuse Written Dec 19, 2005

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    Since the island of New Britain was the reluctant host to Japanese military fleets during WWII, you can expect to run across the errant war plane wreckage - always an incongruous sight amidst the lush, tropical vegetation and warm sunshine.

    We chose to spend most of our time here UNDER water, but we did hitch a ride with one of the staff members who was driving into Hoskins (nearby town) for supplies. We pulled over to snap some photos of a few such plane wreckages although I can't seem to find the evidence now; instead, I'm enclosing a photo of the kind of view we were treated to as we sat in the back of the flatbed truck (by choice)...feeling the wind rush against our faces and smelling the briney sea air....it was maybe even more relaxing than the dives themselves!

    For this reason, I would recommend taking a "Bush Walk" and exploring some of the sights above sea level. You'll be sure to bump into colorful locals and see some interesting things along the way.....

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    Enter a "Haus Tambaran" (Spirit House)

    by jadedmuse Written Dec 19, 2005

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    I found this by far to be the most fascinating aspect of our trip down the Sepik River: entering the forbidden Spirit House or "Haus Tambaran" as the villagers call it.

    Each village has one, and basically it is the focal point of the male tribesmen...it is where they gather every day and where many of them sleep.

    It involves an important right of passage for the young male who, when he is ready to enter adulthood, enters the Haus Tambaran and doesn't come out until he's become "a man".

    This is the time when the boys' backs and arms are cut up and dirt packed into the skin to raise it during the healing process so that it scars...the marks are carefully carved (by an elder) to resemble the crocodile's leathery back. It is a tradition that celebrates the boy becoming a man.

    To symbolize this rebirth process, the boy climbs a staircase leading to an upper level within the Spirit House. At the top looms a huge wooden carving of a woman with her legs spread - so that as the boy reaches the top floor, he passes through the spread legs and thus is "reborn" a man.

    Women are not permitted to enter this sacred Spirit House - but they allowed us to take a peek inside and it was completely fascinating.

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    Search for Crocs Along the Sepik River

    by jadedmuse Written Dec 19, 2005

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    The crocodile is an omnipresent and fiercely symbolic force in the life of a Sepik villager.

    I didn't really hear any stories of crocodile aggression, so I'm not surprised if the humans and the animals here struck a kind of detente between themselves.

    In any event, I recall one evening's activity just after the sun set and it became dark out - we boarded the river trucks and sliced our way down one of the Sepik tributaries, searching for crocodiles.

    Our guide pointed them out by noting how they rest just below the surface of the water so that when you shine a light across, all you see are pairs of red eyes glowing above the surface....really spooky.

    ~ shiver ~

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    Middle Sepik and Blackwater Villages

    by jadedmuse Written Dec 19, 2005

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    The primary activity aboard the Sepik Spirit was to visit the villages in this region.

    Similar to the Arambak/Karawari excursions, we boarded "River Trucks" (flatbed boats with outboard motor) to get around the river.

    The villagers were friendly and most of them went about their daily activities, nonplussed by our visit and not at all embarassed or affected by our presence.

    Some were curious and took the lead to show us their crafts or to attempt to engage us in a dialogue - but for the most part, comunication was limited, especially if our guide was busy translating for someone else.

    The visits offered a rare glimpse into a rich culture...one that is seldom visited and all the more fascinating because of this.

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