Up to New Britain, PNGs

Our time in Papua New Guinea has been the apogee of our voyage. We have been awed by the warmth of the villagers throughout the country and the glory of the geography - active volcanoes spewing smoke and sulfur, anchorages inside ancient volcanic craters, water so pure that the colors are indescribable. We have been here for 4 ½ months and have cruised most of the off-lying islands. There are so many, and one could spend a lifetime here and never anchor in the same spot twice. But Papua New Guinea is not an easy place to navigate. The charts are few and most of them are not correct. There are many offshore reefs and shoals; one must keep a bow watch while near shore at all times; and many of the anchorages are over 100' deep.

Course Taken
We started in the Louisiades, a beautiful group of islands protected by a huge barrier reef system. We then went through DeBoyne Islands, Conflict and Engineer Group, D'Entrecasteaux Islands, Amphlett Group, Trobriand Islands, then up to New Britain, cruising the southern and northern coast, before spending three weeks at Walindi Dive Resort. Then to New Ireland, where we were welcomed by the locals in the New Hanover Group, and in Kavieng, where we enjoyed the hospitality and beauty of this small harbor town. Then briefly through the Admiralty Group, and we are now in the Hermit Islands.

Fan Clubs
There have been times when we thought of writing to you and saying "Hey, you want to feel like a movie star? A celebrity? Try this!" Often, when we go to a new anchorage and village, we are the center of attention. And as we become friendly and interact with the people whose world we have stepped into, we become quite popular. Sometimes this is simply because we take an interest in them and their village, sometimes it is because we have stuff that we give to them, or trade with them. But 99% of the time, it is simply mutual admiration and trust. I know that this interaction is not unique to this part of the world, that this feeling can be felt anywhere, but this is where we have come to learn about it.

Villages
It is hard to describe the remoteness and beauty of this untouched part of paradise. The people are still living a simple traditional village life with very little influence from the Dim-Dim (white man). The people really have very little, but they and their children are very happy, well-fed and healthy, with only occasional cases of malaria.

We have been so immersed in this region and the local life that often we forget how different it is from the life we left behind. Here there are no roads, cars, phones, computers, electrical power, televisions, radios, refrigerators, and stores. They use self-built traditional sailing canoes for transportation.
The people we met often have face tattoos and red teeth from chewing betel nut. Sometimes they wear clothes that are so full of holes you would not even use them for rags. They rarely have shoes, they cook over wood fires, and they get their water from streams or rivers or collect it from rooftops. They grow all their own food in their gardens and fish for their protein. They have very little cash, and little need for it. Usually their biggest expense is school fees for their kids. This they can earn from harvesting the sea cucumber to sell to the Chinese trading boats. Other products that they can sell are trocchus shells (for making buttons) and shark fins (for making shark fin soup).

Everyone's life is woven together. Relatives are neighbors and everyone, in your village and the next, or the next island over, who speaks your dialect (there are over 800 languages in Papua New Guinea), expects you to share everything with them, burdens as well as abundance. This is called the wontok system. We are always welcomed and are free to enjoy the children, hold the babies, enter their humble homes, speak to the grown-ups about school fees versus taxes, and if we are lucky, we sense what they need and do our best to fill that - malaria medicine, clothes, dive masks, cigarettes, rice and tea and sugar, fish hooks and line. We always have candy and balloons to hand out and bubbles to blow and share with the kids (and adults!), and the greatest invention of the last century - the digital camera - has given us a popularity that perhaps we do not deserve. They love having their pictures taken and then to see themselves instantly on the tiny screen. They usually bowl us over crowding in for a look. What fun!