WE are in Australien,
but head up to Papau New Guinea. Both to extend our visa, but also
because we are now fairly close.
19/5 OUT OF CIVILIZATION.
Quiet start in the morning. We have to be out at the airport at 9.40, so we don't have the time to do anything completely wild. However, I just check the 700 meter walkway that runs the other way in the mangrove outside the airport.
Here are some small birds and an incredible amount of large snails. At the far end are some loud click sounds, a little a'la click with the tongue. The vegetation is dense and I can't see anything or anyone. Getting a minor shock as an ibis takes off, right in front of me. I think the sound comes from big crabs, but doesn't get it confirmed. I hurry back before the mosquitoes dry me completely.
As expected, there is no information available to
us at the airport, only our tickets. We do not know who will pick us
up at the airport, or what hotel we paid for.
Cairns has a small, almost cute, international airport. Fortunately, the plane is a bit delayed, so we can get morning coffee. I usually read a lot about the country I go to. This time I'm completely blank. We discuss what colour people have. Rikke gets it right, they look like Africans and not like Thais. Whether that is the name of the country, I do not know. It's called Papua New Guinea, and everywhere it is referred to as PNG. There are 5,500,000 people, of whom 350,000 live in the capital Port Moresby. Here is an unemployment rate of 60, but people do not seem poor or malnourished.
Flying to Port Moresby takes only an hour and twenty minutes. We relax, we eat, we land. On our way out of Australian territory, we come across some stunningly beautiful coral islands. Blue sea in various shades, white sand and deep-green vegetation. We fly with Air Niugini (beat that Danny!)
We need a visa, but this is done quickly in the passport control, so they just have to have 50 china. Uhh ... China? It is the local currency, which is divided into 100 toea [toja]. A china is probably worth 2.50 kroner. I can withdraw on Visa card in the departure hall. Here they sell china for 0.3 UD $ and buy them for 0.2 UD $, which is a good business then. I pay 25 kroner to be allowed to raise 200 china, and guaranteed 30 kroner more, when they are drawn on my account.
The airport is only three years old, and
really nice. It is one of the many gifts from Japan.
The hotel is not far away, and they are waiting for us. The concierge has a nice uniform and one shoe. The same with one of the security guards, standing in the lobby. The hotel itself and our room are really nice, about four stars like Hotel Prinsen.
We throw the backpack in the room and book a taxi to go into town and find a tour organizer. There is one at the hotel but it is closed. A piccolo takes the minibus to the airport to pick up the taxi. Drivers ask, if we want to direct or bow to the city. We say direct, and drive out to the airport! From here we follow the signs for Town. We are put off by some bulky oil barrels in a dirty place. Here seemed very desolate, but it is Sunday.
Here are new, nice high-rise buildings - but only eight in total. Between them are buildings that are otherwise only seen in Palestine. We can find no tour operator, no café, photo shop or anything else (except three banks) that resembles a big city.
We walk around the square, we walk around the blocks, and it still looks like nothing. No kiosk or supermarkets. Some street vendors sell home-rolled cigarettes (rolled in newspapers and some packets). Others sell some quirky fruits that look like small lime fruits. It's bitter-nuts. Together with a leaf and lime powder, they are a bad habit. When children are five, they begin to chew bitter-nuts and spit out the blood-like sauce. People are addicted and get sick, if they don't get nuts. On the other hand, you can't tell, if they use the nuts.
A couple of years ago they tried to stop it, but half of parliaments also used. There is no doubt who is chewing. They have dark brown teeth and red lips. The shells from the nuts are everywhere, and the red sauce sits above everything on planks, walls and sidewalks.
We walk down to the beach where there are many people. There are several volleyball matches in progress and people are enjoying the Sunday. We give up finding something open (or closed for that matter) and decide to take a bus home. It turns out, the taxi does not cost 75 kroner, only 25. After all, that's how it is every time. The bus only costs a tenth and not only are they comfortable, they also run every minute or two. When there is no more seating, no more can come!
We ask about which bus to go with, and people
are incredibly helpful. Some ask unsolicited if we are OK. The bus
comes and we drive in a big arc back to the hotel.
Dinner in the restaurant along with ten white businessmen, mostly Australians. From World War II to 1976, PNG was actually an Australian colony. Previously it was German and English. The evening in front of the television, which has the usual satellite channels.
20/5 BUSES WITH FEATHERS.
After a delicious breakfast, I head down to the Budget Car's office to get a city map. The hotel had not, but referred. They don't have one here either, but I'm allowed to look in their guide. It's good enough, we were really in the centre of the capital yesterday.
The hotel tour desk is still closed (should be open now) so we have to improvise. We get out of the hotel and jump on any bus. The vast majority of cars look like Morten has driven them: there are very few windshields! There are also no old cars here, the oldest ones are 10 years old, before there have probably been no cars here at all.
The woman next to me, and many other women we see, are tattooed on the face and arms. Patterns on the face and letters on the arms. People wear reasonably nice clothes, many in really powerful colours. The cars have Australian license plates where the state is just PNG. All signs are in English, but it is also smart in a country with 800 languages. Their stamps are with the English Queen.
We drive through incredibly fertile suburbs.
Their fields are very small, and are located on very steep slopes,
right up to the top.
Although unemployment is so high, everyone
seems to have little money. We see two beggars, but they are totally
passive and do not look malnourished. Their dogs, on the other hand,
We take bus ten to the centre, it is Monday, maybe a little more happens. We find a few scary "Malls" where you can buy radios, TVs, home appliances and the like. There is even a Swedish and a Norwegian consulate. We simply can't figure out, what roars to commit to end up here. There are many businesses that are NOT here. There is not even a souvenir shop!
We jump on the kidney, which (like so many
other buses) is decorated with fresh leaves and feathers. It makes
me think; I haven't seen a single bird or animal yet.
While Rikke takes a well deserved shower, the
phone rings. It's the travel man. He was in the toilet, but is now
back in the office. We walk down to him and end up buying a tailor
made trip for 800 kroner. Damn expensive, but there aren't many
alternatives and it sounds exciting.
21/5 THE SPIDER MAKES WHEELS IN THE TREES.
We are awakened at seven, so there is time for shower and breakfast before driving. We are picked up in a new minibus by two very cute middle aged guys, who speak excellent English.
They talk about what we are passing by. There are unemployed people standing along the road selling firewood. Most cook over live fire, so there is good sales.
We drive out through some steep hills, with
fields and scattered trees. It is red clay soil, and black rock
gravel from volcanoes. In many places, some large black and round
stones lie on the red earth.
We stop at the viewing point of a waterfall and some hydropower plants. There are still scattered clouds between the mountains and here is stunningly beautiful. Everything is green and there are many flowers. We drive on a single track asphalt road, and you have to blow the horn before the hairpin turns.
Many of the trees are old acquaintances from Australia. Here are the eucalyptus, banksias, cycads and ginger. We come to Varinata National Park, located on some mountain peaks at a height of 800 meters. Just inside the entrance, we see a bird of paradise in a brief glimpse. It is the national bird that is on everything. I also see a wallaby, and a white-headed eagle sits close to the road.
We drive up to a viewpoint where the lower lying clouds remove some of the joy. A yellow-tailed cockatoo screeches noisy, and I sneak around for exciting things. Finds some thorny tubers on a tree. It is a form of ant-plant. The first ones I see are like chicken eggs, and then I spot one, the size of a football.
In a few minutes, the clouds disappear and the
valleys reveal themselves. Here is just wonderfully beautiful! Far
down one can glimpse Port Moresby, otherwise there is only nature.
We get to a large area that looks sweept. There is not a twig or leaf on the ground. It looks pretty odd, until you see the huge pile of bushes that the bush turkey has collected. It is one meter high and about five in diameter. Gods knows if it wasn't easier to hatch after all?
There are many spiders. Some are hand-sized
and sit in perfect wheel spins that are over a meter. Others make
big cubic nets and then there are some beautiful blue hunting
It is time for lunch and we drive in to TFC
(tasty fried chicken). They have not heard of vegetables.
Here is a very large orchid garden. Countless
orchids stand on an open plate and flowers cheerfully. They also
sell orchids. They stand in a completely empty thread-herb pot with
long roots protruding.
We say thank you for the trip, and get into the pizzeria and have a cup of coffee, until it is time to drive to the airport. Here we spend the last china on a pair of paradise bird earrings and a little snack. There is a souvenir shop at the airport. It is also the one that sells duty-free, and the airport mark for DKK 75 that we must have.
We are flying with an older Fokker 28, and
since we are all here anyway, we facilitate long before planned.
Relax, eat and land. Again, we are being interviewed in immigration.
Gets through, and out to the car, which is fortunately untouched. We
roll into Cairns and find our old campsite. I write a diary for the
last three days, until the eyes will no stay open anymore.