The drive from Jayapura to PNG was 1.5 hours long and cost an outrageous 500000Rp (each way).
It was not a good day..
The drive to the border was uneventful. It went along the coast for a bit before veering off inland. I got to the border and was told that they could not stamp me out of the country here and that I had to go back to Jayapura. Of course I was just in Jayapura and had gone to the Immigrasi to get that stamp and they refused. They had told me the only way to get a stamp was at the border. Silly me for thinking they knew how to do their job. Golden Rule in Asia: Never assume anyone knows what they are talking about. They often make it up.
So I had to drive all the way back to Jayapura demand forcefully and angrily to get a stamp. And then back to the border wasting 3.5 hours and 1 million Rp. (roughly $120). As a result i missed the flight I wanted (thankfully I hadnt paid for it), and had to wait in Vanimo for 2 days. This in turn meant my plans to
go on the Sepik River were done as I no longer had time. All because of one idiotic immigration officer. Apparently this happens alot.
I got to the border and was waved through. They didnt even check my passport this time. The car dropped me off at the border line (no cars can pass through - just pedestrians). The customs office was a little building. It wouldve been easy to sneak by immigration especially if you look local. They aren't vigilant.
I waited for a bit for the PMV (public motor vehicle - the PNG equivalent of a bus & taxi). These vehicles are usually vans but pickups and full size trucks and dump trucks are common too. The road wound along the coast past beautiful and pristine beaches, past small homes and villages with people washing in the creeks. Eventually we got to Vanimo which is a tiny border/port town. New Guineans thronged everywhere in the streets. So many are unemployed in PNG and they just stand/sit around in towns idly.
I tried to go to the boat office and the Air Nuguini office but both were closed at 4pm. Everything closes early here.
A man approached me
and I asked for a cheap guesthouse so he took me up the hill to an unmarked church guesthouse called CBC.
A simple church guesthouse with hot water and a kitchen. In it there was a Nigerian man married to a Philipino woman who travels extensively in indonesia and PNG. Almost everything was closed and there is no restaurant in town so I was escorted down to a little shack selling a few things. I bought a can of curry chicken for the price of a very good expensive meal in indonesia.
I went back and cooked the chicken and the Nigerian gave me some rice. Shortly after I went to bed.
I woke up the next day and went to an atm to get some money. I got into my account and selected to withdraw 1000 kina ($450) but money did not come out. My balance showed the money was taken. A security guard saw it and directed me into the bank. i was asked to file a dispute paper. I needed to get my account number and needed to buy a flight so went out to do this. The airlines internet was done (for 4 months) so could
not use credit card but fortunately i had enough cash. I went back to my penthouse to get cash and to find my account. Realizing i did not have my account number on me i went in search of internet. After about 2 hours walking around i found the only place that had internet: at a hotel. They were kind to help me but it was very slow. It took another 2 hours to get onto my banks website. I saw that the money was put back into my account. Good news but spent almost a whole day on it.
I decided to spend the rest of my time exploring around the headland of Vanimo. Vanimo is situated on a peninsula with the airport across the base of the peninsula and the town just further out. There is a hill with a number of homes dotting around the coast (and a prison). I walked around on the beach. I came across some children playing what looked to be a version of cricket. They just had some wooden ball and a big branch. There were about 20 children playing. I wandered further when I was approached by a man who
kept telling me how he was a musician and was trying to get a recording deal. It was as if he thought I'd be able to get that for him. After assuring him many times that I could not help him, I wandered off again for a while. The beach was quite lovely and devoid of garbage that is typical in Indonesia. I wandered through some basic shack homes on stilts (everything on the coast has stilts) until I reached all the way around and hit the shipping port on the other side of town. The people and children along the way would gasp and stare, but otherwise would ignore me. I walked along the port and got accosted by a drunk man trying to slur things to me. His friend reigned him in and I walked past, through some large crowds that were milling around (people in PNG are always milling around with nothing to do). Eventually I got back into town, bought some food and went back to the guesthouse for the night.
The next morning I got up and headed to the airport to catch the flight to Wewak on Air Nuguini, PNG's national airline. The airport
was basic and my bags were glanced at but not much security. The plane was respectably late but then we were off.
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