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Published: April 13th 2011
Just finished 9 days at Rubio's Plantation Retreat. What a great start to our vacation! Michael says, "it far surpassed his expectations". Shane, an American who grew up in Hawaii, runs the retreat with his native wife, Annette, and his mom and dad. He is like "a god" here. Our ride along the 4 hour drive from the airport to Rubio's was like being in a parade. Everyone was waving and calling out to him - with genuine smiles and endearments. He has done so much for the people of this island: New Ireland...ten dollars of every hundred he makes, goes to the towns and their schools. He has created a surf team consisting of local guys who just placed first, second, and third in all divisions of the recent PNG finals in Madang. These guys had never surfed before, let alone seen a surfer (the only surfboards on the island are those brought here by Shane and provided for these locals). He and his family employ many locals in helping to run the retreat and chocolate bean plantation. Shane and Annette have an 11 month old daughter, Kalani, the cutest girl you've ever seen. June and she had a great
time together, and she even loved being tickled by Michael's beard.
The island is mainly palm trees that they use to collect the pods and make palm oil from, which they export. They also use the outer part of the beans, beet root, mixed with other natural resources, to chew on. Therefore their mouths are all stained red. This gives them a sort of "high". The people of New Ireland are extremely friendly and very mellow! They don't find a need to work - they plant gardens for food and their fresh water comes out of the limestone mountain springs.
At Rubio's there are five bungalows along the beach and a large outside, covered, eating area. June's one complaint was that there weren't any fans in the bungalows, so sleeping was quite warm. A cold shower just before bed helped some. The food was delicious. They served three large meals a day, that Annette planned and organized. Each came with fresh fruit and dinner had a scrumtious dessert usually from their homemade chocolate. The dishes were of every ethnic variety-lunch seemed like dinner and dinner had two or three choices. They were ready and willing to accomodate June's vegetarian option
at every meal.
Michael had an amazing time surfing. There were only a few days that is was too small, but the rest of the time he either surfed right out front (mostly), or went to a couple of other breaks up or down from the retreat. He'd usually be out with just Shane, and they'd surf for 2-3 hours at a stretch. He'd come back with a huge smile on his face after "being slotted in the barrel". The break out front was a fast, hollow, right-hander -- not particularly long, but fast and friendly. The biggest bonus was what Michael coined "the conveyorbelt", a strong, retreating current along the channel, that dropped him outside near the take-off point: Heaven! One day Michael went off with Shane after breakfast to Slipperies (hence the slippery trail down-only fell twice) to surf. Trail opened up to a beautiful sand beach fed by a fresh water stream that created a channel that afforded a safe exit from a sweet 4-to-5 foot left-hander; forgiving take offs, not a long ride, but perfect shape. Only Shane and he in the water looking back at a beautiful, pristine, densely forested island blending into emerald green
water-magical! Oh yea, water temp- 85 degrees.
June used the mountain bike a couple of mornings and road on the highway. One day she rode 30 km, another 20 km. During the ride she encountered over 50 "hellos" or "morning" and only two trucks. The local kids loved having their pictures taken and then seeing themselves on the camera. One day, while shooting pictures of Michael in the water, a little boy befriended June, and then trailed behind her the rest of the time. Other mornings she did exercices and yoga on the beach or swam the length of their property and back.
When the surf was small we both went snorkling in three different spots, hiked to a waterfall where we got a neck and back message sitting underneath and a native guy taught Michael the art of slingshooting, then gave him his homemade slingshot (just in case he wanted to shoot at the pigeons). We kayaked out to an island that we hiked around, snorkled around, and just as we were getting ready to lay down and rest it began to pour. Speaking of rain, we only had about three downpours. The rest of the time it was
sunny, cloudy and very warm. The air temperature was in the high 80's the whole time-day and night. We had beach time: reading, crosswords, cribbage, and relaxing. Sounds like a vacation, and we're loving it! Believe it or not...this is the short version.
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