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Published: October 27th 2007
After my trip to the volcanoes of East New Britain in August, I was ready to see more of this beautiful country that I now call home. It didn't take long for me to get lucky. First, I was asked to travel to Kiunga and Daru in Western Province for work, and then I visited Madang over the Independence Day weekend with friends.
I visited Western Province for 3 days in the first week of September. The province is one of the least developed in the country, yet is home to the immensely profitable Ok Tedi Gold Mine in the mountainous North of the province. Sadly, little of the wealth generated by the mine has so far reached the people, but added pollution has. The vast area of land the province covers is sparsely populated and remote, and few sealed roads can be found. Instead the people rely on a large network of rivers to get around, most famous of which is the Fly River. Of course there are the lucky few, like me, who can sit back in a seat on a plane, while they fly over the extensive swamps and forests.
I was travelling to Western Province
as part of a delegation of government officials and potential local & international investors to consider the prospects of developing a deepwater port and industrial facility at Daru. We boarded a chartered DHC Twin Otter aircraft early on Wednesday morning and flew to Kiunga, in the North of Western Province. Kiunga is a port town on the Fly River used by the Ok Tedi Mine to transfer copper/gold slurry from a pipeline onto barges, which then transport it 800km down-river to the mouth of the Fly. We travelled to Kiunga to meet with the Provincial Government, but alas they were unexpectedly travelling around the Province to introduce themselves to the voters.
After a quick visit to the port facilities, we made our way back to Kiunga airport, and flew to Daru, the former provincial/colonial headquarters on little Daru Island. The journey itself was magnificent - the landscape below was very special, and the mouth of the Fly River is spectacular. Even at high-altitude it is barely possible to see both sides of the River, it’s so wide! Unfortunately it was raining cats and dogs, which made the flight in our little propeller plane a fairly bumpy one...
itself is not a town I would particularly recommend to anyone. It is clearly very poor, with little in the way of infrastructure or attractions. Walking around the muddy market (read: a couple of people selling fish on newspapers in the mud) close to our hotel, it became apparent that visits by wait men
are not all that common. Even though I love Port Moresby, it has thus far always been a real pleasure to walk around towns outside of the capital. People are so much friendlier, welcoming, and there is less glaring as you walk by. Not so in Daru - it's one of the few places in PNG where I honestly did not feel welcome... But who can blame the people there - what have outsiders ever done to make their lives any easier - while exploiting their resources?
Luckily, my time in Daru would largely be spent on a comfortable boat, sailing around the island (to inspect the site of the proposed deepwater port) and up the Oriomo River (to inspect the proposed site of the industrial park). Once you leave Daru, Western Province again becomes a truly amazing place. Making our way up the Oriomo
River, we came across mangrove forests, beautiful villages, waving people, and a barramundi fisherman in his tiny canoe, who sold his catch to one of my colleagues. If I can call a trip like this work, who needs holidays?
On Friday morning, it was time for us to fly back to Port Moresby, and after a couple of hours in the air, the routine of work started again with meetings, funding requests, and project proposals...
Just over a week after my visit to Western Province, I had a long weekend planned in Madang with friends. Madang, on the North coast of PNG, is probably the most tourist-friendly town in PNG. It is safe, has quality hotels and resorts, beautiful surroundings, and some stunning reefs for keen scuba divers. My partners in crime on this holiday were James (my flatmate), Rohit (a Brit) and Amanda & Jason (Australian colleagues). We stayed at the Madang Resort, often called the best hotel in PNG. It was great - though not the kind of trip that greatly enlightens you on PNG culture and traditions.
Upon arrival on Saturday, we decided to hook up with some other friends from Port Moresby, and
joined them on a morning tour. We visited the nearby Sulphur Creek, where the film Robinson Crusoe
starring Pierce Brosnan, was shot. Also, we visited a local village, where we had an encounter with a pet cuscus which like to climb over people's shoulders and heads. For a moment, I thought that Rohit had finally found the love of his life. The two became temporarily inseparable!
On Sunday, we went diving with the crew of the Jais Aben Resort, some 20km North of Madang. We dived the Milinat Passage and the wreck of the Henry Lieth. The diving near Madang is far nicer than the diving I've done near Port Moresby. The coral is more colourful, there's more fish, and between dives we had a rest on a beautiful tropical island. I found myself some coconuts which I hammered open on the rocks, while the others were trying out the canoe of a local fisherman. After the diving, we had lunch at the Jais Aben Resort before heading back to Madang. Jais Aben is a really nice place to stay, but I reckon I still prefer Madang Resort, as it is more centrally located.
Before heading back to
Moresby on Monday, we had a lazy morning. We played a round of golf at the local golf club - until we couldn't be bothered anymore because of the heat that is! Amanda and I first dropped out and went to have some drinks at the nearby Coastwatchers Hotel. James and Jason kept going slightly longer, but die-hard Rohit was the only one to make it to the end of the course. After a quick lunch, we made our way to the airport and back to Moresby. This was not to be my last holiday though, for three days later, I was to be off to Cairns, Australia, with Tope and Lina, two friends from Moresby, for a crazy weekend of partying, dining, and relaxing...
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