A Beginner’s Guide to Sailing in Papua New Guinea 2

Lars Alfredson
Mon 30 Nov 2015 06:23
pos 3:30.6S 144:46.74E

A Beginner’s Guide to Sailing in Papua New Guinea 2

Chapter 2: A Gaggle of Guides

Even the most beginner of sailors in Papua New Guinea are aware that it is largely lacking in infrastructure development, indeed this is one of the defining features of tourism in PNG. One aspect of this is that wandering around towns and the countryside as we may be used to when visiting more developed countries is not the best option for seeing things given the lack of things like signposts and maps, not to mention roads and paths. Indeed wandering an area on ones own is rarely an option at all as upon arrival at a new village or island you are invariably met by a selection of people which generally follows a given order. First to come are the children who vary in their approach from shyly staring and convulsing into giggles before fleeing if greeted to the bolder ones who will stare freely and greet you themselves. Next is an older man (or more rarely a woman) if asked he or she will turn out to be the chief (or relative thereof) the councilman or some other local potentate. This character is generally better versed in English than is the average and is curious about where you have come from and where you are going if questioned in return they are happy to provide information on the local area though things like the population of the village are rarely agreed upon. The third group is more tenuous but generally consists of younger men, their English is more limited but it is generally these men who turn out to be ones guides, wanted or not.

Whether you have arranged a guide through the obligatory local potentate or acquired one by having a local attach themselves to your party and start asking questions you will soon find that the one guide has become two and then three. The numbers are fluid but the questions remain largely the same they want to know where you are from and where you are going. Many will ask what you think of the PNG in general and the local area specifically. Sometimes it can be difficult to strike up anything resembling a conversation as asking where they live or, indeed, where anything specific is the answer is generally: “The other end of the island”. Apparently the other end of the island is a wonderland of schools churches markets and houses while the side of the island you have stupidly chosen to visit is akin to a barren waste.

The last island we visited was a typical example of this informed by several parties that there was a volcanic crater we could go visit variously 20 minutes or a two and a half hour walk away we landed and quickly met the chief of the island (and a small horde of children) who sent one young man to show us the way. As it turned out the crater was 45 minutes away walking along a road built by the American Military in WWII. After this walk we turned off the road a short ways into the bush and came upon a small hole in the ground surrounded by the built up mineral rock of hot springs at the bottom of which gurgled a pool of thick mud letting off a smell of Sulphur. An interesting sight on the way to the crater no doubt and when asked how much farther it was Jacob replied simply “This is it.” You never know what you are going to find in PNG.

Returning to the village we found that our guides now numbered six (I was in no way clear on when the others had joined us) and we were met at the jetty by the local councilman and a redoubled horde of children. Paying our guides (one of whom could not have been older than 14) a beer each we headed back to Dawnbreaker.