Travel to Rabaul

pos 04:43.57S 152:48.04E
Sulphur Port, New Ireland
 

2015-06-29 The great adventure begins with the trip down to London staying overnight before catching our flight to Singapore the following afternoon. Needless to say the train is late. At the hotel we try to order food but are told the kitchen is shut. Armed with a hotel information brochure I point out the error of their ways as there were still 15 minutess to the eleven o’clock cut off. Success, food  and a bottle of Chardonay before we retire.

 2015-06-30 The Taxi to the airport arrived on time and we boarded our plane relatively painlessly for our twelve hour flight. Much of the flight time was spent watching movies and trying to procure more wine from the stewardess to induce much needed sleep ready for the following day.

2015-07-01 Arrived Singapore 0920 and hit the streets of this amazing city. Having spent some time trying to find out where the open top tour buses left from without luck, it started to rain. Plan “B” was initiated and we set out to find “Raffles”.

Success, it is quite amazing that they have managed, despite multiple rebuilds, to keep the old colonial feel. We soon found the Long Bar with its small sacks of peanuts which you are invited to eat and throw the husk on the floor. Here we ordered the famous Singapore Sling, an obscene mixture of spirits disguised as a fruit drink invented at this bar so that ladies could drink their alcohol without feeling stigmatised, as a matter of fact, after a couple of these I doubt they could feel much of anything!

Although it was extremely relaxing in the dark panelled bar with its mechanical fans wafting back and forth (unlike the more common rotary variety) the £19 per drink soon brought us to our senses and it was time to hit the street and take in the sights.

From giant shopping malls complete with Venetian gondoliers floating down the canal running down the middle of the complex, to double helix link foot bridges, the sights were amazing. None more so that the sight of and enormous ship straddling across the top of three gigantic skyscrapers. The hull contains restaurants, gardens and a massive infinity pool.

We didn’t make it up to the top but we did go through one of the buildings into the gardens featuring massive iron upside down trees with elevated walkways leading through a jungle landscape.

In the mall there were plenty of tea shops but no bars! And desperation forced us (well me) into a small supermarket to buy a tinnie and sit outside to drink it.

By 6pm we were knackered and decided to head back to the airport (We weren’t due to fly out until 2am) where at least they had some decent bars. So back onto the spotless underground we navigated out way back.

Beered and burgered we were buggered and at the risk of falling asleep in my beer Shan went off on a recce and found we could hire a bed for three hours, which we duly did and rousing some hours later, feeling relatively better headed for the plane.

2015-07-02 Cairns. Not quite. Sleepless and red eyed we touched on down on what appears to be and Aussies airbase where despite a 50minute stopover we had to go through all the rigmarole of paper filling and security checks before being let into the shopping area then back onto the plane. This was Darwin

Another hour and we finally landed in Cairns. More paper to fill in, in fact the same as we had just filled in at Darwin, one for immigration and one for Ebola. I trot through the automatic passport control and come out the other side unscathed but no so Shan who is being marched off like some alien invader. Eventually the little embarrassment is overcome and she is released onto the continent.

Evidently when she fell off our yacht in Almerimar, complete with her bag containing amongst other things her passport, it didn’t do the magic chip a lot of good. Consequently it would not identify her!!

To the hotel and I must say, Dial a Flight did us proud, a veritable penthouse suite overlooking the ocean, fantastic views, good service and a comfortable bed!!

2015-03-7-03 The following morning saw us off again. Well nearly. “I’m afraid you need tickets back out of PNG”, says She, “Otherwise the airline is in deep dodo and fined. Worse still you’ll be stuck on the next plane to anywhere.

“But we do we have tickets to Rabaul.”

“No Sir, Rabaul is part of PNG.”

“What about our tickets from Honiara?”          

“How are you getting there?”

“By yacht!”

“Do you have any documentation?”

“Er, I’m sure we can get some,” says I, more in hope than substance as the chances of being able to contact Lars for a start were not good. But never fear, on my computer were all the logos etc. from printing T-shirts, these made a very impressive letterhead on the missive produced and present some short time later.

Ah! not good enough, time is now marching on and our flight is due to leave in less than an hour. Fortune smiles upon in the form of a lady staff member who says you can always buy a return ticket to Cairns. Seeing the look of desperation in our faces and the onset of my inevitable heart attack she takes charge of my computer, gets on line and A$660 later the problem is solved. Anyone want a couple of free ticket from PNG to Cairns?

 Our transport was a small Focker 80 jet on which they managed to serve a drink (Coffee) and sandwich and land in just over an hour.

Port Morsby airport is like a downtown Delhi bus station. Having fought our way through the crush of humanity we found the national transit area. The nauseating smell of sweaty humanity, compounded by a lack of air-conditioning and we knew we were leaving civilisation as we knew it.

An hour and half later having flown over the impenetrable jungles and mountains of Papua New Guinea we landed on the island of New Britain part of the PNG group (As we are now to well aware) in our Fokker 100. Despite being a small airport, half of humanity seemed to be outside waiting to meet and greet friends and relatives or anybody for that matter.

Clutching our bags we headed out into the street looking in vain for Lars. He’d be hard to miss as the locals seems to be pretty short and very black. No sign, but what we did see was a young man standing next to a very battered van complete with a windscreen that looked more like Hampden Court maze with its numerous cracks, somewhat modestly waving a Welsh flag!

Yes this fine transport of delight was for us, so baggage loaded in we jumped. I have to say that the interior of the vehicle matched the outside and during the 30km it became apparent why most of them looked this way.

After some 20km the tarmac gave way to a rutted, graded road the result of the recent rainstorms that had washed down and covered great sections of it in a metre or so of volcanic ash, from off the hillsides. How any of these vehicles had any suspension left was a miracle.

The road passed through Kokopo the new capital created after Rabaul became a second Pompii when two local volcanoes decided to fire up in 1994. From there we continued along the coast road built by the Japanese or more correctly local slave labour passing many caves en-route which served as air-raid shelters and bunkers during the war. New Britain was never invaded but the Americans dropped a considerable amount of bombs to which the number of wrecks in Rabaul harbour still stand testament.

Arriving at Rabaul, we pass the market and the western end of the town which survived and still functions. Driving along the main dual carriageway though devoid of buildings  has been cleared part of the way, though much is still ash covered, we reach what is  left of the yacht club which now operates from what was one of its out buildings.

Lars is there to greet us on the dockside and after a hasty trip to “Dawnbreaker” anchored not far off, to drop the bags we head to the club for a beer or two and, being Friday night, the kitchen is functioning so we dine. “Home” at last.

2015-07-04 My Birthday! In view of the trauma at airports various we didn’t buy any champers so having opened birthday  cards (Thank you Fern & Lily) it was decided to dine at one of the few other surviving buildings, a local hotel where they had shovelled some three metres of ash off the roof during the eruption and prevented its collapse. They have an excellent Chinese menu and any wine you care for as long as it’s in the fridge. Entertainment was watching the opening ceremony of the Pacific Islands Games, from Port Moresby, PNG and a jolly time was had by all.  

 

2015-07-5 The following day we ventured off on local bus (Transit Van) to Kokopo on a shopping expedition. Purchases complete the Supermarket put our stuff in the chill room while we went to the local produce market then on to lunch at a resort hotel overlooking the sea. From here they called us a taxi and stopping only to pick up our groceries headed back to the yacht, only to discover we’d left our eggs and carrots behind!

That afternoon we did a quick tour of Admiral Yamomuto’s bunker based just up the road from the yacht club, and adjacent to the local museum housed in a building with a somewhat chequered history. It had been the home of the colonial the New Guinea Club, commandeered by the Japanese and then the Liberating forces. In addition to this, it burnt down a year before the volcanic eruption and was rebuilt, survived the deluge of ash and two world wars, rock on.

 

Bob the Blog