Papua New Giunea

Papua New Giunea

If you ask any sailor where one of the wildest place in the world is then some where in the conversation PNG will pop up. Ninety-nine percent of the world does not even have a clue where this wild, remote part of the world is. PNG’s southern tip is located a few hundred miles north of the northern tip of Australia and some geologists claim that this 1000 mile long island actually broke of the continent and drifted north a few million years ago.

It is hard to believe this 1000 mile long country with hundreds of smaller islands is home to over 600 languages but it also has some of the most beautiful rainforest left on the face of the earth. Sadly the tree’s will not likely last another 10 years at the rate they are cutting them down. But the fact is that if you buy anything made of teak or mahogany then most likely the wood it is made of came form here. These magnificent trees are located and flown by helicopter to gathering areas when a road to drag them out can not be made and then loaded on barges and sold for penny’s on the dollar.

The land is also rich with natural resources but has been stripped bare of many of these in the last 50 years. With little or no regulations to follow large companies came in a took over mineral rich areas by force and started mining with reckless abandonment. In their wake they left land and villages decimated for the sake of making the almighty dollar. Mining towns like the one on Lihir Island are very similar to any gold rush town. Men come from miles around for the chance to work at one of these huge strip mines. Prices for goods in the market are triple what they should be like a simple box of breakfast cereal costing $12.

There is a good movie out called the Coconut Revolution that shows what happens when these companies go too far and ultimately start civil wars. This was the case when a mine was destroying thousands of acres of forest and several rivers with mining and the chemicals they use to leach out copper from the ore. The local people finally had enough of their land being destroyed while being under paid and exploited. They gathered forces took over the mine burning and destroying hundreds of millions of dollars worth equipment and running off the management basically with bows and arrows.

Our second stop in PNG landed us on Hermit Island which is a beautiful 10 mile across atoll with several islands surrounded by miles of reef. Sadly this reef has been exploited with dynamite fishing and very little coral or fish are left. The tiny village must get many yachts visiting each year because they now what they like to trade for. We went ashore with our usual bag full of goods and gave away toys and tee shirts which in turn provided with lots of fresh items from the gardens. Mainly pineapple and oranges! These are the sweetest and juiciest pineapples I have ever ate and thankfully we had heaps! The next day the “Trading Ladies” came out to the boat with hand made items to trade for sheets and towels. For one set of sheets and 4 bath towels I traded for a beautiful purse made from hundreds of tiny shells(not for me) and some other amazing hand made items that went into the souvenir pile. After the trading was over I cut up a watermelon from the refrigerator and we indulged in a rare favorite fruit for these people on the back of Downtime.

Sunday is a day of rest on these religious islands. Richie had tried to organized a soccer game with the locals but even this was too mush for a lazy Sunday afternoon and nobody showed up. Looking for things to do we took the camera drone ashore and took some arial shots of the village.
If you want to get every kids (young and old) attention take a remote controlled helicopter to shore! You should have seen the faces of these kids when this buzzing little helicopter took off and started circling overhead! I would fly just out of reach over their heads and let them feel the down draft of the propellers and they would giggle and laugh!

Next the ladies that I gave matching orange tee shirts to the day before came up and asked if they could sing me a song in appreciation for the gifts. They sang a beautiful song about God keeping us safe on the ocean and it was quite special.

I will remember these kind and generous people forever and want to thank them for showing me their island.

Continuing east we had planed to stop and clear into PNG at Manus Island which was the next island on our way until we heard the stories of what kind of town Lorengau was. Apparently Manus is home to one of Australia’s largest prisons and also the place where they deport refuges that come to their country illegally. Basically a darn good place to have your boat robbed! Instead of stopping we sailed by and caught two nice Yellowfin Tuna and a Mahi Mahi a prize that would most likely have caused a small riot if we had brought that quality of fish ashore. It was strange to go by an island with this big of a population and not have seen at least one boat out fishing?

Our next target to clear in was Kavieng, New Ireland another 350 miles (2 days) to the south east. The winds were fickle but finally picked up after several hours of motoring and when they filled we made miles effortlessly. I was frustrated that each time I looked our ETA when it kept telling me we would arrive just after sunset, which never a safe thing in any new port. We would either have to wait out side the port or slow the boat down. Slowing down a boat that is already going 7 mph is right up there with drilling holes in the bottom for most sailors so our option was find another place to clear in down the road. As luck would have it I looked in my cruising guide and found that we could clear into Lihir Island with simply continuing on through the night and covering another 120 miles of effortless sailing. We arrived mid morning and started the process of clearing in and out at the same time? Like any slow paced island we wound up waiting a few hours for the customs agent to arrive. We were finally assisted by a nice woman officer who collected our paperwork but had to go all the way back to town because she forgot her immigration stamp.

Sailing another 80 miles southeast we arrived at Feni Island where we encountered some of the most primitive people I have ever met. They were very friendly and welcomed us into their village where we met their chief. We traded many items and one of the big hits as always was a new soccer ball that we gave to the village. This was another like many places where even simple medical supplies are non existent and where several kids had runny noses and severe pink eye. Thanks to Dr. Steve who was on the boat a while back I had some medicine to give to these poor people and hopefully cure a few children from blindness.

It is said that alcohol is a big no-no to give to the local people here and we saw the effects of this first hand . We were walking back from the village tour with me out in the lead when a blind drunk local came out of the bush and charged at me wielding a 3 foot machete yelling “Why you come PNG?” over and over. Needles to say I turned and ran while the local guides we had with us subdued this individual and sent him on his way.

The next day we set sail with the Captain happy to have all his limbs and head still attached and sailed 45 miles SE to Green island. This was home to some of the more remote villages I had ever seen. The curious islanders paddled out in numbers to see one of only a handful of visiting yachts that stop each year.

One mother in particular came out several times paddling with two small children a half mile each way in a small leaky canoe determined to trade for clothes and anything else toe wear or eat for her family of six. She was most generous and brought flowers and vegetables from her garden and in turn we gave her whatever we could find on the boat that she needed for her children and also a bag of flour,rice and sugar. She told me that her family and several others moved to one of the outer small islands on this atoll to get away from the main island and the roaming pigs that the chief owned that kept digging up their gardens.

Life here on these islands is mere survival. Most people live day to day and own only the tattered clothes on their back and little else. All their food comes from the sea and the land. The community system keeps them alive in tough times since they share everything.

If I went back to this part of the world I would bring a ton of rice, and literally and another ton of kids clothes. For the mothers I would bring basic medical kits, clothes, soap, and seeds for the gardens. The men need fishing gear, spear guns and diving masks. Simple rechargeable solar lights would be a answer to prayer since there is no other source of light when the sun goes down other than fire.

The next stop on the way east is the Solomon Islands, so stay tuned!

Peace, Pete

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