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DESCRIPTIONClipping from Travel & Living magazine, Issue 42
works of art14 of the world’s most dazzling designer hotels
haKUna matataLive the good life in Zanzibar
PrimitiVe BlissJourney by sea into PNG
fortY-eight hoUrs A temple-stay in South Korea
Plus phillip island nsW, West hollyWood, australian pinots, BMW X1
issue 42, 2010 $12.50
Like fLeeting shadows in the undergrowth they move silently and stealthily, smeared head to toe with thick volcanic mud and just a tiara of mangrove leaves for camouflage. now and then they stop, half hidden, to check the progress of our canoes along the narrow, mangrove-lined creek. we are being stalked. are they looking for an opportunity to ambush us or just satisfying their curiosity?
Papua new guinea is an untamed land with an equally wild reputation. within the course of the last century, first contact was still being made with remote tribes and cannibals continued to eat their dinner guests. Yet here i was on a world-acclaimed expedition cruise ship, surrounded by worldly and wise travellers who could just as easily be sipping pinot noir somewhere in the south of france.
this land of magic and mysticism, exotic cultures, mind-boggling rituals and 800-something unique languages is just 200 kilometres north of australia. along the coastal fringe from alotau in Milne Bay all the way to the mouth of the mighty sepik River and across to volcano-ravaged Rabaul on new Britain island, visitors will find the true essence of the Melanesians – a handsome, fascinating people of warm, heart-felt generosity and a deep respect for custom and tradition.
primitive blissOnce the domain of fearless National Geographic photojournalists, head hunters
and god-fearing missionaries, Papua New Guinea is re-emerging as the ideal
adventure destination: close to home and accessible by luxury expedition ships.
story AND PHotos RODERICK EIME
Gawa Island village, a long way from civilisation, profits from the small expedition cruise ships which bring in tourists and much needed supplies.oPPosItE Visitors are welcomed to Nissan Island with broad smiles: the highlight of village visits in PNG is the excitement of the children, who rarely see white people.
three australian-operated luxury expedition vessels are now making regular voyages to Png and its outlying islands, and all offer superior facilities and their own unique selling propositions. orion expedition Cruises’ Cairns-based, 106-passenger ship, Orion, offers the highest level of onboard appointments and operates year-round itineraries throughout the region, while Coral Princess Cruises’ 76-passenger Oceanic Discoverer, also based in Cairns, has a brilliant 80-seat covered tender for simple and safe shore excursions. north star Cruises’ 36-passenger True North, based in Broome, carries its own Bell Jet Ranger helicopter for unequalled sightseeing possibilities. small and nimble, she will often get much closer to the action than her larger competitors.
hardcore adventure purists and kokoda trackers may want to bunk down with all the jungle has to offer, but thanks to these small ships, modern expedition cruise passengers have the opportunity to experience the impossible and unheard-of while retreating to five-star comfort at day’s end, and a hot shower and crisp lager are just the ticket after a day on the baking sand or trekking in a steamy jungle.
this exclusivity, i’m pleased to report, does not equate to callous disregard for the less privileged people of Papua new guinea. while generally happy and healthy thanks to an abundant diet of fresh vegetables and seafood, there are the privations of island life to contend with. Medical and school supplies, for example, must make a long journey to reach these outposts, often passing through many hands. this is where expedition cruising can assist: ships bring in educational materials, books, clothing, simple medicines and first-aid supplies. Bypassing the convoluted distribution chain ensures these very end users get valuable resources and every passenger can help by filling their spare luggage space with inexpensive donations – and refilling it again with exquisite art, carvings and souvenirs. each of these cruise companies, through corporate and passenger support, has made valuable contributions to school and community projects along their routes: ‘giving back’ is fast becoming the hallmark of expedition cruising.
Back in the silent swamp, our masalei (spirit) followers now reveal themselves in spectacular fashion. Leaping out from behind huge trees, they bring our party to a halt
oPPosItE The Trobriand Islands are well known for vibrant costumes and sensual dance displays. In keeping with tradition, visitors are greeted by the most attractive and eligible girls in the community, and each is adorned according to her family’s status. ABoVE Coral Princess Cruises’ passengers are transferred ashore at New Ireland with ease in a covered tender. Its small expedition ship is perfectly equipped to access narrow waterways.
with incomprehensible, blood-curdling cries. from hidden vantage points within the undergrowth saplings are hurled at us, some bouncing menacingly off the side of our canoes. gasps of alarm are clearly heard from several passengers and muffled chatter comes from others as we try to interpret their apparently hostile intentions.
this traditional challenge, thankfully, is all part of the show put on for us today by the tufi villagers out here on the northernmost tip of oro Province. strangers would be ‘encouraged’ to state their purpose – whether friendly or hostile. our passivity now assumed, we are welcomed by anthony, a local chief, dressed in the elaborate costume that makes tufi one of the most spectacular cultural encounters in the country.
set amid stunning tropical fjords, tufi is only accessible by air or sea and is renowned for its diving, trekking and rare orchids.
for the next hour we are feted like visiting royalty. we are shown ritual tattooing, the convoluted process of sago extraction and we are treated to local ballads performed by a tiny choir of children with the voices of angels.
“thank you for visiting our village,” says anthony in semi-pidgin english. his face is painted with an earnest, almost sorrowful look as the experience comes to a close. “Please come back again soon. once upon a time, we are so happy to see you, we make sure you stay – we eat you up!” and with that delivery he reels back in raucous laughter, slapping his tummy, his bright orange, betel-nut stained teeth exaggerating his mirth.
Preserving and encouraging local tradition and culture is important in expedition cruising, but for once i’m content that this sacred ritual is discussed in the past tense. Clutching an impressive ebony carving delicately inlaid with mother-of pearl, and with the hum of the outboard motor lulling me into a late afternoon snooze, i’m ready for that beer.
FroM toP LEFt Rare visits to remote Egum Islet include a basic village tour and explanation of cassava
planting, trading, hunting and food preparation; A traditional tribal
welcome dance greets passengers at Alotau, famous for the Battle of
Milne Bay in WW2; Passengers head to Egum Atoll for its spectacular
diving and snorkelling; A traditional outrigger is dwarfed by a modern luxury cruise ship. It has been less
than a decade since Australian cruise companies began cruising into this
hitherto untouched part of the world.C
The Singapore you never knew
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