Working in the travel industry means I am lucky enough to be able to go on trips I couldn’t normally afford. This month I was exceptionally fortunate to have spent 11 days in Papua New Guinea, notoriously associated with head-shrinkers and cannibals, as well as colourful tribes people. I found a diverse land of highland jungles overgrown with Gauguin-style tropical foliage, rugged beaches that barely see a footprint and towns that feel more like Wild West frontier outposts. A land with endless photographic opportunities. I was a very happy girl!
While the highlands are lush and the coastlines pristine, the more urban settings, for example the land surrounding PNG’s capital city of Port Moresby, look like an apocalyptic wasteland… graffiti covered sheets of corrugated iron pass as fences, rundown shacks act as houses, and coffins (of all sizes) are sold on the roadside along with the odd dusty bottle of (what looks like) Fanta or two. Yet the capital itself sports a selection of costly accommodation that would make even a millionaire wince and it would appear that city planners are non-existent. Tourism is low priority while oil, copper and gold are harvested on an ever growing scale.
I had wanted to visit this intriguing country for a long time and thanks to the tourist board, PNG Tourism UK, was invited as part of a small group to see what the destination had to offer tourists as well as attend a small industry trade show. The whole experience will stay with me forever and I would be more than happy to return again and again!
We split our time between Goroka in the Central Highlands, Madang on the mainland west coast, Kavieng on the island of New Ireland and the capital city of Port Moresby (our base for a trade show and a couple of cocktail functions).
As PNG’s roads don’t really go anywhere other than become rougher and narrower until they become a dirt track, a lot of time was spent in airports amusing ourselves playing card games, however everywhere we visited provided us with such new and unforgettable experiences, that the time we whiled away in departure lounges was made worthwhile.
We met tribal villagers in full ceremonial dress who entertained us with traditional ‘singsing’ performances; wandered through markets selling everything from fresh produce to beetlenut – sellers shaded by countless rainbow coloured umbrellas; took in the beauty of a palm tree silhouette against the full moon on a deserted beach; explored tiny islands nestled in perfectly clear South Pacific waters… and I was even gifted a lime and punched in the groin by a small child!
Papua New Guinea looks like an exceptionally lush version of Asia yet feels like Africa running on its own slow PNG time. Locals greet you with a million “Appy noons” and constant smiles and waves. It is almost impossible to take a candid shot! What I enjoyed the most, not only for the photographic opportunities afforded, but for the experience of seeing the rich culture of PNG on show first hand, was our village visits…
We met ‘Mudmen’ who crept up on us their skin covered in mud and heads hidden within heavy clay masks; we interacted with villagers adorned with Bird of Paradise feathered headdresses who showed us their musical courting rituals… and best of all, thanks to PNG time, we saw a tribe getting ready for a ‘singsing’ show they were to put on for us… Red berries were used to die their skin, and dressed in little more than grass skirts, flowers, necklaces made from shells and feathered crowns, they beat a log drum and danced and danced for us in the clearing of their perfectly manicured jungle village. It seemed as though we had stumbled across a tropical utopia! The whole village even turned up to see the show and to cheer as us pale folk join in the festivities…
Please do take a look at the selection of my best shots of the colourful people of Papua New Guinea. You can click on any image in this blog or you can go to the menu on the home page. “Tank you tru” for taking a look!
And if you want to go and experience PNG first hand check out this tour with EXPLORE !