KiriMV Pacific Aria - 14 Day “Papua New Guinea Experience,” from Brisbane February 10, 2017 - Part Three

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MV Pacific Aria is seen at anchor at Kiriwina Island PNG on November 20, 2017

Page Three

The Papua New Guinea Experience

 

Part One

Introduction:

Personally I have sailed the Seven Seas of the World since 1958 and have done many line voyages between Australia and the UK or Europe, but from the 1990’s Mr. Hun-Eng Tan (Eng) and I have sailed around the world voyages a number of times, as well as nearby locations such as New Zealand, the South Pacific as far as Hawaii and Tahiti, etc. But in February 10 and once again in November 14, 2017 we choose to take a cruise on Pacific Aria to Papua New Guinea, although I had personally visited the PNG in the past and extensively travelled the country overland. Be assured that the PNG is one of the great Gems now available to be found on the P&O Cruises brochures, for sadly in the past the PNG was seldom visited. Thus it is thanks to P&O, and yes also Princess Cruises, who are now opening up what can only be described as a whole new cruise adventure, and every one I know who have cruised around the PNG, and its wondrous Islands have been completely delighted with the amazing experiences they have encountered in spectacular Papua New Guinea! I am sure that this Three Page Feature will whet your appetite to book a P&O Papua New Guinea Cruise in the very near future!

Page Three (Part One & Two) will cover each of the Ports and Islands visited during our first cruise to the PNG in February 2017. Besides the photographs I have added complete with some historic and cultural details and a number of Page Three (Part Three) contains a special “Papua New Guinea Photo Experience” being a photo album with some stunning images by my photographer, Mr. Hun-Eng Tan (Eng).

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But departing Brisbane always provides us with a special beautiful encounter, being the Glasshouse Mountains as we sail past Frazer Island toward the open Sea.

With a sunset, I love this photo of the beautiful Glasshouse Mountains from afar!

Please Note; As I am now sadly bound to my scooter, due to being unable to walk around the ship and ashore, etc, and therefore also unable to get in and out of tenders and busses. Therefore, I remain onboard the ship during the entire cruise and my good friend and carer Eng goes ashore and heads off exploring, as well as partaking of some shore excursions during the February 2017 cruise. Eng was particularly excited, for although he has been on countless cruises and seen most of the ports around the world, but this was the very first time he would be visiting Papua New Guinea.

I trust that the pages featuring the “The Papua New Guinea Experience” covering all the ports visited in PNG will encourage you to undertake our two amazing voyages in February & November 2017, as they provided everyone aboard one of the most exciting cruise and port experiences, something that is difficult to discover these days!

After arriving home from our February cruise, having been his first experience with the wonders of Papua New Guinea, Eng said that he hoped to do it all again, and here we did just that in the same year in November of 2017. The truth is that in February having arrived home, Eng clearly stated; “The PNG Cruise was the Best Cruise Ever!”

Reuben Goossens.

Maritime Historian, Author, & Cruise ‘n’ Ship Reviewer.

Commenced in the Passenger Shipping Industry in 1960.

Ports of Call:

Please Note: Photographs taken ashore are by & © Hun-Eng Tan

Photographs taken from the ship are by & © Reuben Goossens

Also a few Photographs as marked are by & © Terry Whitter

 

This is a photograph taken by me of the large screen ‘location map’ just aft of the Ocean Bar on Deck 8

Please Note: This is of the February 10, 2017 14 Day PNG cruise, the November 10, cruise was a shorter 10 nights.

Alotau, PNG:

Monday February 13, 2017 Pacific Aria docked at our first port of call, Alotau being the Capital of Papua New Guinea’s Milne Bay Provence. Not long after the ship had docked a large group of locals decked out in their native costumes sang and danced around the berth for a good time, and it was a colourful welcome to Papua New Guinea!

 

Alotau is a place that is steeped in history and has a rich culture, but more so it is blessed with an abundance of natural beauty!

It is not generally known to the outside world, but Alotau is actually known as the gateway to some of the most remote Island communities still living in the world today, and thus this is a world filled with age-old cultures and ancient traditions!

The “Battle of Milne Bay” was fought right here in Alotau, from August 25, 1942 through to September 7. This battle is also known as “Operation RE” or the “Battle of Rabi” by the Japanese, however, it was a battle of the Pacific Campaign of World War II. One Australian Digger was awarded a Victoria Cross for his outstanding bravery.

Australian troops fought bravely at the Battle of Milne Bay, and they are seen here towards its conclusion

Courtesy of the Australian War Memorial under the ID Number: 013335

Alotau Cultural Festival:

Eng had decided to book the “Alotau Cultural Festival” tour, which would see him and other passengers taken to a Village with the festival site being just outside of it, and countless locals and other tribesmen, women and children from far afield would present a Kundu Drum and a Canoe festival, especially for the P&O passengers, who were their honoured guests!

Upon arrival there was a special dance festival arranged for the P&O guests, in order for them to truly take in the colour and sounds of this unique event. The festival proved to be rich in its varied performances, with traditional dancing groups having come from far and wide even from certain parts of the Papuan regions, providing a mix of colourful costumes. This came combined with a spectacle of the Canoes and the famed Kundu drums!

 

Above & below: Two scenes of the “Alotua Cultural Festival” as well as Eng with three villagers

 

When the dances had finished there was time to browse through the local stalls of arts and crafts and shop for souvenirs, locally made artwork created by contemporary local artists.

Canoe Festival:

Then there was an opportunity to head out to sea in one of the long Canoes that have space for 6 guests and 4 locals who would row. Eng decided that he would love to sit in a native canoe and experience it, for just an additional $10.00.

He said that it was another of the highlights of this tour, for he simply loved the experience as the villagers were simply wonderful and so informative and friendly! Shuttle busses were available to return guests to the ship as desired.

Pacific Aria was photographed whilst Eng was on his canoe experience  

Overall this tour was well received by those who attended it, and was well rated. Eng rated The Alotau Cultural Festival tour a 7 out of 10.

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A final look of Eng Tan with two local Island men and a beautiful girl. Taken on November 17, 2017

Taken by a fellow passenger

Please Note: Page Three (Part Three) contains “The Papua New Guinea Photo Experience” and it will contain many more photographs of all the ports visited, for they cannot be placed on the first two pages.

Madang, PNG:

Wednesday February 15, the Pacific Aria headed towards beautiful and lush green Madang, and as the ship slowly glided through the crystal-clear waters early in the morning the scenery was just beautiful. As we looked towards the shoreline we could see countless villagers lined up along the entire shoreline awaiting our arrival and joyfully waiving as well as singing songs standing under the palm trees and other greenery. It was a marvellous welcome to this amazingly beautiful port!

A beautiful early morning as we were heading for Madang

As we approached Madang, it soon became clear the dramatic scenery of the region as it has a backdrop of the awe-inspiring 4,500-metre high mountains of the Bismarck Ranges, named so because the region was colonised in the 18th.century by the Germans, and the region was taken over by the British after WWII.

A view from the ship as we sailed into the port over the Bismarck Ranges in the background

The region has many volcanic Islands, which made our arrival here such a stunning event this morning as we headed for the port.

Having berthed at the very short pier, the locals were there in all their native finery, singing and dancing, making passengers on Pacific Aria most welcome, and they did this for a good two and a half hours non-stop!

 

Above & below: Photographs of the Madang villagers who had come to welcome passengers to their town

and their very special Festival that would be presented for P&O guests

 

 

Apparently around this region some 173 languages are spoken amongst the tribes, thus the Madang province is without a doubt one of the most culturally and geographically diverse region in the world! As we will soon discover in Eng’s experience below, the people are also diverse as they are divided into four very different cultural groups such as the Islanders, Coastal people, River people, and the Mountain people or Highlanders!

Madang Resort Festival:

Once again Eng had pre-booked a shore excursion the last one of two for this voyage. This one was the “Madang Resort Festival.” At first the title resort was off-putting, but upon further investigation, it was discovered that this tour was going to be far better than the name suggested, and believe Eng, it certainly was, better than anyone ever thought it could have been! And may I add here, Eng is a very harsh critic indeed, yet obviously he loved what he saw today. The following is his account!

“The very first pleasant surprise on this hot and very humid day, was that the coach to the resort was fully air-conditioned, upon arrival every one was greeted by Madang Volunteer Ambassador and escorted to a the custom venue created within the resort where the Madang Festival would be held. There was ample seating under cover as well as lush green grass fields and close by the water allowing a breeze.

The main seating area for the festival

But what was so special about this festival compared to the one at Alotau? Let me explain and you will soon understand! We may call this The Festival of all Native festivals combined in one! It revealed a vast variety of local customs, costume, and dances from the Coastal, Island, and the Highland Communities in a completely traditional ‘Sing-Sing’ style of festival. This festival was one of the rare opportunities to see the Highland tribes that are symbolic of Papua New Guinea’s unique cultures. These included the “Asoka Mudmen” who had come all the way from Goroka. There were many other tribes in the most colourful costumes, made from a variety of amazing materials, be it feathers, shells, bone, plant life and other materials, but the colour, song and the dancing that continually amazed us all! But, how can we ever forget those beautiful children, all dressed up and dancing along, OK, they may miss a few steps here and there, but they are just a delight, especially when they are with their Mum’s!”

 

Above & below: Here we see just a few of the wonderful photographs taken by Eng of this amazing festival

There will be many more on Page 5, being “The PNG Experience Photo Album”

 

The photograph above was taken by shipboard friend & is © by Terry Whitter

 

 

 

Eng is seen with one of the Asoka (Goroka) Mudmen and his son

When this tour returned to the ship, I heard many people raving about their day, for obviously it was quite an experience to say the least! There was no doubt what Eng thought about the tour, for he was over the moon about it and called it “the tour of all tours,” and he even felt that it was better than many other really good tours he had been on around the globe!

Eng rated the Madang Resort Festival tour a 10 out of 10, which really stunned me, for he is certainly not known to give very high ratings, being one of the most critical persons I know.

It was a wonderful day had by all, regardless the tour or if passengers did their own thing ashore, it was the people what made the day, as well as the beauty of Madang itself!

A farewell photograph as Pacific Aria departed Madang Harbour and headed out for our next destination

Wewak, PNG: (Tender).

Thursday February 16. Another early arrival with further stunning views as we neared our anchoring location off Wewak. 0n our port side there were several small freighters at anchor further out, but, also a host of local small trawlers. Local friendly villagers came out to greet us on their canoes, as they did in most ports.

Views as we were entering the Bay close to the town of Wewak

 

Three boys on their tiny canoe came close to the ship once we had dropped anchor

Note the unbelievable colour of the water!

Wewak is famous for a good number of things as it is the Capital of the East Sepik Province and it is steeped in history so rich in culture, but also it has an amazing history! During WWII the Japanese based their largest airbase right here, and because of this, sadly Wewak became a target for bombings by the allies on a number of occasions, which was hard on the locals, if the Japanese were not bad enough already!

However, the mighty Sepik River that runs 1,126 kilometres from its source in the Central Mountains to the sea, which provides Wewak with it main source of income. It is said that the volume of annual water flow makes it one of the world’s largest waterways. Obviously, the local inhabitants depend on rives as a trade route, and for its agriculture further east for copra, cocoa, palm oil and vanilla farming. As I have seen upon arrival fishing is big business here, but also tourism!

The tenders arrived at Fisheries Jetty, a typical local welcome awaited everyone, with villagers from a nearly village of Maur performing at the end of the jetty.

 

Above & below: Village performances on the jetty for arriving passengers

 

Wewak town, the market place and the Wewak Yacht Club was just within a short walking distance, but local transport was also readily available. However, Eng decided to do a walking tour of Wewak.

 

Above & below: A major three level air-conditioned Supermarket and General Store

and the local Wewak market and those are the two main options in town!

 

But, for those who prefer to have everything done for them, there were three very different tours on offer from the Shore Excursion Desk.

Wewak Highlights” tour is a comprehensive tour where you get to see all the major sights on a two-hour scenic tour. Covering special memorial places where brave soldiers fought during the war, view Japanese gun mounts. A special visit is made to a school, where children will sing local songs. Finally the tour concludes by visiting Chambri Markets where guest can spend some time there shopping or mingling with the locals, or in town before returning to the jetty. Or should they so wish, remain in town, or possibly head for the main resort nearby. Of course every one must return on time per tender to the ship.

Maur Cultural Village Experience” tour, after a 30 minute coach ride, guests arrive at a traditional village, where the doors are opened to you. Upon arrival, you will be made so welcome by the people of Maur and soon the village community will perform a special welcome song, and a dance presentation. After the dances, guests are welcome to walk in and through any of the village homes as they are open to all and inside the homeowners are so proud to have you as a guest!

A typical village House

Why not continue your walk to the local stream where there is time to enjoy a refreshing coconut juice and a banana, which are so sweet from around here! And for those who are willing, why not jump into the refreshing river to cool off. Once back in the village, here will be a closing ceremony before heading back to the Fisheries Jetty for a tender ride to the ship. This is a 2˝-hour tour.

Japanese Surrender” tour, on this tour you can look back into the horrid war days of poor people of Wewak! The coach first takes a drive to the top of Mission Hill, which is a memorial to the soldiers that fought during WWII. The next call s to visit the Japanese gun mounts, after which the coach heads west of Wewak to Cape Wom Memorial park. This is located on the old site of a missionary airstrip, now out of use, but this memorial park is dedicated to the surrender of the Imperial Japanese forces in the Wewak area by General Hutazo Adachi to the Australia General H.C.H. Robertson. The surrender took place on September 13, 1945 eleven days after Japan formally surrendered in Tokyo Harbour on the battleship USS Missouri to end World War 2.

This memorial is standing on the spot where a large number of Japanese soldiers were buried in a mass grave.

The text on the memorial reads:

“In memory of the brave soldiers who paid the supreme sacrifice for their countries Japan, Australia American and New Guinea during World War 2 From 1941-1945. We sincerely hope that men will never again engage in war but that a deep spirit of friendship may exist between all.”

Thereafter there is time to relax on the nearby secluded and beautiful Wom beach and have a swim, some refreshments or sit under a palm tree. Then it is time to return to the Fisheries Jetty to return to the ship per tender. This is a 2˝-hour tour.

Eng being on a tender and heading back to the Pacific Aria took this excellent photo of the ship

 

An excellent bow shot of the Pacific Aria, with some children standing of the Bulbous bow

Also in the background we see just a small number of the many trawlers in the bay

Vitu Islands, PNG: (Scenic Cruising)

Friday February 17. Although the ship is at sea for most of the day around 4.30pm the Pacific Aria will reach Vitu Island. The Vitu Islands are a volcanic group located in the Bismarck Sea off New Britain, in the south western Pacific Ocean. Of course technically they are not part of the Bismarck Archipelago. Administratively they are part of the PNG, although formerly they were called the French Islands, the group is also known as the Witu Islands.

Looking from my balcony as we sail towards the Vitu Islands

The Vitu islands lie 40mls or 65k north of New Bintan Island in the Bismarck Sea, The group has a total of 40 square miles or 117 square km, which includes the main Islands of Garove (Ile des Lacs) 26 square miles or 67 square km, Unea (Merite) 11 square miles or 28 square km, and Mandua 2 square miles or 5 square km, as well as five smaller Islands. It is notable that Unea is the highest of all these Islands as it rises a good 1,939 feet or 591 metres. The Islands produces some copra as well as cocoa, however tourism is becoming more popular, especially for scuba divers from around the world!

Scenic Cruising from 4.30pm: As the Pacific Aria reaches the Vitu Islands around 4,30pm; the bow of the ship will be opened to passengers as a vast uncluttered viewing deck. The bow of this ship was originally designed as a passenger viewing space, for all winches, lines and anchors, etc, are located one deck down.

The ships Fo’c’sle or bow section open to the ships Guests

 

A Church seen ashore amongst all the greenery

 

Here we can see the wake of the ship as she does a U-turn and heads back to the open sea

Other excellent viewing decks are; Deck 6 being Promenade Deck, Deck 12 with its wide and open spaces, and Deck 14 far forward, and for ideal indoor viewing head for the Dome on Deck 12 far forward, which has a vast view all around through its massive windows!

Pacific Aria sailed close to the shores of the Islands and when she had reached as far as she was able to go, she did a complete U-turn, and left the Vitu Islands and headed for Rabaul.

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This concludes Part One of “The Papua New Guinea Experience,” however there a good number of further exciting ports of call; thus please go to Page Four on the INDEX below the photograph of the Pacific Aria below!

The Pacific Aria is seen berthed at our very first Port of call, wondrous Alotau

 

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MV Pacific Aria Cruise Reviews Index - 2017:

Page One         Cruise Review, Public Venues, & Dinning Experiences.

Page Two         Shows, Sports, Fitness Centre, P&O EDGE, & Suites-Cabins & Deck Plan.

Page Three-1   The Papua New Guinea Experience. (Based on Feb 2017 Cruise).

Page Three-2   The Papua New Guinea Experience.              

Page Three-3   The Papua New Guinea Photo Experience.           

 

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