Tuesday 14th February
I slept in this morning.
Still, I was on Deck 11 at The Pantry in time to see the first rosy hint of sunrise followed by the full brilliance and warmth of sunrise as it gaped at me from behind a large island. I get to see sunrise every morning while most everybody is still in bed. It seems a ritual that I have the laptop open with camera memory card inserted when another early riser finds his way to the table, coffee in hand. We chat as I write up my notes or edit photos. Gradually in ones and two’s other early risers arrive, find a coffee then line the railings with cameras to record the morning.
It is Valentines Day.
All the cakes, cupcakes, muffins and desserts are pink.
At the entrance to The Waterfront Restaurant is a giant cake surrounded by a heart made of balloons and a couple of sculptures made from watermelons and in front is a basket of goodies and a couple of bottles of champagne.
It is a sea day.
Graham and I play too much table tennis but too much is not enough. Neither of us will give in and say, “I’m tired, let’s stop”.
Besides all the physical activity is helping to compensate for all the extra kilojoules we are absorbing from too much food.
A number of Ukelele players are onboard. They did not know each other before this cruise. It seems an International signal of solidarity is to carry your Ukelele wherever you go. They found each other and are practising.
Donnis and Wencke are not doing anything physical. Hehehe.
Tomorrow we arrive at Madang.
Wednesday 15th February
We arrived in Madang before breakfast.
I was on deck when the ship was turned around and reversed into the dock. My camera, just like every other camera on board, fogged up when coming from an air conditioned cabin onto the hot and humid outside deck. Finally when the fog on the lens faded I heard a few clicks from inside the camera, the lens started winding in and out until finally the screen went black and a message appeared. System fault = Zoom. I expected that would be the end of my photos for the remainder of the trip
Later as we were preparing to go ashore I tried the camera once more and lo, it worked!!! Thank goodness.
Madang is a little more upmarket than Alotau.
The Governor has a residence here.
Madang is also a bustling busy town with roads and footpaths in a terrible state of disrepair with apparently no funds for maintenance since PNG achieved independence 40 years ago.
Mostly the streets are dusty. The land around the coastal fringe is ancient coral…sharp and pocked with ankle snapping holes. Somehow the locals seem to be able to walk bare foot with impunity.
Wencke with her masterful command of local Pidgin found a local driver, with air conditioned car who was prepared to drive us around to see the sights.
One site was the Coastwatchers Memorial Lighthouse. https://www.pngaa.net/Library/CoastwatcherMemorial.html
Another was a WWII anti aircraft gun. Years, tropical weather, salt air, rust and neglect makes this uncared for reminder almost unrecognisable as a weapon.
Earlier in the day we had seen long banana boats (no they do not carry banana’s but are vaguely banana shaped) loaded with men, women with tiny babies and children jammed aboard being ferried to and from local islands.
Our driver negotiated a price, $5 Kina (about AUS $2.50) for a trip aboard one of these boats. As we went to step aboard the locals all jammed themselves to the stern and left three seats free for us. I called people forward to sit with me so they would be more comfortable.
We got to see one small part of the island and were returned to the mainland after a local sold us two fresh coconuts filled with coconut water.
The islanders build their toilets on a platform suspended over the water. Everything goes into the water.
The islanders have no electricity, no running water and all cooking is done outside their little huts. They live only on what they can grow with occasional fish, chicken and rice. Taro root, yams, sweet potato and corn figures high on their diet. Some wealthier families have a few pigs which are slaughtered for a special occasion. At the markets we also saw cabbage, carrots, peanuts, tomatoes and shallots. There are several types of banana. Big, small, some for cooking some for dessert some eating straight off the palm.
Our friendly taxi driver had waited for us at the locals dock then drove us to the markets and took me on a guided walk to the Japanese War Cemetery in the centre of town. It is a raised hillock surrounded by a cyclone wire fence and is heavily overgrown with grass. I was told it is tidied only when a special occasion such as a visiting Japanese group is expected.
The market, fenced with cyclone wire topped with razor wire is a simple concrete base with steel posts and steel roofing. It was built and paid for by the Japanese.
Although the locals were friendly to us and always saying hello and asking questions in their halting English they do not feel the same way about the Chinese and to some extent the few Japanese. They feel the Asians have taken jobs away from the locals. They are correct in some respects but it is the Asian money which brought some of the businesses to town.
Rubbish collection from households is from raised wire cages into which wrapped or bagged garbage is placed. There are no garbage bins. The raised cages are intended to keep wandering dogs from rooting through the garbage. While on the subject of dogs, it seems, at least to me, PNG is the mangy dog capitol of the world. Dogs do not have collars attached so every dog looks like a stray. They also look unfed – which they probably aren’t – and have the typical scabby bodies typical of the mange.
Garbage collection around the main commercial centre is done on a haphazard basis. When garbage piles too high to ignore it is bulldozed in heaps and pushed into holes in vacant blocks.
In the afternoon when Pacific Aria was sliding away from its berth heading to the open sea, we were quite amazed to see along the foreshore on every available vantage point, locals waving and calling out to us.
Not may cruise ships come to town and they always bring money and buy crafts. Small outrigger canoes – known locally as lakatoys – virtually surrounded the ship for most of the day and those wonderful overloaded water taxis seemed to be bringing locals to look at us as much as we were here to look at them.
I still feel uncomfortable when so many people come close and try to talk with us while some just stand and stare. I know that 99.99% of the time it is curiosity and shyness on their part but that .01% in the back of my mind is mindful of opportunistic theft.
During the night we passed by an active volcano, Manum Matu, in the Bismark Sea. Next morning passengers commented on the erupting display but we were sound asleep.
Oh well, there are at least another three active volcanoes on our route.