Thursday 16th February 2017.
Woke early as usual and went to The Pantry for a cup of coffee while transferring photos to the laptop.
We arrived at Wewak a little earlier than predicted and anchored about 1 Klm offshore along with another dozen or so ships of various sizes.
Within a short time of anchoring the first locals in their dugout outrigger canoes – lakatoys – arrived. Some even paddled out on surfboards.
I was looking forward to seeing Wewak. My brother Allan was manager of the local National Development Bank. I wanted to see where he lived and worked.
We arrived at the small dock facility via ships tender. A shuttle service continued all day to bring passengers ashore and return them to the ship.
After arriving ashore and running the gauntlet of welcoming cultural dancers,
drummers and local arts and crafts we decided to walk along what they call the surf beach for a swim with the locals.
One man wore a “koteka’ a traditional gourd like, penis covering although in his case he wore the covering outside of his clothes and much too high to be considered a penis cover. It was more of a decoration as part of the welcoming dance troupes. Some women asked him to hold the “koteka” in a suggestive manner while they photographed him.
As the beach is washed by tide and surf the normally clear water we are used to seeing was here murky with suspended sand.
All along the beachfront, under the shade of the tiniest palm or other small tree were people selling baskets, Dilum pouches, woven Penis coverings and elaborate carvings.
Donnis got involved with negotiation frenzy with a few passengers and a couple of carvers from the Sepik River District. She came away with a huge carved face mask which earlier in the day was selling for 160 Kina. She ended up paying 80 Kina. (roughly that is AUS $40.00) Although the local carvers prefer local currency they are so keen to sell their wares they will often accept AUS dollars. Luckily for Donnis we only had AUS currency which was accepted. All we have to do now is get the carving through Customs on arrival in Australia.
On our way back to the ship Graham and I decided to use a local bank to convert some dollars to Kina.We could not use the local National Development Bank as it is now classified a s a Micro Branch and no longer does currency conversion.
At the bank there were several guards at the elaborate front doors. There were already a few locals waiting, patiently (they always seem to be patient) to be admitted. We were waved to the doors. One glass door was opened and we stood in a small room while the door behind us was locked before the door in front of us was opened by another guard in a glass room. Once inside the banking chamber another guard approached, asking our business before he told us to take a seat. There were a dozen or more locals ahead of us. Nothing seemed to be happening. All was quiet and teller cages and desks all seemed to have “CLOSED” signs. (it was lunchtime) After awhile a woman came out of an office asked our business then told us we would need a passport to change currency. Once we filled in forms with our names and proof of ID we waited again. Meanwhile the locals were still sitting and waiting. Shortly we were called to the counter and told our AUS$50 was worth $115 Kina and a fee of 25 Kina applied to each transaction. We were served and on our way while patient locals were still waiting to be served. I felt somewhat embarrassed but the guard pointed out we are cruise tourists and our spending is important to the town. As this P&O Ship, Pacific Aria is the only ship to come to this port and only comes four times a year, everybody is happy to see us.
We also went to the local supermarket which is behind cyclone wire fencing topped with razor wire we were again treated as special while the locals waited and were searched going in and going out.
Everywhere we looked, private security companies were visible in all businesses and private homes. Security seems to be a growth industry.
On this trip there are 1,268 passengers plus 700 crew on board ARIA, some of whom were entitled to leave. If only 1,000 of those who went ashore spent 100 Kina each (many of them spent a good deal more) that is quite an injection of funds into the economy. Add to that local security services on the dock, landing crew, docking fees and so on injects more money.
No wonder they were happy to see us.
Today the temp was always around 30° with humidity at 90% made for a tiring day walking around town.
Wewak, like Madang, does not have a regular garbage collection service so rubbish piles up on the beach, the town centre and market place. Eventually a front end loader pushes it into a heap until somebody decides what to do with it. Often it is set alight on the spot.
After dinner Donnis and I sat on the aft deck in the dark. In the distance we could see an active volcano intermittently spewing lava into the sky.
Tomorrow we cruise into an extinct volcanic crater where one side is open to the sea. We are looking forward to that.