Monday 20th February
I was up early as usual writing notes at 6am and transferring photos from yesterday to the laptop.
By the time I was finished and enjoying a cup of coffee and a bowl of cereal it was soon time to wake Donnis.
We arrived at Kitava Island at about the time we expected. Arrival times are intriguing. The night before we receive a newsletter From the Bridge which tells us where we will be the next day and at what time we will arrive. When you consider that sometimes we are talking about distances of more than 100 Nautical Miles and the skipper has to navigate through seas which often have coral reefs just below the surface (or exposed at low tide) wind, swells, tidal changes and a myriad of other navigational obstacles. Yet the ship still manages to arrive on time. It is nice to go to bed at night with the confidence the skipper and his crew know what they are doing and do it well.
The island is part of the same chain of islands, the Tobriand Group in the Solomon Sea. It is only 30 Klms from Kiriwina. We basically sailed around in large circles during the night so we could arrive at around 8am. This gave the locals time to have breakfast, set up their markets and dances etc ready for our arrival.
It was not long before the customs and security obligations were taken care of and the first tenders started going ashore.
Unhurried as we usually are, we had breakfast in the Waterfront Restaurant then waited for our tender boarding instructions.
Probably the nicest place we have visited in PNG and certainly the nicest island so far. Conspicuous by its absence was rubbish.
It helps I suppose that there is only one small store on the island and money is in short supply. Perhaps there was a big heap of rubbish somewhere further inland but all the beach and surrounding area was clear of any rubbish. Perhaps the locals spent yesterday cleaning up the waters edge, the beach and the jungle fronting the beach. Maybe it is always clean. We were simply pleased that it was in marked contrast to places like Alotau, Wewak, Madang and Raboul.
The locals appear to be a nice friendly group. School was closed for the day to allow the children to greet us with song and dance.
Also absent were the security guards with holstered weapons, truncheons and guard dogs. There were no security people at all. I should add that yesterday, Kiriwina Island had no security guards strutting around either.
There is only one car on the island, a work ute and only a dirt track for it to travel on. So, there were no exhaust fumes to breathe.
As with all the ports we have visited there are the huge lines of market people selling their crafts.
Here we also saw cooked lobster for sale. One couple were happily eating a lobster which had been cooked…when? How long had it been sitting unrefrigerated in the baking sun? They were quite happy. To them it was lobster at a bargain price…20 Kina…about AUS $10.00.
Young boys and men offered rides to an island across the channel in what looked like a war canoe. The cost was 5 Kina each way. Sail rigged Lakatoys cruised along the beach for the same price. It seemed these islanders by being a bit shy were very busy. They were not in your face offering something.
Kitava, like Kiriwina we visited yesterday has its fair share of skulls, skull caves, historic gravesites, lookouts and WWII memorabilia. For a small fee there is a designated tour guide or if he or she is already on a tour anybody else nearby would be happy to take you ona tour for the same fee. Usually about 5 Kina. We had to make a decision. We had expected to be able to swim and snorkel when we arrived and given the heat and humidity that is what we chose to do. Unfortunately we did not do any of the tours. The island still made some money from sales of various articles we bought.
Unlike the places we visited on the mainland, we did not see any mobile phones. Not surprising really as the island is a long way offshore of the mainland where signal is limited to town areas only.
I did notice the large numbers of dogs wandering amongst the legs of locals and tourist alike. These scrawny mange riddled dogs also felt the heat and humidity because they would only wander a short distance then lay down, panting, for a rest. The dogs are pathetically thin and not for the first time I wondered what they eat.
On the subject of eating, now that we are in the final week of the cruise I should mention THE FOOD. If you come home from a cruise and complain of being hungry then you must have limited taste buds…Or a tape worm.
For starters on deck 11 there is The Pantry. Open from 6.30 to 9m with choices of cafeteria style options for breakfast lunch and dinner PLUS desserts. Basically you go to the food option of your choice tell the person serving what you want and hey presto, there it is. Take your food to a table, collect serviette kife fork and spoon along the way and enjoy your meal with a view…from any table. We also had the choice of breakfast lunch or dinner at The Waterfront with a la carte meals again with views from any table. Mostly the lunch and dinner menu changes daily and it is a nice relaxing atmosphere. Wine other drinks are available. This was our favourite option. An Asian and Italian restaurant was also available. All the food choices were fabulous and serving sizes small enough to have three courses. Other exclusive food outlets were an option but were subject to a fee. On reflection I wonder why I never took the camera to the restaurant to photograph the food.
On the tender back to the ship I noticed most people were carrying something they had purchased ashore. In a small way the passengers put something into the Kitava economy. P & O can take a bow as well. They built and installed the landing jetty and employed local people. They pay a landing fee to the locals and employ local people to keep things organised. They also collect $6 per passenger to donate to the local school.