Eddie left early Saturday morning to go Scuba diving (did I mention that PNG offers the best Scuba diving and snorkelling opportunities in the world? – Excellent visibility, tropical delights, coral reefs and – oh yes – hundreds of WWII wrecks for you to explore… nice) so I met up with his fellow piloty mates Duncan (NZ), Heinrich (SA) and Shane (Oz) to grab some commonwealth brunch on the way to the airport.
Port Moresby airport is a pretty sweet little aerodrome, but I couldn’t help but laugh when I saw this friendly sign.
Ah… Madang internet no likey uploady images… I’d add it later!!
I said thanks and goodbye to the guys. They’ve got a couple more years to run on their contracts so no doubt I’ll see them again if and when I return to PNG.
Up up and away!! The prop plane landed in Lae on the way to Madang. For the first leg of the journey I was inconveniently seated in the aisle (booooo!), but then for the second half I slid over to the window side of things (yaaaaay!) and what a ride! Lae and Madang are both on the north coast of PNG, but instead of taking the route along the coast, the local airlines fly as the crow, well, flies. This means that there are mountains over 4000 metres tall to fly over. And that’s exactly what we do.
So for the first fifteen minutes we go up and up and up and for the next fifteen we go down and down and down… as much fun as you can have in 40 seater prop plane. Madang aerodrome is as wonderfully rustic as you might imagine. You get off the plane, walk across the tarmac into the concrete hut that passes for the terminal building and the guys give you your luggage back off straight off the trolley.
My local CouchSurf host, Katherine, had organised for the bus to pick me up and take me to the DWU – the Divine Wind University* – the University of Madang. She’s an administrator here and has an apartment on campus. And what a remarkable campus it is. Close your eyes and picture a university campus set amongst a lush green forest of palm trees and tropical plants. Giant trees, covered in vines and creepers stand like ancient sentries at the side of the red brick road and provide a home for the thousands of flying foxes that call to each other in the sweltering heat of the afternoon sun.
The bus was late, and as often happens in places like PNG, a local family offered me a lift. Jumping on the back of a pick-up truck I was reminded why I travel, for moments like these, the wind on my face and the thrill of the unknown. I arrived at the University just before dark and that night Katherine took me out with her friend KK and KK’s mum for some pizza and beer: two things I find it hard to object to. The local brew here is called SP (for South Pacific) and — without wanting to sound like I’m ragging on Australia too much this week in my blogs — is a million times better than any Australian lager I’ve have the misfortune to consume. I’m in no way a lager connoisseur, but I know when my poo comes out like looking (but definitely not smelling) like chocolate mousse, I’m pretty sure that they’re putting way too much hops into them there beer vats. You hear me VB, Coopers, Carlton, Boags, Little Creatures??! Yeah, I’m talking to you.
KK is a media teacher here at Divine Wind and so we got to talk all techy stuff that make me think everything is thinking “hmm… how interesting, these guys must really know what they’re doing about”, although it’s more likely they’re thinking “Nerds!”. KK’s mum (also a teacher) is interested in getting the work of certain NGOs filmed and put online so that people can see what’s happening with their charity money around the country – sounds like a job I’d be good at. We’re going to keep in touch.
The next day was a lazy Sunday and I spent it idly wandering along the coast with a big smile and a hello to everyone I passed along the way. Madang is by no means Port Moresby and petty crime here is fairly rare, so despite some offers of ‘security’ in exchange for a few dollars, I was happy to do my own thing and stop into some of the resorts along the way for a beer and a view.
Last night I sat up drinking tea with Katherine and KK, chatting about the insane number of living languages in PNG (over 700 at last count) – the highest concentration anywhere in the world, no less. Sadly, many of these languages are under threat of extinction, and there seems little is being done to record them before the last native speakers die. Many of the language spoken by the younger generation is now interspersed with words from Pidgin or Tok-Pisin, the national language of PNG, a very Papuan version of English in which ‘New Guinea’ becomes ‘Niugini’ and you really have to operate your grey matter in order to suss out what on Earth people are saying.
KK told me that in a recent attempt to translate the New Testament into Tok-Pisin (there are more religious zealots in PNG than in your average medieval witchhunt) that the Tok-Pisin expression thought meant ‘love’ translated instead as ‘got pregnant’. Much hilarity can be gleaned from the idea of a white preacher explaining to the PNG natives how God so got pregnant the world that he sent his only son to die for our sins and that Jesus got your mum pregnant, your dad pregnant and – if you’re very good and say your prayers – he’ll probably get you pregnant as well.
So here I am, it’s now Monday 26th of September 2011 and I’ve just got back from buying my ticket for the overnight ‘Lutheran’ ferry (a vestige of German colonisation). Next stop: Wewak and the RETURN OF THE ODYSSEY!!
* Hang on, doesn’t the word ‘kamikaze’ also mean ‘divine wind’? What are they teaching here? The art of smashing your Zero into an American battleship? Eek!