Days 1,003-1,005: A Weekend In Madang

30.09.11-02.10.11: The Lutheran Shipping ferry slid into Madang port bang on 7am, which was the exact time the captain told me it would arrive. I have to say, I was mighty impressed by all this startling efficiency. Now if only we could do something about the rest of PNG… I headed back over to Divine WORD (not wind, sorry!) University to meet back up with the delectable Katherine, who had kindly said I could stay for the weekend. After dropping off my kit and taking a well deserved shower (it had been five days in the topics without one… nice!) I went for a pleasant walk around town (Madang is nothing if not pleasant) and grabbed some lunch in the Madang Club which is one of these hilarious ex-pat affairs in which every square inch of wall is taken up by rules of entry/dress/conduct etc. One…

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Day 1,002: Fire and Brimstone

29.09.11: Righty-ho Graham you great big travelling monkey, it’s time to hit the road. Tony called me out of bed at 6am as the PMV (a shared taxi-truck) to Wewak was waiting for me. I quickly gathered up my things and said a hearty farewell and thank you to Tony. He was sad that I didn’t get to see the yams, but next time, my friend, no worries. The PMV was so like in Africa it was spooky. A ton of people lined up on two benches facing each other on the back of a truck, the floor of which was awash with baskets, cases, bananas, dry goods, sacks, spare tyres, the holy grail, you name it. The guy sitting next to me was an old teacher called Tobias. He and I chatted for much of the four hour drive back to Wewak, and had some…

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Day 1,001: Hey White Man!

28.09.11: When I say the Papua New Guineans are the friendliest bunch of people you’ll ever come across, I hope you don’t take me for a liar. These guys make overbearing drunk Russians seem a little distant. Yesterday a local guy called Tony who had taken Catherine and Dave out on an excursion last weekend offered to take me to his village today which is just a few miles from Maprik, the entry town for The Sepik region. With the offer of authentic Sepik carvings, the chance to go inside a Haus Tambarans (a vagina-shaped meeting house – men only(!)) and the promise of giant yams dressed as people (I’ll say that again but louder, GIANT YAMS DRESSED AS PEOPLE!!), how could I say no? The plan was that Tony would pick me up at 8am. This being PNG (Lutheran Shipping notwithstanding), I didn’t expect him…

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Day 1,000: Wewak To The Future

27.09.11: It’s Day M. As I stand outside Wewak aerodrome on the northern fringe of Papua New Guinea, I dip my hat on the morning of Christmas Eve 2010 and… MATCH CUT: I raise my head and it is now 27th September 2011, Day 1000 of The Odyssey Expedition. Eagle-eyed viewers will spot that I’ve put on weight and my facial hair is approximately 83% sillier than ever before. A lot has happened in those missing nine months, and a lot has stayed the same. I lost my sister and my good friend Si lost his father. Stan got married and my video Best Man speech was a disaster. Babies came into the world, and it was an honour to meet the new additions to our planet. Captain Danny finished his fourth and final tour of the Middle East. Upon his return to the UK last…

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Days 997-999: Far From The Madang Crowd

24.09.11-26.09.11: 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…

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Days 995-996: Please Sir, I Want Moresby

22.09.11-23.09.11: After meeting with Sophie I was whisked away to her flat which overlooks Ela beach and she made me some din-dins which we ate with her flatmate Alex on the balcony as the sun went down. Port Moresby has this dramatic look to it, with many of the buildings perched on the hillsides that drop off to the sea – sadly, most (if not all) of the buildings are made of that cheap nasty concrete stuff that so excites the loins of architects and accountants, so the next day I visited the Port Moresby museum to see some authentic PNG art and culture – and I’ve got to say I wasn’t disappointed. The museum is free – okay, so it could do with a spring clean -- but the wooden artefacts, carvings, totems, masks, canoes, shields etc. are a sheer joy. The Papuans have been…

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Day 994: Beyond the Valley of the Ultra-Conservatives

21.09.11: I left Mandy in Melbourne’s wee Tullamarine airport on Tuesday evening. We had spent the afternoon getting the last things sorted: chief of which was a new click-click camera for me as well as a teeny battery powered razor (which I heartily recommend to any would-be globetrotter who likes to play with his (or her) facial furniture). Mand was with me as I checked onto the flight and after us both hoovering up some Nando’s chicken (truly South Africa’s second greatest export after Nelson Mandela) we said bon voyage… a parting made a little sweeter by the fact we would be back together again at the end of October. A couple of hours later I was in Brisbane airport looking for Mandy’s mate Matt who had kindly offered to put me up for the night. After a swift half at an Irish pub that was…

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Days 988-989: WOO HOO!!!

15.09.11-16.09.11: I’ve just heard back from Martin at China Navigation (the subsidiary of Swire Shipping involved with PNG) and the good news is that there is a ship willing and able to take me from Lae in Papua New Guinea to Honiara in The Solomon Islands and back to Australia so I can FINALLY officially tick this great big silly continent off my list. The ship is called the Papuan Chief (cool name eh?) and it’ll be departing Lae around the 10th of October. Major thanks to Swire Shipping, China Navigation, Ray and Sebastian in PNG, Paul in Melbourne, Ross in Sydney and Martin in Singapore as well as kudos and kisses for Lorna and Mandy who helped out with the deal. Lorna especially so: she’s in the UK and the time difference meant she either had to stay up very late or get up very early in…

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Days 985-987: Saddle Up, People!

12.09.11-14.09.11: The time for procrastination is over. Much of this year has been spent – some might say wasted - holding out hope for a yachtie to invite me onboard his vessel and whisk me away into the wild blue yonder for nothing more than the price of a few beers and a barrel of diesel. After being held on tenterhooks for 8 months (repeatedly being told that the yacht in question would be ready to go ‘in a few days’) I gave up that pipedream. I guess the old adage is a good today as it’s always been: if something sounds too good to be true… So I cast my net out wider, appearing on TV here in Australia and on countless radio shows, always throwing in the ‘anyone up for an adventure?’ line (while trying not to sound too desperate, of course). I got…

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Day 723: Fairytale of New Guinea

24.12.10: Amazingly, the ferry boat arrived at Wewak early: by 4am, we were less than a mile from the port.  I stood out on deck: it had been a hot and sweaty night and I hadn’t got much sleep.  The warm breeze beckoned me towards land and salvation, but the captain had other ideas.  For some mad mad mad reason, we started to go around and around in circles.  Full power, engines whining and groaning, the water churning. I stayed up for an hour, perplexed and bewildered.  Why?  WHY? At 5am I went back to the VIP room and fell back asleep.  I woke up an hour later.  We were still running around in circles.  I looked at my watch. I had missed the 6am flight to Port Moresby.  There was no way I was going to be back with Mandy for Christmas.  As if to…

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