Alotau, Papua New Guinea

                                                             Milne Bay, Alotau, Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea is a new country for us.  Here they call it PNG to save time.  Papua New Guinea is about half the island of New Guinea (just north of Australia).  The other half of the island belongs to Indonesia.

Alotau is a small town on the southeast coast of PNG, situated on Milne Bay, a huge bay which figured decisively in World War II.  It is the place where the Allies first defeated Japan in a land battle.  The setting here is spectacular, with the bay surrounded by mountains covered with tropical vegetation.

We had been warned not to expect much from our tour, given that this is not a frequent destination for cruise ships.  We were also warned that the people probably wouldn’t be very good in English.  Our tour was very low key, especially compared to the ones in sophisticated big cities that see a lot of tourists.  Our tour traveled in 14 passenger vans; ours had a couple of natives in addition to the driver.  

The first part of our tour was a ride through much of the town.  We saw the fishing fleet and market and the local hospital.  The hospital reminded us of the old William Beaumont Hospital in El Paso.  It was a group of separate buildings which had probably been around since world war II.  They were connected by covered walkways.  We also passed by fields of yams with a banana tree here and there on our way to a lookout point which had a great view of the bay and our ship.  From there we went to the Cameron Secondary School, where their art teacher talked to us a little bit, and then we had the opportunity to have our faces painted by some of the students.  Susan was one of four who volunteered, and it was a really special experience.  Jamie, the student who did her painting, explained to her what he was going to paint before he did so.  The symbol was an eagle’s eye, the symbol of bravery and courage, the symbol of one who would go through with what they needed to do, even if they were afraid.  Susan was amazed at how appropriate this was for her life.  That’s what you would call serendipity.  There was a tour of the school but missed it because of Susan’s face painting.  It was probably interesting.

From the school we went to visit a market, for the inevitable souvenir shopping, and after that to the war memorial commemorating the Australians, Papua New Guineans, and their allies who fought in the battle of Milne Bay in 1942.

The people here are another group that used to be cannibals.  In appearance they look to be related to the Melanesians.  Apparently they took their cannibalistic meals from raids on other tribes, rather than going for visiting strangers.  The people today are very nice, very friendly, and the ones we met were very well spoken.  One of the things you see a lot of is orange teeth, a by-product of chewing betel nuts (which also happens to be a major source of mouth cancers).

We were supposed to sail around 5PM but were unable to do so because the winds were so strong that we would not have been able to leave the dock.  The direction they were coming from was pushing us toward the dock.  For what appeared to be a peaceful bay, the winds really whipped up the waters.  We were also watching some men with a motor boat who got too close to shore, and had to work very hard to save their boat.  We are happy to report that they did get it back under control, and when we stopped watching they were on their way back to wherever they were going.  The combination of the winds and the dust they stirred up made us feel right at home here…  Eventually the wind died down and we were able to leave for our next port.

Alotau was a substitute port for our original destination at the south end of PNG, which was Port Moresby.  We never did hear why the port was changed.

More pictures of Alotau in the photo album.

© Susan L. Stone 2015