Madang, Papua New Guinea

Madang Welcome

This was another new port for us, and another one where they warned us about a lack of infrastructure and not much English spoken.  The view from the upper levels of the ship at the dock was beautiful: mountains covered with tropical vegetation, a narrow entrance to the harbor bay, and multiple small islands off shore.  On our way up to breakfast we saw many people at the deck rail and heard sounds of music and drumming, so we stepped outside and were treated to native singing and dancing in native costumes.  It is always nice to be greeted that way.  

Our tour was called Madang Highlights.  They do not have large buses here.  We rode in a convoy of 13-passenger vans.  Troop carriers provide bus service for the locals.  All of the guides for our tour are college students from Divine Word University, who are studying for a degree in tourism and hospitality.   Our guide was Augustine, who is from the highlands in the interior of the island.  The first stop was the local cultural museum which had a collection of articles about World War II events, as well as native carvings and a beautiful collection of shells.  Unfortunately they did not want us to take photos, because of concerns about preserving their irreplaceable exhibits.  We next went to the Bilbil village, a village of about 2000 people, who are famous for their pottery making.  A lot of the drive there was on a dirt road full of potholes which were full of water thanks to rain the night before.  Even on the paved roads our drivers were very careful to do their best to avoid the potholes.  Bilbil is a very traditional village; most of the houses are built of wood, and all have thatched roofs.  These houses are usually built on pilings, which keeps the water out and which allows for air circulation.  Needless to say, the weather here was hot and humid.  While we were at the village we took a little walk to see the caged Cassowary our friend Ron had found.  It was a gorgeous bird, and apparently the owner had raised it from an egg.  

Our next stop was at a sulfur creek at the Balek Wildlife Sanctuary (yes, we knew we had arrived by the smell of it).  Here we saw eels and fish, and when we walked over to a limestone cave, we saw some gray turtles swimming around, and a huge millipede - it was at least four inches long.  It is tough trying to imagine living in sulfur water, but in addition to these animals there are white algae growing there, too.  The water is beautifully clear, but we were warned not to put our hands in the water because our wedding rings would be discolored as a result.

We drove through the Divine Word University, which has quite an extensive campus.  Then we drove past the Mission Gun, the remains (we think) of a Japanese outpost.  We had a short stop at the Coast Watchers Light House, which is a functioning monument to the coast watchers in World Wars I and II.  Our final stop was at the Madang resort, for craft shopping.  We walked around the resort a little, and it appears to be very nice.  The tour was supposed to be 3-½ hours, but went at least an hour longer.  The most amazing part of driving through the area was all the people who were out and about.  They were very friendly, and the majority of them waved and smiled at us.  As we sailed away, they were crowding the area near the dock, along the resort, and at the light house.  We even had some people come out in long boats to see us off.  We have never seen anything quite like this send-off, and it really touched our hearts.  We had no idea of what to expect of Papua New Guinea when we arrived, but left loving it.  Nothing we encountered (other than the resort and some houses belonging to foreigners) was fancy.  But the culture is very interesting and the people are wonderful.  In addition, they have some of the most beautiful children we’ve seen.  This port gets only 2-3 cruise ships per year, so our presence was special for them. 

It would be interesting to visit again to see what else the area has to offer.  As usual, additional photos can be found in our photo album.

                                                                 Coast Watchers Lighthouse and Farewell Gathering

© Susan L. Stone 2015