Tuesday, October 10, 2017

LET THE PORT MORESBY ADVENTURES BEGIN! CHAPTER TWO....


The Islander Hotel now known as "Gateway Hotel", Port Moresby
Port Moresby
Another side of Port Moresby
Volunteers at work in Port Moresby
PNG Parliament House - first created in 1964 as the House of Assembly of Papua and New Guinea...before gaining independence in 1975




A market at Boroko, a suburb of Port Moresby
A couple of colourful local lads

Soon, the islands of the Strait were in the distance – in the rear view mirror.

The Torres Strait Island group, approximately 274 in total, lying between Cape York Peninsula and Papua New Guinea, are part of Queensland. They are administered by the Torres Strait Regional Authority, a special authority fitting the native, Melanesian, land rights.

Some of the islands lie just off the coast of New Guinea.

Because of drastic depletion of their cultural artifacts in 1888-1880 by the visiting Cambridge Anthropological Expedition, in 1904, the islanders became subject to the Aboriginal Protection and Restriction of the Sale of Opium Act (1897- Qld).

Papua New Guinea is about the size of California. Approximately 96% of its population of approximately 5.8million is Christian.  PNG gained independence from Australia in 1975. The Torres Strait Islands and Islanders remained Australian.

The New Guinea government objected to Australia having complete control over the waters of the strait. Both governments came to an agreement that suited each country. 

The islands and islanders remained Australian, but as the maritime border between Australia and Papua New Guinea runs through the centre of the strait, both countries manage the resources of the area.

From the tip of Cape York to New Guinea the distance is approximately 150kms at the narrowest point. The islands scatter over some 200-300kms, east to west.

At the termination of the last Ice Age, approximately 12,000 years ago, the rising sea submerged what was formerly a land-bridge between our two countries.  Many of the western Torres Strait Islands are the remaining peaks of the former land-bridge that weren’t completely submerged when the ocean levels rose thousands of years ago.

Torres Strait Islanders are Melanesians, distinct from the Australian Aboriginal. The population of the islands is approximately 8,000.

After our lengthy stay at Cairns airport, trying to hide our impatience as we waited for our delayed flight to arrive (or take off), we were finally on our way northward.

Seated next to me on the flight to Port Moresby was the North Queensland Area Manager for Avis Car Rental.    

He had made many previous business trips to New Guinea, so he was familiar with all that was going on, and about the country to which we were headed.

I was interested in hearing from him what to expect upon arrival in Moresby. Time was limited on the flight, however.  One barely had time to buckle up, unbuckle, have one beer, and then buckle up again before beginning our descent into Port Moresby airport.   
Hardly time to say “Cheers!”

My flight companion told me to expect to see the New Guinea Nationals walking everywhere.

“What do you mean?” I asked. My curiosity aroused.

“Just that…they walk everywhere…coming and going, coming and going…never in a hurry…just walking….walking.  I don’t know if they ever get to where they’re going, or from where they started…but, you’ll see…they just…walk.  You’ll understand what I mean when we get there.”

Port Moresby airport overflowed with people.  People were everywhere.  They can’t all be catching flights or meeting people, I thought.  What on earth was going on?

Crowds milled around inside and outside the terminal building.

Some sat on the floor, with their backs resting against the walls, or whatever support they could find.  Others didn’t bother with any support.  

Security guards and police, with sniffer German Shepherds at their sides, created an ominous presence.

“Anyone trying to smuggle drugs into this country would be a fool!” I mumbled softly out of the corner of my mouth to my flight companion, to whose side I’d purposely become glued, no Supa Glue or Blu-Tack required.

Finally, we collected our luggage, eagerly exiting the airport terminal to our waiting Avis cars.

Outside, everywhere I looked, the Nationals (Papua New Guineans) were crouched under trees, palm trees, on lawns, on the footpaths, anywhere they could find a spot on which to sit.
  
En route to our hotel, named “The Islander”, I began to understand what Tony, my well-informed flight companion, had tried to explain to me.

All along the way, on both sides of the road leading into Moresby proper, people were walking, some that way, some this way, and others the other way.

Nobody seemed to be in a hurry to get to where they were going, or vice versa. They “just walked”!

The trip from the airport to our hotel didn’t take long.

Driving into the grounds of the hotel, once again I noticed New Guinea Nationals sitting along the fence line, under the decorative palm trees, next to shrubs, in the hotel gardens… everywhere.

Alighting from our respective vehicles at the hotel, we gathered together in a cluster. Standing on the stairs leading to the foyer and reception desk were three or four well-built, serious-looking New Guinea policemen with large black batons attached to their belts. Their hands frequently strayed to finger the threatening-looking, thick truncheons. It appeared to me, the police needed little, if any, provocation in using their trusty cudgels. From the look of the weapons worn proudly on their hips, they had the capacity to do much harm.

The government elections had been held just prior to our visit (July, 1987), and while the votes were being collected and counted, a prohibition on alcohol had been in force.

A prolonged wave of violent crime in Port Moresby had commenced in 1985, culminating in a “state of emergency” in June, 1985.  Left, right and centre there were government party splits going on in parliament. The unrest continued with serious riots erupting throughout the Highlands in 1986.  

Leading up to the election, the vote-collection and counting, the prohibition had been in force for a lengthy period (three months or longer, from memory).  Prohibition had been lifted only a couple of days before our arrival. It was obvious to us that the police were expecting trouble now that the ban was lifted.  They were prepared for trouble and wished to quell it as quickly as possible.

Again, quietly, I mumbled to my companions. “From this moment forth, there is an imaginary chain linking all of us together. Where each one of us goes, the other goes! It’s all for one and one for all!”

Agreement to my plan came from all quarters…no argument.

After depositing my luggage to my room and freshening up, by pre-arrangement, I met Tony, my-flight-companion-Avis-man in the hotel lobby. With another couple of partners-in-crime, he took us on a guided tour around the Port Moresby city centre and the yacht club. I was amazed how dry, how arid the area was. 

I’d never been to Papua New Guinea before that visit...and never have again.  I had ignorantly assumed it was all lush, green rain-forest jungle similar to The Daintree and Cape Tribulations areas of Tropical Far North Queensland, but Tony, during our flight, had corrected my false assumption.

Port Moresby and its close surrounds are part of the red savannah, not dissimilar to the landscape of Normanton, in Queensland’s Gulf Country, an area I was to visit and work in briefly, a few years later.

Moresby was dusty, old-looking and fairly ramshackle in spots..tired and worn-out.

Until my visit to PNG, I’d never seen so much barbed wire and security bars as I did in Port Moresby. And, I've never seen as much since that trip.

Every building, home, store was not without some form of barricade material.

We all commented we couldn’t live under those conditions, being so used to the freedoms of living in our own lucky country, known as "Australia". I guess we do take so much for granted and, at times, need our eyes opened to the world outside.

Leaving the city limits, we drove a few miles out further into the countryside. Tony hadn’t lied. On either side of the roads we traversed were the New Guinea Nationals, walking….walking…  

Dotted along the sides of roads were high-set flimsy shacks. The lower sections of the shacks housed the cooking and eating area.  Their pristine dirt floors were pristine. The dirt floors are continuously swept with hand-made brooms, to the point they appeared to be highly polished. Strangely, those flimsy shacks were extremely clean and tidy, much tidier than some areas of Port Moresby, itself.

Arriving back at our hotel a while later, the four of us, three men and me, decided we’d go into the bar for a drink before showering and changing for the evening’s event, which was due to commence around 7pm.

The bar wasn’t much bigger than my resort bar on Hinchinbrook Island, but where I had only one bar person in attendance at my bar at any given time, the bar in “The Islander” Hotel had six barmen - that I could see - working it, in the short time we were there.  A little over-done, in my opinion.  I learned later...not so much.

We stayed only a couple of minutes.  I looked around the room and the bar.  Very quickly I realized the three men I was with were the only white men in the bar, and I was the only white woman.

Quietly, (whispering had become natural to me), I said to my companions, “I don’t feel very comfortable in here. I’m going back to my room. If anyone wants to join me for a drink there, before we all head out later… or maybe in one of your rooms…please feel free.  But, I’m off…”

As one, my companions nodded in agreement and we retired to someone’s room…I can’t remember whose now.  There we shared a couple of cold beers before going our separate ways, with plans to meet up a little while later at the special dinner which was being held in honour of us, the traveling, tourism troubadours.

As an addendum...I'm not a nervous person, but I am a cautious person, one who likes to keep her eyes open and ears alert.  As proof I'm not the nervous type, I lived on an island, Newry Island, by myself; and I've lived alone for the major part of 31 years since my ex and I parted ways in early 1986.  I try never to be careless or blinkered; and I try at all times to be aware of my surroundings, and likely scenarios that could unfold, without taking things to the extreme...if you know what I mean...

The fun was about to commence!

To Be Continued.....


35 comments:

  1. It’s good you had some alcohol in your room. And then what happened?

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    Replies
    1. Hey Arleen...Chapter Three will come soon enough! lol

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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  2. Wall-to-wall walkers eh? Does nobody own a car or bicycle? Was there public transport available? I'm imagining a seething mass of humanity, like a large school of fish, all going one way as one, the flipping and going the other way and so on. And then there's the sitters, the meanderers, that would be quite a sight. I probably wouldn't have felt safe in that bar either, being the only woman.
    I remember meeting a woman from PNG in the early 90's, she and her husband came to Australia on a six month visa, to learn better English so they could get better jobs once they went home. I don't know where the husband worked, but she came to the Clarks Shoe Factory and for six months we helped her sort out the English she'd learnt from the Australian version she was now hearing and explained some of the slang terms too. To pass, they had to write an essay in English and I read hers before she handed it in and suggested grammar and spelling changes, although I remember not many changes were needed. Yet I can't remember her name now.

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    1. Hi River...Yes, there are vehicles and bicycles in Port Moresby, taxis and public transport, no doubt...and a lot of walkers....when I was there in 1987, anyway. Thinks may have changed over the ensuing 30 years...I have no idea.

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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  3. Fascinating. Although I have read of another Australian's experience when she and her husband worked there, I never picked up that PM was not tropical. I am surprised. It will be interesting to find out why the bar was not overstaffed. I remember the time of terrible violence there, though I don't think it has ever stopped, perhaps just reduced. ABC had an excellent correspondent in PNG, Sean Dorney, who was married to a local woman. I don't think it was very wise for Australia to give PNG its independence when it did. It hasn't gone terribly well and the country needs a lot of propping up by Australia. We provide the money, but have no control over how it spent.......or pocketed.

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    1. Hi Andrew...the bar was over-staffed...six staff behind the bar was an over-kill in my opinion.

      Yes...it is true, Andrew, Port Moresby is of similar landscape to our Gulf Country...red savannah...very dry and dusty.

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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  4. A friend from university days grew up in PM so I was aware it wasn't tropical. And had a problem or six.
    Cautious is good - or my wimpy eyes it is anyway.

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    1. G'day, EC. Your eyes aren't wimpy, I'm sure. It's wise to be wise to what goes on or could go on around us, in my opinion.

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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  5. Just stopping by to say hello!

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    1. Hello back to you, Sandie! :)

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  6. Fascinating. I'm glad you included that map at the top. It gave me an idea of the proximity to Australia. The homes on stilts looks intriguing.
    You're a wise woman to stay alert to your surroundings wherever you go. We'd all be better off doing that.

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    1. G'day Sandra...Yes....seeing the locations on the map puts things in perspective.

      Thanks for coming by and reading my post. :)

      Delete
  7. I find this post very interesting . Except the name (Papua New Guinea), until reading your post ,I knew almost nothing about the place.
    That's very good of you to be cautious; one never knows what awaits one at the corner.

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    1. G'day, DUTA....PNG is an intriguing country. It and its good people played an important part in the Second World War; a role for which Australia will always appreciate.

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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  8. What a wonderful experience it seems to me to be.
    Looking forward to the next chapter Lee.

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    1. Hi Margaret...good to see you. It was a wonderful experience...one that left me with fond, happy memories.

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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  9. Very interesting! My boss at the travel agency went to New Guinea in the 1980's. Her pictures of being surrounded by the children there were amazing.
    Can't help but think of folks from other countries visiting the USA will ask where are all the people...I always say, "they are in their cars!"

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    Replies
    1. Hi Kay. Some go driving - some go walking! :)

      The people we saw around us in Moresby were gathers, I think....they like to gather around together.

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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  10. That situation was not going to engender much tourism.

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    1. It certainly was eye-opening, Adullamite...nothing like what I'd seen or experienced before. However, on the other hand, it was intriguing and very interesting. More to follow...

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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  11. I have to say that I would be happy in a room full of men if I was the only woman. WooHoo!

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    1. Hi Annie...maybe in some circumstance I would be, too...and have been, but that particular afternoon was slightly different. :)

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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  12. I'm with Granny Annie! :)

    That Parliament House is gorgeous.

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    1. Hi Lynn...Yes, the Parliament House is quite impressive. Moresby is a combination of many varied structures, old and new.

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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  13. Try living in England. 60 million people living in so small a space. It's crazy.

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    1. Hey, Treey...Nope...I'm happy where I am. I have no desire to live anywhere else other than here in dear old Queensland, in the Land of Oz. :)

      Thanks for coming by...take care. I hope you're doing okay. :)

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  14. I am loving this story Lee and looking forward to the next instalment.

    Some dirty-minded readers might think that this sentence is pornographic - "Their hands frequently strayed to finger the threatening-looking, thick truncheons." But not me as I know that your character, like your writing, is above reproach.

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    1. Hi Yorkie...I have no control of the mind of others, to where their mind may wander; nor do I have the time to tether a leash upon their wild imaginative thoughts. I've enough difficulty trying to control my own! :)

      I'm glad you're enjoying this story about a interesting few days spent in PNG. It was a good trip. Thanks for coming by. Keep tuned...more to come. :)

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  15. Oh, I just came back from vacation myself but I want to see this and experience the adventure myself. Fun!

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    1. G'day Lux....You sound very sprightly after your holiday...a good time was had, I imagine! :)

      Thanks for coming by. :)

      Delete
  16. I totally want to come visit you! And I hope you are writing your memoirs. You have had some adventures!

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    1. Hey there, RK....It's great to see you! It's been too long. I keep my eye on your blog in the hope that you find time to put your keyboard to good use! :)

      Thanks for coming by...take good care. :)

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  17. Just catching up with Part Two Lee ...
    Wow memories, adventures just amazing.

    All the best Jan

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    1. Hey, Jan...I'm a bit slow in the catching-up-on-blogs department, too. :)

      Delete
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