Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Final Stop in PNG

Vanimo, our last stop in PNG but first stop on mainland PNG. Cruisers pride themselves in retelling horror stories of counties ahead of ourselves. In most cases the truth is blown up, exaggerated & causes fear mongering. Unfortunately the only people who know the truth are the cruisers who have gone before us. As in all walks of life the bad makes the headlines & cruisers are no different. Very rarely do people put pen to paper to report what a fantastic experience they had but are all quick to email sites such as http://www.noonsite.com/ (cruisers lifeline for research on various places) to warn the rest of the sailing community of negative or scary experiences. Yes its good to have the information at hand but it gives an unequal representation on a place. PNG & the Solomons have suffered this fate with many reports on theft & piracy. We rolled the dice, kept reminding ourselves that others must have traveled this route with positive experiences & tried to keep a sense of balance regarding the information we had heard on the grapevine & through research. True, we tried to better our odds by avoiding mainland PNG. Stuck to the islands generally occupied by smaller close knit communities & hopefully less theft but we took the plunge & weren't scared into following the herd through the Torres Straight.
For a number of reasons I was nervous as we approached Vanimo. In order to gain a social visa for Indonesia (60 days instead of the normal 30 & which can also then be renewed) it needs to obtain it prior to arriving in the country. All enquires back in March with consulates from Fiji, UK, USA, & even our agents at Bali Marina were unable to confirm if there was an Indonesian consulate in Vanimo able to provide the visa. We took a gamble - that close to the boarder with Indonesia there must be. Now we were going to find out & it would be a huge problem if we were wrong. I'll also admit to wondering if the locals were going to be friendly, if one person would have to remain on the boat at all times or if we would be up all night on guard. Its hard stop the horror stories penetrating your mind to some extent. How wrong could I be & another lesson in not prejudging a place or its people.
Vanimo, a dusty little town that upon first glance appears to have little to offer but it had a sparkle that made us stay longer than the processing time required for the visas (thankfully there was a consulate. The local people here were fantastic; warm, very welcoming & appeared delighted we had stopped in their town. They don't get many yachts visiting so we were the talk of the town. Walking down the street people approached wanting to say hello & shake our hands. They knew all about us before we had even met them!
Bobby was delighted to discover surf on either sides of the entrance to the habour (reef breaks are not for me!). I would drop him off in the dinghy & the kids from the village would run down the beach into the sea with their "surf boards" to paddle out & join him. He had his own "after school" surf club with his gang of little followers, so of course he was in his element even making up songs for them which they would all sing for me when I came to collect him at "home time"!! These kids were surfing on pieces of wood, some square & others plank like, the lucky ones had theirs cut into a point at the tip but most didn't, some floated & some sank. I even saw one kid on a door! I challenge any of you surfers out there to ride a wave on these boards! It is really something to watch these young children surf on a piece of wood that prior to the wave coming he kept on the reef below him because it wouldn't float. On top of that he is surfing totally naked - no rash guard or shorts for these guys! ; )
A positive conclusion to my time in Melanesia. I am looking forward to experiencing a completely new culture in Indonesia but it sure isn't easy to say goodbye to these lovely people.

1 comment:

mauswara said...

Great to hear positive feedback about PNG.

cheers