Thursday, January 15, 2009

Manus Province.

Manus is the most Northern Province in PNG, the main Island is Manus Island and it was here that I was able to get away to for a few days back in late 2007. Manus requires a couple of flights to get to and it feels very remote. If life in PNG is fairly laid back and casual, then in Manus it feels as if time has stopped. And a short walk around the Provincial Capital of Lorengau proves that indeed some of the construction work to build the town stopped shortly after the end of the Second World War; old Nissen Huts are now Coca-Cola advertisements, old concrete bunkers are storerooms and the start of a great causeway built by the US Army still looks as if work will re-start tomorrow.

Manus does not know what Tourism is. The trios of us traveling there in November of 2007 were tourist numbers 8, 9 and 10 for the year to date, and as I knew who the last two visitors were, I felt that we were in elite company. The day we arrived must have been tourist season as we saw a couple of lads with surfboards arriving to try and catch some PNG swell… we never saw them again albeit ever so briefly in the marketplace. I wonder if they tried any of the smoked Cuscus.

The only Hotel in town was owned and operated by the Local Level Government and they would only receive visitors from workers coming to the Island to fix things. Workers like Telikom and PNG Power and Eda Ranu would stay there along with Politicians on workshops and junkets. The staff eyed us suspiciously as we wanted not to sit around the stagnant pool drinking warm beer and staying up to 6am, but we wanted to visit local communities, chat with the locals, go for a swim and enjoy PNG hospitality. These ideas were foreign to the staff.

After much convincing and cajoling we managed to get a vehicle and staff member to take us for a journey away from the heart of Manus and up into the Mountains in the centre of the Island. As it was surfing season, the swell was far too great for us to go visiting neighbouring Islands. We did manage a snorkel on Ra-Rah Island close by which was a swell time, and there was fantastic Manus Pandanus on the Island. Our journey into the Mountains culminated with watching a Soccer Match in the pouring rain with the entire Village community involved. There was not a blade of vegetation on the pitch and the red soil was saturated with the constant rain. We got to hug a baby Cuscus which probably ended up being smoked and sold at the markets later and we got to spend some good quality time chatting to the local crew. Some of whom had a fair idea about tourism, but were being hamstrung by the only Hotel on the Island. A shame really because hindsight is an amazing thing and I think I would have altered my original plans if only I knew more and spent more time with these people…

After the men finished their game of soccer, the young ladies of the Village had their turn, in pouring rain and on a field of clay; two dozen young Manusian girls chased a heavy saturated leather ball around. Mud wrestling anyone?

We then drove back to town, purchased a shortwave radio and decided to listen to the election to see if Johnnie Howard still had a job or if Kevin 07 was gonna be the new PM. Amazingly enough, the Hotel found a technician who was willing to work all day Saturday to make sure the planets were in alignment and that the televisions picked up the ABC. Unbelievable, as we sat and drank warm beer and peered at the crackly snowy image on the teev, we watched history being made, from as far away from Australia we could get whilst in PNG.


Hausboi Nuigini Style said...

thanks pal for visiting my beautiful island.infact iam from the red muddy soccer field that you visited.phew you withness the soccer version of clay court tennis style.once again thanks for putting my island as one of the places you have visited.

penua g polon.
manus island

Steve Bennett said...

Thank you Penua for visiting my Blog. I do have great memories of Manus Island, and the people in the Village where the Soccer Clay field was were some of the most wonderful people I met in PNG. Despite the rain, I had a warm time with the local people.

I really wanted to build a house up in those mountains and retire to the good life! It was so very peaceful.

thank you.