Sunday, March 29, 2009

New Ireland

Eloi tasig!

New Ireland is really pretty, it is what most travelers to this country would expect when they first imagine stepping onto a Pacific Island, but there is one exception to this thought and I’ll get to it later. The Australian troops that were sent to the mainland of Papua and New Guinea during the Second World War were disappointed when they arrived at Port Moresby to find a relatively dry landscape with a few Gum Trees dotting the countryside and also small clumps of heavy barked Cycads reminiscent of the Australian grass trees or “black boys” as they were once called before political correctness stepped in. The troops were expecting Coconuts, white sandy beaches and well tanned, bare breasted Melanesians wearing only their grass skirts. While you can find all of these things if you know where to look in Moresby, it is much easier to achieve if you get away from the Capital.

I spent a few days on a tiny Island off the coast of New Island, it took me 15 minutes to walk a lap of the Island and that was a slow lazy lap and 1 hour and 30 minutes to swim a lap of the coral reef that lie below the crystal clear waterline. During my stay, I opted not to wear footwear as there were no roads, and few rocks, for it was a white sandy island with coconuts, a few Mango trees, a Frangipani or two, some Hibiscus and a gorgeous white ginger. But not wearing shoes for such a period of time had its pros and cons. Firstly, my feet have never looked cleaner, the abrasive sand particles had ex-foliated my skin to perfection but upon returning to the mainland and having to walk along a concrete pathway, my feet were in pain because of the hardness of the ground beneath. Ouch.

While I was able to find the utopia that the Soldiers found missing in Port Moresby, there is a slight physical difference to the bare breasted Melanesians of mainland PNG here in New Ireland. Along with the people who live in East New Britain and across the sea in Bougainville, the New Irelanders share a common trait with both these neighbours. Like the Bukans of Bougainville, the New Irelanders are of darker skin tones but like the Tolais of East New Britain, the New Irelanders often will have blonde hair colour.

A really pretty part of the country despite the ever expanding Oil Palm plantations, but even these has a lineal symmetry that is peaceful and entrancing. The Boluminski Highway is an easy and attractive coastal road, in good condition which cruises through a few small tiny villages as it winds its way to Namatanai. I know of others who have cycled this road and had a wonderful time doing so. In envious rage I shake my fist at them, but not too threateningly, they know who they are… Next time I return to New Ireland, I’ll take my bike.

And getting back to those soldiers who were disappointed with Moresby in 1942, they should have know better as Australian troops saw action and casualties against the Germans in New Guinea during the First World War and two of those soldiers of the 1st and 4th Tropical Force are buried on the island of New Ireland. Vale.


Tavurvur said...

Keep these post coming Steve!



Steve Bennett said...

Thanks Tavuvur, I'm not stoppin' until all the Provinces are covered... and then some.