Over dinner one evening, after devouring local seafood, beautiful salads and even more beautiful wine, the suggestion was made that we should join some friends in their 60′ Maritimo cruiser and explore the Milne Bay area of Papua New Guinea. It didn’t take long to make a decision and several months later we began our exploration of this fascinating area.
Our home port was Alotau, in the south-east of Papua New Guinea and on the northern shore of Milne Bay – the area in which the Japanese suffered their first land defeat in the Pacific war in 1942. The gateway to Milne Bay Province, this area has some of the most remote island communities in the world and this is what we came to discover.
First we had to stock up with some fresh supplies as there would be no stores where we were going! The local market was the answer and here we found some fruit, bananas mainly, greens the likes of which we had never seen before, avocados, limes, pumpkin, coconuts and masses of “kau kau” (sweet potato). Dried fish we left alone, hoping to catch fresh ourselves.
The locals love to chew betel nut – which turns their teeth and mouths a bright red colour. They wrap the nut in a leaf sprinkled with lime and then chew. This makes their mouth quite numb but apparently gives a pleasantly soporific feeling! Deciding we needed to experience it for ourselves, we gave it a try – never have I tasted anything more disgusting in my life.
Then it was off to the islands, the coral reefs and exploration
“pek pek haus” – in other words, the village toilet
The local people were curious and paddled over to our boat in their dugout canoes offering fresh vegetables from their gardens and sometimes fish. We were invited into villages and shown around with big smiles and pride in their simple way of life. It was a privilege which we were lucky enough to experience – there are few who ever visit these islands.
After ten days, numerous islands, so many experiences, new friends, reef encounters, fascinating cultures and magnificent sunsets, it was time to head home.