A Memorable Weekend In Alotau

Looking across to Ealeba from Cameron's Plateau

Don’t get me wrong. I have spent many a memorable weekend in Alotau. It is just that this time I felt I had come of age. For starters, I got to use the ‘live view’ function of my Nikon D90. Then the weather was  my kind of weekend weather – dry and sunny and, I got to see the people I wanted to see whilst in Alotau. I also, as a bonus, ran into a lot of family and friends who I haven’t seen in ages.

I also visited my late grandmother’s village across the bay – Wagawaga. The first time I visited Wagawaga was when I was in primary school. Now that is a long time ago. I was really pleased to hook up with relatives some of whom I was meeting face to face for the first time.

Approaching Wagawaga Village...a postcard of tranquility

I also got to sing with the original members of the Salima Band at the Driftwood Resort and Masurina Lodge respectively over the weekend. I was so pleased that this was possible. We stayed up on Saturday ‘til the early hours of the morning singing our recorded songs, teaching eachother our newer songs and talking about our music. Yes, our music. You see, the Salima signature sound is founded on Milne Bay stringband music with a few improvisations along the way to vary the flavor. But, basically, easy listening music which is the sound that Salima is well-known for.

A restaurant over the sea...at dusk

We were blessed to have some of our diehard fans join us in celebrating the weekend and our music. We are so grateful for their patronage of the Driftwood Resort on the Friday and Sunday nights that Salima played there. Not forgetting family and friends who also enjoyed our music when Salima played at Masurina Lodge on Saturday night. Thank you all so much for your support. Your support and encouragement motivates and inspires us to continue writing our songs to share with you.

Warm reception...

I had a wonderful visit at Alotau International Hotel with the Manager and staff. Some of you who have visited this premier Hotel in Alotau would have enjoyed the stunning views of the bay area. I had a grand tour of the hotel and really enjoyed visiting this seaside hotel. Of course, knowing me, no visit is complete without a sumptuous bowl of icecream, you guessed it – vanilla icecream!

Icecream on a cool Saturday afternoon on the grounds of the Hotel...yummy!

The hotel is situated near the War Memorial and Sanderson Bay. It is within walking distance of the town centre and the market. Can you see yourself enjoying a barbeque on these grounds, a mumu perhaps or pig on a spit or perhaps a wedding reception with the fantastic sweeping views of Ealeba across the bay area? The fun potential of this hotel is endless.

The view reminded me of The Remarkables of Queenstown, New Zealand

When at the water’s edge in Alotau, one gets a real sense of the awesome Owen Stanley Range as it forks out into a lopsided ‘V’ shape, into Tawala  and Ealeba – the sprawling mountain ranges that form the bay area – Milne Bay. These majestic mountain ranges have evoked many a rousing stringband number or sombre and moody melodies. These tunes have become the epitome of the Milne Bay 5-key sound – as slack guitar is to Hawaii. The tunes are endearing and enduring throughout the years and I guess we – this generation – are most fortunate to have grown up with so much of the romanticism of our environment.

An awesome sight even for the locals...I felt really blessed.

I say romanticism because we do not remember the bad weather, the rainy season and the rough seas when we are writing our songs. We consciously disconnect ourselves from reminiscing about the storms and the times when the environment unleashes its fury on the islands during a cyclone or bad weather. We still write and sing songs about being nostalgic, jilted in love or the natural beauty around us. This romanticism translates itself consciously and unconsciously into the care we feel for our islands, our bay area, our reefs, our culture and art, and of course our way of life – the Milne Bay way.


I don’t know but more than anywhere else I know in PNG the stringband songs of Milne Bay always never fail to wake the sleeping romantic in me. I know for a fact that Milne Bay stringbands can still belt out the most melodious, lilting sounds that are close to what I would call ‘island spirituals’. For the many who have an ear or the enduring spirit that connects with this kind of music – it takes you on a journey, oh yeah.

Author: islandmeri

Life is a journey which I enjoy. Here I share my passion for helping others, music, ideas, inspiring things, and interesting places and people. It's my cool hangout.

11 thoughts on “A Memorable Weekend In Alotau”

  1. Mari,

    So eloquently written and expressed. You have truly captured the essence and beauty of Milne Bay. Your portrayal of the tranquality of the area, the explanation about the unique 5-key music and the stunning photos….certainly transports the mind of the reader to a different place…..a better, maybe romantic place!

    Love the the sound of waves breaking on the shoreline in the background of most Salima songs! Lovely music indeed!

    Thanks for this wonderful piece with the photos!

  2. Love your blog. Especially the pictures of Port Moresby. I lived there from 1967 to 1969 and it sure looks different now. From memory the TNG building used to be the largest building and they were building a Reserve Bank Building up from the Post Office. Please show us more pictures of Port Moresby, Boroko and other towns if you go there.


    Bill (wilbo43)

  3. I am originally from Milne Bay, Dogura, in actual fact, but have family living in Alotau and a sister -in-law from across the waters to Wagawaga. I live in Honiara, Solomon Islands now.

    Your photos brings back happy memories of growing up there and so much fun we had as children.
    The Alotau Internation Hotel was not there but during my recent visit I did manage to have a peek within and I must say it is one of the best in Alotau. I hope it and other older ones like the Masurina Lodge are bringing a lots of tourists to see what our Province is like.

    Beautiful Photos to!

    Salima is also one of the best music for us Milne Bays in Honiara.

  4. Hey Mari,

    Beautiful pictures of beautiful Alotau – brings them wonderful memories of my visits there, as well as family and friends…Awesome, you’ve captured the beauty of one of the best places in PNG…I miss home now!

  5. Thank you, dear M. Milne Bay is beautiful, and your blog is evocative as ever. I visited Wagawaga with Bp Tevita (who we hear is not at all well) on a rather stormy day several years ago, in 1999 I think – gosh, the last century, and I well remember Alotau in 2009 watching fascinated a public display by the woodcarver (I would have to look up his name) who had created all of the wonderful carvings at the Alotau International. He kindly allowed me to take his photograph and said he was later that year to travel to Germany for an exhibition. (And the Milne Bay lobster was something else!)

  6. Once again, you’ve certainly captured the essence of the beauty of one of the most beautiful places in PNG. Thanks M.

  7. Great article and photos, IslandMeri! Really makes me want to visit there. I was fascinated by your mention of the “Milne Bay 5-key sound” … can’t find anything about it on Google. Do you know of any YouTube links that might give me an idea what that sounds like? Does it refer to a kind of tuning?
    Thanks for the blog post, I always enjoy visiting your site.

  8. Wonderful description and photos. Wish I had been there to hear you sing. I have only been to this lovely spot once eons ago when it did not have the luxury hotels I see it has now. Glad you were able to spend time with your relatives. Family ties are so important.
    Thanks for sharing with us.

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