PNG Still Makes Me Smile Regardless

Returning from Tawali Resort - a view to remember...eneeeeeeee

At this point in time in Port Moresby with all the prevailing confusion caused by the political leadership tussle and no one piece of  news gives us any consolation that a solution is nigh, one needs to reach out to the lovely things that make Papua New Guinea a beautiful country. Those lovely things are the real deal.

Yesterday with all that was being reported over the radio, the national dailies and in Facebook etc, I observed that most people in the downtown Port Moresby area and surrounds were busy going about their business.

It did occur to me that in times like this the lovely things about Papua New Guinea must come out. My thoughts turned to the hundreds of photos I’ve taken since my return from England and how it would be great to share these magical moments on this blog…

So here are some of the many images I’ve snapped of this beautiful country which should not be trashed and tarnished through the reckless and callous actions of a few.

My photoblog starts today sharing some more magic moments in PNG…

Sunset on the Tawala side – returning from Tawali Resort
 

A lone fisherman on an outrigger canoe in the bay. The mountains on the Tawala side looked ever so majestic.
The above photo was taken from a Driftwood Resort dinghy taking us on a day trip to Kwato, Doini and Samarai just after last year’s Canoe and Kundu Festival in Alotau.
 
In sum, regardless of the current ridiculous political wrangling and confusion that is and can be unsettling if you are in Port Moresby right now, there are things that can still make one smile. Those things are real and tangible within the heart of every peace-loving Papua New Guinean and those whose spirits have made the connection to the beauty of this country and its people.
 
We are all in some way connected through our smiles and the quiet confidence we exude in the way we have taken this most challenging and historic time in PNG’s political history in our stride.

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.

Priceless!

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.

Blue Sails In The Sunset

Beautiful against the sunset...

These were some of the sailing boats that took part in the 2010 Canoe and Kundu Festival in Alotau, Milne Bay Province last November.

Race you to the shore!

I took these shots from shore looking out into the bay. The Suau word for bay is alotau. In other dialects in the area the word for bay is ‘kalotau’.  The capital town of Milne Bay where the Provincial Headquarters is located is Alotau – taken from the Suau word for bay. I think it is a fitting name and one that conjures up so many lovely memories and warm thoughts about Milne Bay and the Milne Bay way of life. Like the bay, it can be choppy at times but mostly calm.

Leaving the white froth behind as they raced to shore. The folks in the hut must have had a great view.

The bay was reasonably calm but slightly windy. Anyway, the canoes and their skippers were unfazed. It was a good wind for sailing. For me a landlubber, I wouldn’t allow myself to be dragged out on a canoe at that time of the day. I would rather be taking photos of others, like these folks, racing around in open canoes or sailboats.

In the distance against the hills of Ealeba on the other side of the bay.

Am not so sure why the sails are all in blue. It’s either the most popular colour or that’s the only colour they have available. Perhaps it was the only colour available in Alotau at that time. Yeah, let’s not forget this is one part of PNG which is so far southeast of the capital city of Port Moresby. So it is better to get a sail even if it comes only in one colour. So no choice for colours really. That seems to be a common thing in PNG. Sometimes you end up with only one colour, only one size etc. If you get something and it serves your purpose why worry about colour, make, shape etc. The important thing is that it works! Well, I hope some enterprising citizen would provide assorted colours for this year’s Canoe and Kundu Festival. It would be great to have a rainbow of colours for sails than just blue. But hey, it may be that these folks like blue! Who gives a rat’s behind what I think! End of story!

Getting to shore...

Watching these folks deftly move about the boat was worth watching. I thought about the huge sailboats that ply the Milne Bay waters on the Kula Trade routes that take them to as far as the Rossel Islands in the southeastern most tip of Milne Bay from all the way out in Kiriwina (Trobriand Islands).  Now that’s a thought!

Blue sails in the sunset, cruising over an evening sea...

Other craft were also visible (between the two blue sails) and I wasn’t sure whether the folks in the dinghy were heading for the other side of the bay or going out to help someone who went overboard. It’s probably the former.

Almost on terra firma again

These folks looked relaxed and probably happy to be just floating on the sea to shore. I guess the end of a tough afternoon and the fun we landlubber folks had taking shots of the sailboats. They must be in many many photos taken by people like me – amateurs and professionals alike.

Time to bring the sails down...the crew of the Meros

…time for a hot cuppa something and to chew betelnut. One of the favourite pastimes of Milne Bay people…betelnut chewing.

I too packed my camera away and headed for Masurina Lodge for some sumptuous homecooked meal of aiai nugini (taro, sweetpotatoes, greens etc) and a hot cuppa Milo…

It was a wonderful day. It was so nice to be in Alotau, the cleanest town in PNG. Eaide!

Hugging The Coastline To Alotau

Rewarded with this view...

On a recent trip to Alotau, Milne Bay Province, a friend gave up their window seat so I could take photos of scenes on the way.

It was a clear sunny day and a team of us were on our way to the 7th Canoe and Kundu Festival in Alotau, Milne Bay Province.

Although our flight was delayed, the sights on the way made me forget about the delay.  I anticipated great views on the way and these few shots showed me yet again what a beautiful country Papua New Guinea is. Not because it is my country but because it is!

Here are a few more shots of our journey towards the southeast of Port Moresby and the Central Province.

Stunning!
Another spectacular vista...
Had to include this shot. It added value to the views outside and below.
Coming in to land at Gurney International Airport
What a view...Alotau in the far background
We came in to land, and a familiar sight...
The sight of the oil palm estate below as we came in to land

It was a great trip and the weather was great. I enjoyed being able to take these shots of the coastline as we cruised on towards the southeastern end of the country.

I used my Nikon D90 camera with the AF-S DX Zoom-Nikkor ED 17-55mm f/2.8 G IF lens. I reckon its a beauty. These shots are proof enough.

I am blessed to have a wonderful friend who gave up their window seat for me. Tenkyu tru SJ.

Spicin’ Up Your Coffee – Creativity At Its Best!

Most people know how to make a cup of coffee, right? If you are using instant coffee it is a matter of a couple of teaspoons of the good stuff in a mug adding sugar or milk, honey or whiskey and boiling water. Brewed coffee lovers, the ones that actually drink the good stuff, would probably shop around for different kinds of coffee – Colombian, Papua New Guinean, Kenyan, Kona, Java, Ethiopian etc and choosing either Arabica or Robusta coffee varieties to soothe their coffee pangs. You may be in for a pleasant surprise. Not only are there varieties of the good stuff but also you are spoilt for choice to create your own signature brew, turning a not-so-humble mug of coffee into a unique blend or concoction.

I came across this blog http://puttingweirdthingsincoffee.wordpress.com  on WordPress.com blogs. I’m not really sure what to think of it but I’m pretty sure it is for the adventurous coffee lover. Should you feel inclined to spice up your morning or afternoon coffee, you may want to try these interesting recipes out but then again you may want to ponder the not so subtle warning – don’t try this at home…smile, smile, smile. Just imagine, a whole blog on how to spice up your humble cuppa! Or mugga! 

Just reading the blog brought back a past school memory. Yes, it does take me back to when I was in Grade 7 and was on coffee detail for the staff of my former high school – Cameron High in Alotau, Milne Bay Province. I can’t remember exactly how many mugs of coffee I had prepared but a fair few I suppose. I had a list which I then cleverly memorised so I won’t make a mistake. Come to think of it, the coffee was prepared in a small room adjoining the science lab…hmm.  Some had plain coffee, some took milk and sugar others with or without sugar or just milk, and almost all took an Anzac cookie with their coffee. By the way, the Anzac cookies came by courtesy of the weekly generous Home Economics class that baked the tasty morsels. Well, looking back on those days, I wish I could turn back the clock if only to attempt these really useful weird creations over the mugs of coffee I prepared over some months back then in ‘67. If any of my former teachers are out there who are reading this, you are probably happy I’ve only just read about this creative stuff…darn! smile, smile, smile. It’s somehow quite vague now but I may have exercised the coffee maker’s privilege and enjoyed a couple of those Anzacs myself… those were the days.