The Blue And Green Seas of Milne Bay

Navigating through the small islet and Kanakope (on the Ealeba side) en route to the China Straits

Navigating through the smallest islet made up of mangrove trees brought back lots of memories of yester years. We managed to slide through with ease because the tide was fairly high. That’s the only time one can take even a small dinghy with an outboard motor over the rocks below. We made it through and what a relief that was for the kapitan of the boat. The thought of seeing the islands once more got me singing ‘Discover the Island’ one of Salima’s popular songs. There was a Salima fan on board on our visiting team reminding me that I had promised I would sing the song when we powered towards the Straits and Logea Island. Sing, I did! It felt good.

Inviting waters - so tempting to us in the heat of the sun. Crystal clear sea water - what more could we have ask for.

The rest of the journey through the Straits was a truly wonderful experience. I can’t remember all the times I’ve been through the Straits and seeing the islands of Samarai, Kwato, Logea and Ebuma. I realise I could never tire of it. It was truly a magnificient sight to behold. Memories came flooding back. It had been six (6) years since I last visited this part of Milne Bay. The songs I’ve written about these islands mostly romantic notions of these beautiful islands remain year after year and song after song. I could never run out of words to describe these islands and their beauty and mystique continue to be an inspiration as the day I wrote my first serious song, ‘Jewel In My Heart’.

Cruising past the mainland of Papua on our left. What a magnificent sight. The day was bright, blue skies above and we were surrounded by the beautiful emerald islands of southeast Milne Bay.

Our day trip covered Kwato, Doini and Samarai islands. I had never in my life been to Doini Island and this trip was going to be my first ever to the idyllic island. But first we called into Kwato Island. I was amazed at the changes that have taken place here – it was serene and tranquil. Gone was the school and the sounds of children playing and singing. The sounds of boatbuilding and the engines that powered the tools in the B & C building were no more. The big mango trees that surrounded my family’s home ‘Himitana’ have been cut down – now that’s another story but I wont go there.

Well, today was another day in Port Moresby as the leadership struggle continued. As if that was not enough to scare us, Port Moresby and other parts of the country were hit by a strong earthquake tremor that lasted almost a minute – there were two tremors one after the other in quick succession. Our building shook like a leaf and we were forced to evacuate our offices and run down the fire escape and on to the busy road below.

Office work continued as usual but our ears and eyes were wide open beyond our work stations and computers.  The evolving saga continued unabated and the day ended with more uncertainty resulting from the leadership struggle that was taking place in the capital city. The anticipation for the 6 o’clock news and Facebook threads grew as I headed home. Was the day productive? Not really – after the staff meeting in the morning it was a matter of wait and see.

I kept thinking that there’s some nasty stuff going on at the political level here but beyond these events in Port Moresby’s halls of power lie the most captivating and awe-inspiring natural beauty of Papua New Guinea.

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!