Lunch Yesterday With Raqs

ImageMy friend Raqs and I seldom have lunch together, but when we do, we go to our favourite hotel cafe here in Port Moresby because of their sweets bar…yesterday was no exception.

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Here are a couple of photos of what was on offer yesterday (22nd July, 2013).

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We enjoyed our buffet (international) lunch with lots to share. I was so happy to meet up with one of my best friends for a leisurely lunch and an opportunity to update eachother on our latest news.

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Usually with the buffet lunches one doesn’t really know what to go for especially when one is spoilt for choice. Of course at this cafe, there is always a basket of freshly baked bread rolls.

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An Evening Cruise On MV South Pacific

Yours truly with some of the invited VIPs on board the MV South Pacific, owned and operated by the Bank of South Pacific.

Recently, I was one of the invitees to join the top brass of the Bank of South Pacific on their boat the MV South Pacific for a dinner cruise around Fairfax Harbour, Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea.

Fairfax Harbour is probably one of the best natural harbours in the country and in the Pacific Region. I shudder at the thought of more of the seaviews disappearing so fast so we miss out on the harbour views when driving into downtown Port Moresby nowadays. We used to be able to see the sea but slowly construction of many new buildings and the extensions of the port along the waterfront  is obstructing this view that we used to take for granted. It will be gone forever and it is beyond the control of so many ordinary people in Port Moresby who would want to get a glimpse of the harbour on their way downtown or back up towards the hinterland. 

Soon we’d have to go up Port Road or Paga Hill to be able to take in unobstructed views of our beloved Fairfax Harbour.

Getting out of the marina and into the harbour.

The evening started off with heavy rain. It was a little daunting also trying to find Finger B which was where our boat was moored. It took me 15 minutes to finally find it with the help of a couple of helful RPYC security guards. Of course me not been a member of the RPYC made it difficult too. Anyway, I finally found the place and was greeted by two friendly and helpful ladies.

I braved the drizzle walking down the length of the pier to get onboard but what a lovely reward at the end of the walk. Of course climbing up the stairs in rain was a bit of a challenge with the ever-present hazard of falling into the sea should I get a foot wrong going up. But I mustered all the strength and skill recalled from my early years growing up on Kwato Island and the many times we had to get on and off the mission boats come rain and shine got me up the ladder and on to dry deck.

Cheers! we’re off on an evening cruise around Fairfax Harbour.

I met others who were already there and was soon holding on to a cool glass of orange juice. As we sipped our drinks and slowly got to meet the others the rain subsided and it was calm and dry. This was something different – to be on a boat in the harbour sipping a cold drink and meeting new people on a rainy evening. Of all of them, I had met only three (3) people prior to the cruise. I was delighted to join our BSP friends and this small  gathering on board.  

Not long after the rain cleared, it was decided we should cast off.  So we were   going on our evening cruise after all. The rain had not dampened our spirits and expectations to cruise around the harbour this evening.

After a brief explanation on the boat itself and a fine one too, the Captain gave us a safety briefing and then we were off as we slowly edged our way out of the marina. A great sense of freedom, adventure and well-being came over me.

A lone figure at the helm – our able Captain Simeon at the helm of the MV South Pacific, owned and operated by the Bank of South Pacific (BSP).

The sea was calm but a little breeze to remind us we were on a boat and gliding gracefully over the water.

Just outside the RPYC there is a massive contruction site and this is the view from the harbour. Looks different, obviously.

I couldn’t believe the fact that I was seeing Port Moresby by night from the harbour, and rarer still the opportunity to do so this evening. It was just a very nice feeling to be out and about without having to look over my shoulder. I must say the city looked beautiful this evening.

Port Moresby’s waterfront. It would be really nice to have a seafood restaurant along the seafront. Now that would be something.

As the boat moved out into the harbour I was transported back to my childhood days albeit momentarily.  When on school holidays from Cameron High School we would board one of the mission boats – either the Osiri or Labini – one or the other for Samarai, Logea and Kwato.

Part of Port Moresby’s skyline. Could see the towering Grand Papua.

I used to feel rather cheeky arriving at night because no-one knew  which school children have come home to the island for the school holidays until the following morning or at Church.  

The container wharf with the large cranes. Massive. Don’t know whether they can expand anymore with all the shipping activity going on everyday.

The reflection of lights on the water held a certain facination for me. And now I couldn’t help feeling a sense of deja vu.  I decided to stand back and enjoy the views in the cool evening.

One of the delectable dishes served for dinner on board. Yumsko!

Looking back the way we came out of the Royal Papua Yacht Club marina and out in the open I focused my sights and my camera on the lights of Port Moresby.

Well, what do you know the city looked stunning with all the lights and the colourful patterns on the water from the many different coloured lights.

Dinner was served and soon we went downstairs to partake of the tasty morsels laid before us. One of the things I take for granted is that I am not seasick and the food was a welcome sight. After a few words of welcome and updates on BSP from the CEO we tucked in.

Dinner is served!

Later on I went aft to enjoy the sights of Port Moresby from the boat.

Port Moresby looked like a reclining lady in red, yellow and orange sequinns shimmering against a dark sky.

I went past a couple of big ships and then to Napa Napa and Motukea then infront of Tatana on our return to the marina. 

The last time I was on a boat in the harbour was in the ’80s and was a passenger or spectator on one somebody’s boat watching the regatta or some sailing competition. It’s all so hazy now. But anyway, this was the first time I am out in the Harbour at night.

No, I wasn’t trying to sing ‘My Heart Will Go On’ – in fact am facing the wrong way. City lights in the background.

I look out on the harbour from my office day in day out and to be in it myself in the same place that so many container vessels use during the day was an awesome thought.

The city looked like something out of Star Wars or Galactica.

My camera was clicking all the time we were cruising around but the constant movement did not help but I think I managed to get some. I did the best I could but happy that I can actually take photos.

One of the views from the bow of the boat. Fascinating.

Thank you so much Mr Clyne and your managers for giving us the privilege to go on a harbour cruise and to enjoy Port Moresby at night this way.  Thank you Captain Simeon for taking us out on the MV South Pacific and bringing us safely back home.

All too soon our cruise came to an end at about 9.00pm.

We were back at the marina and then it was goodbyes and I took my leave. Driving home, I thought about the cruise, about the MV South Pacific, about BSP and the food we enjoyed and most of all about seeing the lights of Port Moresby this way.

Captain Simeon and I at the end of the cruise. He’s my wantok from the Trobs – kagutoki Captain Simeon for a great cruise.

There ain’t no nicer way to enjoy the night air in Port Moresby than a wonderful cruise in Fairfax Harbour on an evening like this.

Approaching the marina – coming up to berth.

Village Huts Has Gone Online!

Sign at the Gateway Hotel, Port Moresby on the launching of their website.

I was a guest of the PNG Tourism Promotion Authority (TPA) at the Gateway Hotel in Port Moresby on Thursday evening, 22nd March, 2012 to witness the formal launch of the website for Village Huts. A good number of guests attended the launching  as well as members of the TPA Board including the Deputy Chairman of the Board and the CEO Mr Peter Vincent and TPA staff and media representatives.

Countdown...the Deputy Chairman of the PNGTPA Board 'launching' the website.

From what I gathered at the launching, Village Huts is a small team of big thinkers who are doing a brilliant job in amassing information on ‘village guesthouses’ and accommodation throughout Papua New Guinea that will suit any budget but mostly for backpackers and others wanting to conquer new territories in their quest for adventure on a shoe-string budget.

So far they have gathered information for 80 guesthouses and the challenge now is for us to find others to add to this growing list no doubt. The aim is to get to 200 if possible. The website and the database are certainly going to place PNG at the top of the list for budget accommodation in the Pacific Islands.

I was amazed at the many places the owners of VillageHuts.com were able to cover. The photos of places the team visited were absolutely awesome.  The guesthouses found in PNG according to the photos come in different shapes and sizes but no doubt they are now in the public domain not within PNG only but on cyber space for the whole world to see.

Village Huts has built and will continue to build a nationwide database with information on budget accommodation in PNG, that will be current, reliable, certified by world standards and community-based.  For the adventurous in heart, the possibilities now for finding information about accommodation in PNG has got easier with innovative approaches such as Village Huts.

Fear not, for there is sufficient and affordable room in PNG!

Some of us who joined TPA for the launch of VillageHuts.com. From left to right...Air Niugini, PNG Dive Assoc., yours truly, Art Stret Gallery and a friend from the Land of the Long White Cloud...

This is another amazing journey for those who dare to be innovative and are not afraid to scale the heights for success, all in service for mankind. Thank you Village Huts for discovering the best in PNG and are creating awareness for a country that has a lot to offer for tourism.

I truly believe that if we make travel possible for ourselves within PNG, other people will look at us through this lens as well. My 10 points this week go to TPA for a great product and for putting PNG squarely on the map for budget accommodation.

I guess we are not far off from adding home-stays and the development of our own brand of B & Bs (bed and breakfast) and more affordable tourist accommodation in PNG. Bring it on!

Perhaps we can develop a game called ‘find a guesthouse’ and as we find one whether in a remote village or in a small town we can add it to the growing list that Village Huts has been building for us.

A celebration of yet another feather in PNGTPA's cap. Well done!

Congratulatons Village Huts and TPA for another inspiring development in PNG  tourism!

A Moving Dedication In Poetry

Marie-Rose Sau reading her poem 'On That Fateful Day', with Jeffry Feeger at work on his and Ratoos Gary's tribute painting on the far right.

I met Marie-Rose Sau, a young Papua New Guinean poet recently at the Royal Papua Yacht Club for a Bemobile-sponsored event. The event featured two iconic artists Jeffry Feeger and Ratoos Gary accompanied by an impressive group of PNG musicians led by PNG’s own Louis Armstrong, Pius Wasi.

The event called ‘Journey Through Stains’ is the brainchild of Jeffry Feeger of national renown and gaining more recognition overseas as well. It was held on Wednesday, 22nd February, 2012 to raise funds for the relatives of those who were lost in the recent MV Rabaul Queen tragedy.

I will write more about this event in a separate post. But for now let’s meet Marie-Rose through her poem, ‘On That Fateful Day’. Marie-Rose read this moving dedication but some of it was inaudible because of background noise. I wanted to kill two birds with one stone so after the event I asked her if I could feature her poem on my blog and she kindly agreed. So here it is.

 

On That Fateful Day

T’was a glorious day

The setting sun illuminating

The horizon beyond

The sea had seemed calm

As if it were asleep

Sea birds soar up above

No fear for stormy clouds untold

No one thought it would end like this

The unthinkable would happen

It was just another ordinary day

Another journey to make

Another endurance of that cruel

Bismark Sea

Yet families came to bade their

Loved ones a safe journey

Without the knowing that

For some it might

Be their last goodbyes.

Filled with enthusiasm

They rushed through the gates

Onto what might be their last trip

Onboard you

The young ones

Naïve of what was to come

Held on tightly to

Their mamas and their papas

With hearts beating with

Sheer excitement

And then finally

Amidst the commotion

You let go of your anchors one last time

And you set sail

Into the beyond

To meet your fate

Come the stormy weather

And the high seas

And Bismark could not have been too kind

To the innocent lives on board

For it attacked you with a force

You could not withstand

And you plunged

Plunged into the unknown beneath

And for if you were a being

The endless screams

You would not have missed

The frantic prayers that were begged

From quivering mouths

Prayed from hearts beating as for

As if it were their last

Yet you were but a human

And there you tumbled over

Innocence spilled overboard

Lives tossed here and there

Trying to hold on for dear life

To be spared

To be somehow saved

And yet you could not grant that

And oh how mothers cried out

Dearly for those young ones

For a son

For a daughter

For a husband

Fathers braved the merciless waves

To search for their families

Screams be heard

From already broken hearts

Hearts bleeding with fear

For a mother

For a father

A brother

A sister

An aunt

An uncle

A cousin

A friend

That they were afraid to lose

And yet you failed them

And you sank without shame

And you took with you

All that was to someone

You took the world from someone

And you brought it to the bottom

Of the dark seas

And when the sun shone

And the seas they calmed

The pain and the hurt

Of losing what one holds most dearly to

Could not be eased

The endless tears shed

And the screams

The fight to hold on

And the fight to let go

Words could not comfort

For some they found their loved ones

But some they will live another day

With a missing piece

And the knowing that that missing piece

Sank with the MV Rabaul Queen on

That fateful Thursday 2nd of February 2012…

Dedicated to those that survived and to those that were never found onboard the MV Rabaul Queen

Marie-Rose Sau

 

In her own words, Marie-Rose says, I come from a mixed parentage of Chimbu, East New Britain and Morobe. I started writing poems as early as grade 5. Because of my childhood background, writing poems became a trusted friend to me.

A way for me to speak my feelings. My thoughts, etc. I never gotten any of my writing published per se. It was just a hidden hobby that I kept.

I wrote this poem, because I just lost someone very recently and although it wasn’t as tragic as the Rabaul Queen. That pain of enduring an ordeal like that cannot be described. So I try to write from my own experience of losing a loved one and try to relate that to the ordeal that the victims and those that have lost their loved ones.

I have realized that when, someone dies, in such a way, it is only right to pay tribute to them. for all that they have endured, in some ways, it reminds one that one day later in life, just maybe, something tragic might happen and a stranger will pay tribute too. For me to write that, it somehow gives me some sort of inner peace to say goodbye to the souls of those that were lost.”

I wanted to feature Marie-Rose not only because of this moving piece that she has dedicated to both the survivors and the lost ones but also because it has been a long time for me to hear a poem from another PNG woman as well as meet her which is such a privilege.

Marie-Rose has recently created a group ‘Poetry PNG’ on Facebook. This is a treasure trove of PNG poetry and writing talent being uncovered. It’s illuminating and inspiring stuff. Check it out.

I am featuring Marie-Rose because I want to proactively start promoting PNG women writers whose stars are rising steadily in the PNG writers’ skies following on the impressive heels of such national greats as Nora Vagi Brash who is a poet and playright and many more accomplished and yet to be discovered PNG women poets.

I hope that more PNG women will find their voices through poetry and I wish them confidence, courage and commitment to their art.

“Oh Kwato Is A Green Place…”

Looking up from the Kwato wharf - on the left is the big badila (nut) tree and the raintrees. But what was most disturbing was the fast rising sea level on this foreshore.

As our dinghy pulled up along side the wharf at Kwato, I was struck with the beauty of this island where my siblings and lots of relatives grew up and lived. I went to school here. The big badila tree reminded me of waking up early in the mornings to collect the nuts that the flying foxes have dropped on the ground the evening before.

We used to sing “Oh Kwato is a green place, a home for the flowers…”

The walk across the cricket ground and up towards the main road brought back lots of memories. But hey, the big gisoa (mango) trees were gone. The place did not look right. I searched for a small landmark which my Grandfather left and what a great relief that brought tears to my eyes. It was still there.

The iconic Kwato Church. One of the two stone churches in PNG. Both are over 100 years old. How majestic the dubu looked.
 
This is the first time I am able to take a shot like this. My Nikon D90 did not fail me – more like the panoramic lens. This is a Papuan dubu design. We walked around it and then looked beyond – now one could take in a 360 degree view from this vantage point. The dubu is situated on a small plateau on Kwato. Isiiii kapole hinage…the day was sunny and bright and was the right time to visit Kwato. Met up with some relatives and wish I had time for more meetings but we were on a schedule so next time.
 
We walked up to Tupi and met up with Uncle S who incidently saw us earlier on during our climb up towards dubu. He was with a couple of the guys repairing parts of Aituha ( short distance from the back of the Church). His house has a priceless view of the Papuan mainland and surrounding islands.
 
He had a great collection of hibiscus and other beautiful flowers. Uncle S let us take as many shots as we wanted of the flowers and here’s one of them of the magnificient pink and white hibiscus at the front of the house.
 
Magnificient pink and white hibiscus - '"...a home for the flowers..." alright. Amatoi lailai Uncle S for receiving us so graciously and letting us take photos of your beautiful flowers.

We bid Uncle S goodbye and headed down the old Sipi Road towards the B & C building and the wharf. It was a wonderful two (2) hour tour of Kwato Island. Thank you much Jenny (Driftwood Resort) for letting me be the tour guide for this trip to Kwato.

Doini Island beckoned as we quickly had some cold drinks and headed towards the wharf.

I reflect on this week and what has happened or has not happened depending on one’s perspective. I think PNG went through a process that showed how mature Papua New Guineans have become in looking at political developments and how these events impact on our daily lives. Whilst the seriousness of the impasse and the legal judgements and constitutional dos and donts were debated in Facebook and other media and our freedom hung precariously in the balance, I was amazed at how well we handled ourselves as a nation. Not even Australia can say anything nasty about Papua New Guineans anymore. The smear campaigns their papers run and their politician’s perceptions of PNG as a failed state are blown right out of the water. Politically we are more mature than anyone I know. 

PNG leaders must sort themselves out and resolve their differences because we the silent majoity are taking our democracy very seriously and are putting them on notice with every hour that goes by.

I can’t help thinking that Peter O’Neill now is like the Grand Chief Sir Michael in the early 70s. History is replaying itself again it seems, as the young takes over the reins to take this country to another level. Its proud and risilient citizenry watches silently in hope and positive expectation as another era in our democracy is born before our very eyes.

PNG is a beautiful and amazing country. Let’s keep it that way.

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.

The Albatros In Port Moresby

Absolutely awesome and beautiful...

No, it’s not a bird. It’s a cruise liner called the Albatros.  Looking so awesome in the sunshine. What a beautiful big boat. I wish I could go inside and take a peak.

Anyway, I was personally so happy to see a cruise liner in Port Moresby so soon after some negative reports about a month ago regarding the MS Rhapsody. The reports said it was turned away from calling into Port Moresby because of law and order problems or something to that effect. It was supposed to have called in on 24th February. I’ll never know the truth about that news item. This is not good for visitors to Papua New Guinea or for those of us trying to promote tourism in PNG.

The day the Albatros came to port, there were a few people along one part of Ela Beach displaying arts and crafts for sale and am sure there were similar ones elsewhere in the city. I don’t know whether some of the visitors came on land to experience the sights and sounds of Port Moresby.  It may not be representative of the whole country but it sure has ‘representatives’ from all over Papua New Guinea and it’s 1000 of more different tribes residing here. Such is the cultural diversity of this country.

Wonder how many swimming pools and restaurants are on this cruise liner.

I went up towards Paga Hill to take these shots. On closer inspection, I sighted some PMVs (passenger motor vehicles) at the wharf and even flower pots to beautify the walkway. It seems rather sad though that the passengers are not able to walk up to souvenir shops, tucker shops and some places selling kulau and local fruits. What a pity since cruise ships don’t pay tax, or do they? The place could have been set up to capture some tourist dollars trickling through the visit of the Albatros, albeit a brief one.

PMVs and potted plants but where were the passengers?

The Albatros was built in 1973 (so about 38 years!) in Helsinki, Finland for the Royal Viking Line. It has sailed under a few names, so if you don’t recognise Albatros you may recognise her other names, among others perhaps: Royal Viking Sea, Royal Odyssey, Norwegian Star, Crown and Crown Mare Nostrum. It is operated by Phoenix Reisen based in Germany. I read somewhere that Phoenix Reisen doesn’t own cruise liners, it engages them on long term charters. Well, the Albatros has come a long way to PNG. Danke…

You can see more pictures of the Albatros here.

Looking down towards the jetty and across the cricket pitch. The cricket pitch is barely visible. It is one of the oldest cricket pitches in PNG and one of the first in the country - must be over 100 years old!

The sight of the Albatros reminded me of the Bulolo and Malaita in the 1960s – two cruise liners that regularly berthed at Samarai Island – then District Headquarters of the Milne Bay District (now Milne Bay Province). I remember from Grades 2-4, I was one of the children on Kwato Island who would act as ‘tour guides’ for the tourists and in turn would earn lots of money (shillings and pence in those days) and tips from tourists of all ages – from carrying handbags to selling seashells (cowries, spider shells, etc). We also took down addresses and met a lot of penfriends in Australia that way. I met my first penfriend whose name I can’t readily recall now but she lived on Bowen Street (I think), Victoria, Australia. I got her address from her grandmother who was a tourist on one of the cruise liners that called in at Samarai Island. This was in the early ’60s. That was a long, long time ago.

Well, for the future, I hope we see more of these ships and more passengers visiting our capital city’s attractions such as the National Museum, the Modern History Museum and a whole host of historical landmarks and sites of cultural significance.

I wish the Albatros a safe and pleasant onward journey to other destinations.