Papua New Guinea Cruise

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					CirCumnavigation of new guinea
          Port Moresby to Madang

     March 29 – April 13, 2009
           Presented by Zegrahm Expeditions,
Harvard Museum of Natural History, and World Wildlife Fund
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea
Our arrival into Papua New Guinea was via a modern jet from Cairns,
Australia, arriving at the capital, Port Moresby. We visited the National
Museum, Parliament House, and Botanical Gardens. A vist to PNG Arts
gave us a chance to acquaint ourselves with the diverse art of this coun-
try. The local artifact warehouses were packed to the rafters with ances-
tral masks, woven baskets, penis gourds, spears, bowls, and tapa cloth.
Archaeological evidence indicates that humans first arrived in New
Guinea by island hopping across the Indonesian archipelago from Asia
more than 50,000 years ago. Mi tai throwim way leg nau (I am starting
my journey now), as we boarded the Clipper Odyssey we were all excit-
ed for the chance to retrace these steps as we commenced our expedition
‘hop’ through the islands of Papua New Guinea. As we set sail eastwards
towards Bonarua Island we were introduced to our Expedition Leader,
Jeff Gneiser, the lecture staff, and welcomed by the travelers continuing
their journey on the complete Circumnavigation of New Guinea.
Thursday, April 2
Bonarua Island
Cruising effortlessly through the waters of the Coral Sea the Clipper Odyssey made it’s
first landing at Bonarua Island. The spirits were kind to us as a pod of dolphins guided us
towards our anchorage. The population of this two-island, eight-clan community totals
approximately 200. The islanders provided a number of “everyday lifestyle” options for us
to enjoy including pandanus weaving, preparation of coconut steamed breadfruit, chestnuts,
and sweet potato, and traditional and Western-style houses which we were invited to visit.
Our official welcome included a group of delightful elementary school children complete
with crowns of brilliant tropical flowers, the local United Church Choir, and an eloquent
speech from Councilor Tony. Many of us were then guided though this idyllic small village
by our new friends. Others wandered up the rocky trail to hunt for the endemic birds that
live on the island with successful sightings of many wonderful species such as the metallic
starling, Willie wagtail, white-bellied sea eagle, and spectacled monarch.
To complete the day we enjoyed an introductory dive, snorkel, and glass-bottom boat
excursion off the leeward side of Bonarua. To our delight there were many butterflyfish and
soft corals woven through Acropora (staghorn) corals, a fitting start to our expedition. The
icing on the cake was the captain’s welcome cocktail party followed by dinner.
Friday, April 3
Ferguson & Dobu Island, D’Entrecasteaux Group
Sailing northwards from the Coral Sea, we arrived at the D'Entrecasteaux Island Group,
off the southeastern tip of New Guinea. Ferguson Island, the largest island of the group,
is notable for its hot springs, bubbling mud pools, spouting geysers, and extinct volca-
noes. It has been suggested that perhaps it is this fearsome landscape that gives these
islands their reputation for witchcraft, sorcery, and ruthless cannibalism. Our options
were: birding, hiking to hot springs, or visiting a Roman Catholic mission and school.
The birders were the first to depart, eager to begin an early morning rain forest walk
along the shoreline prior to heading into the hot springs. They were rewarded with
eastern black-capped lories, a curl-crested manucode (bird of paradise), spangled
drongo, hooded butcherbird, fan-tailed cuckoo, helmeted friarbird, orange-fronted fruit
dove, and rainbow bee-eater.
Others took the 45-minute walk through the pandanus and melaleuca swamp direct to
Dei Dei Hot Springs accompanied by local guides. As our guide called out for the
“Seulseulina” spirit to show herself she explained that in the past there was a woman
named Seulseulina whose husband had run away with another woman, so she threw
herself, heartbroken, into the largest of these hot springs, which thereafter became a
spouting geyser.
A small intimate group ventured into the Sacred Heart Mission & School and were invit-
ed to join the school parade followed by a church service and question and answer time.
The snorkeling and diving sites were wonderful with great sightings of scorpionfish,
large basket sponges, sea stars, and feather stars. Four species of anemonefish were
spied: tomato, Clark’s, pink, and false clown. Also encountered were long-nose filefish,
juvenile Napoleon wrasse, golden batfish, along with snappers, surgeons, triggers, and
fusiliers galore, making this site a highlight of the trip.
An enthusiastic sing-sing performance in Dobu village demonstrated that sorcery,
shrouded behind a thin veil of Protestant Christianity, still exists on this fabled island. As
we ventured into the hamlets to visit with the locals we were treated to a demonstration
of traditional cooking and weaving. On the southern end of the kula ring, Dobu trades
fish, sago, and yams for Ferguson Island pots. Kula shell wealth was displayed for our
appreciation and we learned that the armshells, or mwali, travel clockwise, and the cone
shells, or soulava, trade counter clockwise. Trading routes unite far-flung islands with
social bonds where reciprocity is a way of life. Great social status is bequeathed on those
who successfully trade. Trobrianders often say, “Once in the kula, always in the kula.”
Saturday, April 4
Kitava and Narutu Islands, Trobriand Islands
The Trobriand Islands lie to the north of the D’Entrecasteaux Group and are raised coral islands.
Geologically different from the high islands close to the mainland in Milne Bay Province, which are
predominantly flat. These islands give a fascinating glimpse of a traditional culture that has consciously
resisted the corrupting influences of the outside world, while embracing some of its useful artifacts, of
course. Placed firmly on the world anthropological scene by Malinowski, these matrilineal people are
unusual in Papua New Guinea, having a chiefly, rather than a “big man,” political system. The cultiva-
tion and exchange of yams are culturally very important in these islands, and the annual yam festival
continues to be an exciting display of rituals and dancing, plus periods of sexual license that has led the
Trobriands to be known as the “Isles of Love.”
We enjoyed water sports this morning—snorkeling, diving, and glass-bottom boat cruising over a fine
array of coral. There were sightings of longnose hawkish, pyramid butterflyfish, batfish, and a small
school of trevally. Some of us enjoyed the deserted sandy shores of Narutu; the idyllic “Robinson
Crusoe” moment shattered when the word spread to the local roving artifact sellers.
The welcome performance on arrival to the landing site in the afternoon included the famous “tapioca”
dance, usually only performed during the yam harvest, it left no doubt as to its fertility theme. The
beautifully decorated young dancers, most still in their mid-teens, revealed in their smiling faces a
precise knowledge of European reactions to this display. This was just to whet our appetite for bigger
things to come after our hike into Kumwageya Village. As we passed through an agricultural wonder-
land of yams, taro, and various greens, we spied an emerald ground dove, osprey, and white-bellied sea
eagle. Hidden in the undergrowth on the foreshore some of us discovered the well-tended gravesite of a
Japanese soldier, a victim of the intense WWII battle that raged through this region from 1942 – 45.
Sunday, April 5
Gawa Island, Marshall Bennett
We were greeted by a spectacular sunrise as we moved
eastward toward Gawa Island in the Marshall Bennett
Group. Our morning was packed with options. Bird-
ing, nature trail walk, a culture excursion, swimming,
“survival-of-the-fittest walk,” snorkeling, and glass-
bottom boating on offer. Those on shore congregated
under the huge old-growth ficus and tropical almond
trees to witness a number of dances that transported us
back to Tumbuna, a time before the white man.
Birders reaped the benefits of their early departure
with sightings of a Brahminy kite, great-billed heron,
shinning flycatcher, brush cuckoo, and Torres Strait
pigeon. A small, intrepid group made the climb over
slippery mud footpaths and jagged limestone outcrops
to the middle village, home to chief Tamtamwarra.
This walk included a near-vertical 100-foot coral cliff,
which we had to drag ourselves up, or be dragged up
by the ever-helpful Gawa Islanders who bounded up
the cliff face like rock wallabies.
Monday, April 6
Rabaul, East New Britain Islands
Most of us were up on deck this morning for grand
views of Mt. Tavurvur, which has been angrily spew-
ing ash since the 1994 earthquake which leveled most
of the town of Rabaul. Some say that the locals treat
Tavurvur like a member of the family, talking quietly
to it, shouting at it, encouraging it to go to sleep, and
assessing its mood each day.
Once we were safely anchored in the magnificent
caldera harbor, we embarked on various excursions in-
cluding a visit to the volcano hot springs viewing area,
Yamamoto’s bunker, Rabaul Natural History Museum,
the observatory, local markets, and an art shop.
After an early dinner our convoy of buses set off into
the hills of Rabaul to visit the Baining Dancers. Of all
the ceremonies and rituals still performed throughout
Papua New Guinea, perhaps the most mysterious are
the traditions maintained by the Baining people of
New Britain. Dances and ceremonies are not for show.
All dances serve an important purpose—to celebrate
a birth or marriage, to ensure the strength of their
young men, or to secure the fertility of their crops. We
watched dozens of athletic dances, performed naked
except for penis coverings and elaborate masks depict-
ing the spirits of the bush. Periodically a dancer would
dash through the large bonfire creating a dramatic fire-
lit backdrop. We moved and swayed in our seats as the
performance reached a feverish pitch of chanting and
exuberant dancing. With sensory overload we made
our weary return to the Clipper Odyssey. There the
entertainment continued for some, as Tavurvur
illuminated the sky with a continuous cascade of
molten debris, a fitting farewell to an amazing night
as we set sail for the Bismarck Archipelago and New
Tuesday, April 7
Tsoi Boto / Tsoi Lik
A most welcome morning at sea was enriched with stories from Kevin Clement’s Strange Tales of Island
Life: Biogeography in an Insular World complete with M&M candies and Peter Harrison’s Tropical Sea
Birds accompanied by chocolate. Satiated even before lunch we alighted at Mansava Village on the island
of Tsoi Boto for an enchanting choral and choreographed welcome by the local people. We entertained
the locals with a “Mexican Wave” of thanks and our very own version of the hokey pokey before explor-
ing the island further or taking a Zodiac to the neighboring island of Tsoi Lik to look for megapodes. The
local band joined us aboard the Clipper Odyssey for a sumptuous barbeque dinner which climaxed with
simultaneous dancing on decks 5, 6, and 7… and that was just us!
Wednesday, April 8
Tingwon Islands
Another picture-perfect postcard island?
Oh! to start ones day alighting upon white
coral sand lapped by turquoise blue waters
and stroll amidst a coconut grove fringed
with hibiscus and vanilla. This languid
scene followed a warm and harmonious
welcome from the local choir and some
wonderful local dances. The many lush
gardens of the island were bursting with
sago and bananas, as well as coconut palms
which are mainly used to produce copra.
In addition to this bounty the birders found
megapodes, Steffan Strait doves, and
Nicobar pigeons.
The afternoon venue afforded opportunities
for diving, snorkeling, and wading ashore
for beach combing. After dinner Natalia
Baechtold enthralled us with a journey
through her fascinating underwater
Photographic Adventures.
Thursday, April 9
Nauna Island, Admiralty Islands
Yes we do have bananas! A seven clan, chief line-up hosted by the Paramount Chief, was
the highlight of the spectacular welcome ceremony that greeted us on Nauna Island a.k.a.
Los Angels. Most definitely one of PNG’s most remote islands with a dramatic history of
repelling visitors, we were welcomed most warmly along with our own Paramount Chiefs:
Captain Peter Fielding and Expedition Leader Jeff Gneiser who presented school and
first-aid supplies along with rice. We applauded, appreciated, danced, learned how to “kite
fish,” strolled along white sand beaches, snorkeled, dived, birded, and finally waved a
resounding and regrettable thank you and goodbye. This was the island where many of us
thought seriously about jumping ship.
Friday, April 10
Baluan Island & St. Andrews Island
Our morning began with a Zodiac ride guided by local pilots to avoid the fringing reef around the
island. En route to the small island village of Lipan we were greeted by a fully manned seagoing
outrigger canoe bedecked with streamers and traditionally clad crew. Upon arrival we were
welcomed by colorfully dressed island ladies and girls with frangipani and hibiscus blossoms in
their hair. The local band serenaded the procession of visitors as we made our way to the village
center. The Paramount Chief of Lipan, Chief Sapulai, asked Jeff and Peter Harrison to unwrap the
ceremonial “Mooi” pole, a symbol of the chief’s power. Chief Sapulai sprang up and onto the pole
and conducted an official welcome dance with great skill and alacrity. Following a display of tradi-
tional dancing and a staged marriage ceremony, the “survival of the fittest” jungle hike 800 feet up
to the volcanic crater rim commenced. Hikers were rewarded with stunning views and witnessed
a traditional stone slab used to slaughter the unfortunate victims of the erstwhile local cannibals.
Baluan Island claims to be the home of kava processing and we were able to sample this curious
pain-killing brew.
Those preferring a more sedate pace explored the farming village of Lipan and walked the coastal
path to the neighboring village of Mouk, home to fishermen and seafaring canoe builders. Snor-
kelers and divers were delighted to have the opportunity of two water sessions in one of the most
enjoyable sites of the trip which included the sighting of a shark. Michael Moore enhanced our
knowledge of the region with his fascinating lecture on Coming up in the World: Australia’s Jour-
ney North, the Rise of the New Guinea Highlands and the Ascent of Marsupials and after dinner
Silvard Kool transported us into The Wonderful World of Mollusks.
Saturday, April 11
Kopar Village, Sepik River
The Sepik River is the second largest river
in PNG after the Fly River in the south.
Before arriving in Kopar Village our
Zodiac ride gave everyone the opportunity
to photograph the Clipper Odyssey at the
mouth of the river and to see white-bellied
sea eagles, eclectus parrots, swiftlets, and
herons. Upon our arrival local children
raised the flag of PNG and sang the
national anthem. Then a wonderfully
colorful procession of men (symbolizing
a living canoe) led us through the village
to the entrance of the men’s traditional
house. Once the ceremonial welcome was
complete it was time to enjoy the arts and
crafts for which the Sepik River region
is famous. Ten villages had congregated
at Kopar and the wonderful artifacts on
display ranged from wooden masks
decorated with cowry shells, wooden
storyboards, drums, fiber bilums, baskets,
and shell ornaments and jewelry. Our
Sepik experience was completed with a
Zodiac jungle cruise along a sago palm-
lined river tributary.
An afternoon at sea gave everyone time to
pack and Word Wildlife Fund’s Meredith
Lopuch introduced us to World Wildlife
Markets: The Network Approach. Our last
evening aboard began with the captain’s
farewell cocktail party, served poolside
and illuminated by a magnificent Pacific
sunset, with the dramatic Kakar Volcano
as a backdrop.
Sunday, April 12
Madang / Cairns
Today we bid farewell to 23 intrepid travelers who left with Suzanne and Kevin for the PNG
Highlands extension. Once the heavy rain subsided the birders left for their final birding expe-
dition of the trip. A 45-minute drive into the foothills was well rewarded with many varieties
of New Guinean birds, and of special interest and enjoyment was hearing cassowaries in the
wild as well as a sighting of six displaying male lesser birds of paradise, a perfect way to end
the trip. The remaining passengers set off for a morning tour of Madang on Easter Sunday.
The first stop was at the Coast Watchers Memorial Lighthouse, erected by the Australians in
1959 to commemorate the sacrifice of the coast watchers during WWII. Our next stop was
Bilbil Village which is famous for its pottery. Before seeing the pottery making process first-
hand, we were welcomed and entertained by traditionally clad villagers who performed local
dances accompanied by drums. Our final stop was at the small local museum which contained
a wonderful collection of local artifacts ranging from masks, carvings, ceremonial items, and
prehistoric pots.
After a delicious barbeque lunch washed down with local SP Beer, we enjoyed the gardens and
the pool of the Madang Resort. The resort has a small aviary on its grounds and our group got
up-close and personal with a Blyth’s hornbill and Victoria crowned pigeons. The trees in the
gardens are also home to many fruit bats. A late afternoon flight from Madang to Port Moresby
enabled us to change planes and head for Cairns, Australia where, having declared all our
treasures to customs and quarantine officials, we finally reached the Shangri-La Hotel for a
late night salad and sandwich buffet. We then headed off for bed, resting up for our long
voyages homeward the next day.
Group photo by Shirley Metz
Jeff Gneiser           Lynne Greig             Peter Harrison          Shirley Metz           Kevin Clement           Natalia Baechtold

Thomas Baechtold       Silvard Kool            Meredith Lopuch         Michael Moore          Lynda Murphy            Suzanne Noakes

                                               Text by: Suzanne Noakes & Kim Saunders
                                               Photography by: Shirley Metz, Peter Harrison, Natalia
                                               Baechtold, Alida Latham, Kim Saunders, Michael Moore,
                                               Karin Beumer-Browner & Bill Kee
                                               Produced by: Sonia Surguy

Kim Saunders           Craig Ward
This photo log has been produced by Zegrahm Expeditions and is the property of Zegrahm Expeditions. Any unauthorized use of images included
is hereby prohibited.

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