12th July 2009
There was a lot of it on our holiday!
At breakfast in the hotel, one, sad, square of white toast was put before us, with some sort of grease on it.We looked at it, then at each other.We enquired if we could have some jam or marmalade please - NOGAT!
On leaving the hotel to climb a volcano, we asked if they could sell us a bottle of water - NOGAT!
On returning to the hotel, with our eyes, ears and mouths full of volcanic ash and our sweaty skin covered too, we noted a door which said, ' bar' on it.After a gorgeous and much needed treat of a shower, we made a beeline for the bar with gin and tonic lighting up our thoughts.The 'bar' consisted of a dimly lit room, no other occupants and metal chairs, snooker table and a sparse array of bottles on the shelf.Undaunted we said the magic words 'G and T' and yes, you got it - NOGAT!
Undeterred, we went to the restaurant which had almost drinkable wine.We deliberated over the menu which had on it some delightful fish dishes.We are denied fresh fish in the highlands for obvious reasons, so we were excited about the possibilities. We made our selection only to be told only half the menu was available and most of the fish, steamed, fried or otherwise was - NOGAT!
We went to New Ireland first, where Johnny Boy behaved impeccably - no fisticuffs!He did 6 dives and saw sharks and other deadly creatures and had a wonderful time!We spent most of our time when he wasn't under the water, on a tropical island just off the main coast which was heavenly, with a sea temperature of 30 degrees!
Then we flew to New Britain, to the town of Rabaul, which is like the PNG equivalent of Pompeii, covered and destroyed by black volcanic ash. There were twin eruptions in 1994, which wiped out the town completely.It was like something from the Apocalypse, with vast black wastelands covered in parts by dead trees.The volcano, Tavurvur, is still active, belching out great clouds of stuff and rumbling and snorting constantly.
We hired a canoe and two boys who paddled us over to the volcano, through the layer of pumice on the water, with hot springs bubbling in the sea.The colour of the sea turned from blue to yellow the closer we got to the volcano, caused by the sulphur. When we landed, it was like being on the surface of the moon, with minor plumes of hot vapour issuing from various points on the way up.We didn't go to the top obviously, but on the lower slopes found a colony of megapode birds.These lay their eggs in the volcanic ash up to two metres down and the locals dig for these eggs to sell at the market for 2 kina each, which is about 30p.These guys risk their lives by burrowing in the deep holes and some are killed, but this is a way of making a living, as apart from fishing and guiding foolhardy tourists up the volcano, there is little else.I have never seen people living in such poverty, it was very sobering.This was one of the islands the Japanese invaded in WW11 and they took Rabaul, so it has an interesting history and many Japanese boats were sunk in the beautiful bay during this time. This bay is a caldera (a volcanic crater more than 2 kilometres in diameter and this one is about 20 kilometres) with smaller volcanoes around the rim - an awesome sight.
The day before our return, John was not able to dive, so the previous evening we went to the 'Tourist Office' and booked two bikes, intending to spend the day exploring the island.It was too hot to walk far but as it was relatively flat, we thought cycling would be less energetic.Next morning (after our piece of unadorned toast) we rolled up at the 'Tourist Office' to find they had just let our bikes out to a group of schoolchildren, so our bike ride was - NOGAT!'So what else could we do?' We enquired hopefully about other options to the Tourist Office man, who was particularly disinterested in us tourists, despite it being his job one assumes. NOGAT!So, we spent the day on an island, kayaking and swimming - a hard alternative.
Finally, we booked in for our penultimate flight home - Nogat seats!After much messing about (we'd got an e-ticket) the clerk said we 'weren't on the system' - 'You mean there's a system?' we enquired, shocked and stunned! However, all was sorted and we eventually got on the plane and arrived safely at the other end, which is more than our luggage did - NOGAT!By this time we were getting just a tad frustrated, but luckily there was another plane that day (we feared there might not be another one for a week) and our luggage was on that, to our great relief.I get anxiety attacks waiting for luggage to come through on the conveyor belt, especially here.
We returned to a great wailing and gnashing of teeth, as our neighbour's daughter had run off with a man!Shock horror!We discovered that though she is in her twenties, if a girl runs away with a man, he doesn't have to pay her family a bride price, which can be quite considerable, so the family are likely to miss out on a sizeable financial sum. That's what the concern was, missing out financially, not whether the girl was OK or not!Father has gone hightailing off to bring her back, so a bride price can be properly negotiated!
Hey ho, back to work tomorrow with a vengeance.Not only do we have a two day conference for head teachers to run, we also have our VSO boss from Madang up for the week to see what we're up to, so potentially a bit of a tricky time for us, so we've got to get out of holiday mode pretty damn quick!
Hope the summer weather is holding and for those of you who are about to embark on the glorious school summer hols - have a good one!
Love from us both
PS John's in the process of growing a beard - it's lovely and white and makes him look quite distinguished.