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Saturday, January 10, 2004

January 10, 2004-Papua New Guinea-About the Country

Our visit to Papua New Guinea began in the Louisiades, the island group far to the east of mainland Papua, where we sailed to from Australia in 2003 and where we joined several other yachts cruising amongst the islands interacting with the local Papuans.

wingssail images-fredrick roswold
Papua New Guinea

The remoteness, the ruggedness, and the history of the area drew us in. Papua New Guinea was a spectacular region with extensive cruising grounds and it had a fascinating history. Papuans had been one of the earliest cultures in the world to domesticate plants, around 7000BC, and yet they were one of the most recent people in the world to practice headhunting and cannibalism. Papua New Guinea intrigued us.

We stayed in the Louisiades for two months and it was delightful. We met many lovely people, saw awesomely beautiful scenery, and learned more of about the history. It was a largely unspoiled area.

Later we traveled through other parts of Papua New Guinea, mostly in the Bismarck Archipelago including Bougainville, New Britain and New Ireland. We avoided the mainland itself because we heard so often that it was a high crime area and we even heard of violent crimes against cruisers. But the Bismarcks, we’d heard, while still dangerous, were safer. We found that claim to be true and we also found that cruising in Bismarck Archipelago was like going back in time a few hundred years. It was beautiful but primitive. The islands were stunning, the sailing adventurous, and the cruising possibilities endless. The towns were rough but friendly and in the villages the people maintained customs and lifestyles which seemed almost from prehistory. Despite the warnings about crime, during our entire visit to Papua New Guinea, we never had any problems with crime or any other issues. Yet, in the end, despite having a really wonderful cruise, we didn’t like it. There was something dark and dangerous lurking in Papua New Guinea and it put us on edge. The danger was tangible. The problem is that the people are violent.

wingssail images-fredrick roswold
Proa sailing,Papua New Guinea

The concern about violence was more than about the high crime rate or the numerous reports of murders which filtered in from the bush, or even utter obliquity of domestic violence; it was the attitude of acceptance the people seemed to have towards violence. A village could be massacred by a neighboring village, which we heard of while we were there, and the police would investigate for two weeks, then the police would announce, “The matter is settled; several pigs have been exchanged.”

Cruisers were not safe, either. While we were there some were robbed and attacked and even killed. The worst places were the cities on the mainland island of Papua. Towns like Medang and Lae looked safe, and the streets were quiet, but then you noticed that the phones were all ripped off the walls of the post office, and most of the men carried machetes. There was a simmering anger in Papua New Guinea and you were never sure when it would be directed towards you. We were glad to leave.

Pig Roast on Pan Numera Island, The Louisiades

The Louisiades were different. They are still part of Papua New Guinea but the people there seem to be happier, not so angry. Reports of theft were rare in the Louisiades and we heard nothing of violence; we really didn’t feel we had to worry about safety in the Louisiades. And we enjoyed it there.

However, getting there was no piece of cake. Our trip from Australia was quite an adventure.

Read here about our arrival in the Louisiades.

Click here to read all the stories from the Louisiades.

Click here to see all the photos From the Louisiades

You can read more about the security in Papua New Guinea on noonsite: Papua New Guinea

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Kavieng, Papua New Guinea

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