Tuesday, July 25, 2006

A Fishy Weekend

Well, another weekend arrived (3 day weekend for some), and so did the need to get out of town for a bit. We had been talking about going for another dive for a while, and Cam and Lyn spent the better part of the week organizing it. The rain on Saturday morning didn’t look promising, but we hoped for the best and set off for East Cape and a little guest house run by Bernard (about a 1 ½ hour drive from Alotau).

We had a pleasant enough drive out, and stopped off at one of our favourite spots, Bewa, along the way. We arrived at East Cape in the afternoon, bumped into the Baptist Missionaries who live across the road from us (or the ‘Missio’s’, as they call themselves), and looked around the market. Lyn and I felt that the conditions were perfect for a lazy afternoon, so we retreated to the guest house for some reading and knitting time (yes, I still knit here – I think it is in my blood!), while Stan and Cam went for a snorkel. They had a good snorkel, and we found it quite enjoyable when they got out of the water and showed us the ‘treasures’ that they had acquired in the water – an old umbrella, and what can only be described as a vintage hat.

We had an interesting night with strange bumps and flapping sounds. The only other thing worth mentioning is the deep animosity I am developing towards roosters in the early hours of the morning.

The weather was a bit grey and the sea a bit choppy, but the decision was made to pile our extreme amount of stuff (including 9 dive tanks) into a 23 foot dinghy and head off. I think I’m still a bit new to things here, because I found the boat ride a little bit…adventurous. But those who are more experienced in the ways of boat trips in PNG didn’t seem to mind it. Thankfully the dinghy operator was really good, and we arrived at our destination – Hanakubakuba – in one piece. We went on our first dive and saw a sleeping turtle and lots of lovely and colourful coral. I was also using my new BCD for the first time, and that was very exciting! We surfaced to the sun peeking out from behind the clouds and the prospect of lunch. Needless to say we were all feeling much better by this point. Our second dive presented cuttlefish and blue-spotted stingrays, as well as too many different species of fish to write about here. So, good diving in a relatively untouched reef. It was pretty good.

And to add to the general fishiness, Cam and Stan both caught some. Cam left his run to late, and pulled in a Spanish Mackeral just as we were pulling into the bay to unload ourselves and our stuff from the boat.

Apart from the doxycycline (antimalairial) induced sunburn that we received, I’d have to say that we were pretty happy with how the whole weekend and diving went. To top it all off Cam, Stan and Lyn got to do another 2 dives with the local dive instructor on Monday (which was a public holiday – Rememberance Day). Due to an influx of children at EMB, aka a school camp, I had to work. But plenty more dives in the future I am sure! Anyway. Cam was happy coz he got to take plenty more photos of clown fish. Sigh.

Anyway. We are going to a volunteers conference in Port Moresby for a few days, so we probably won’t be blogging again until next week. But I’m sure we’ll have plenty more stories and photos to share then!

Friday, July 21, 2006

On Book Week

Well, we’ve been a little remiss in our writing duties, but things are getting quite busy. Jane is helping to organise a school camp for 55 Grade 5 children happening next week, as well as the usual drama stuff. Cam is busy with work stuff to be written about in a future post…Oh, and there’s also Book Week.

As some of you may know a large (OK well largish) part of the approximately 200kgs of luggag that Cam & I brought over when we arrived was books that we donated to the local library. The Photo is of Cam's boss Noel handing these over on our behalf. The thing is that the 30kg of books we brought is just drop in the ocean... enter book week...

Book Week was a simple plan cooked up between Jane and her counterpart Maxine. It’s a great idea which involves making contact with Australian people and companies that are willing to donate books. Well, it is a great idea, and many others seem to think so as well. To everyone’s surprise publishing companies, book stores and schools are replying and many of the replies are positive. Which is just as well really. There are over 300 schools in the Milne Bay Province alone – many of which are in remote locations. So there really are a lot of places that could do with a few books.

So, it’s a great project, and one which takes up a lot of time – so apologies for any lack of communication! But on the up side – you can help too if you so desire. We are looking for new or second hand book donations. Does cleaning out your old book shelf sound like something you’d be interested in doing? If so, please let Jane know and she will get back to you with details of where the books can be sent (address is still to be confirmed) – or you can send them straight to PNG, but that’s probably not the least expensive option. Also, if anyone happens to be hiding a shipping connection up their sleeve, now would be a good time to let us know.

Anyway, Book Week is happening on the 7th of August, and the launch is going to be in Milne Bay (the first time outside of Port Moresby). Jane has even been asked to be a debating judge for one of the Book Week events! Any book donations are officially ‘for Book Week’, but we are hoping to get regular donations happening for the future.

It’s definitely nice to be ‘doing something’.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Serina's Place...

We’ve had limited experience with village life in Milne Bay, but what experience we’ve had was thoroughly enjoyed. A couple of weeks ago we not only had the chance to experience more of this village life, but also to see where our friend Serina lives. To save any confusion, Serina lives with us in the ‘Volunteer House’ (everyone in town seems to know which one it is) during the week as it is too difficult to get back to the village every night…

We left on Saturday morning in what can only be described as the most uncomfortable car trip I’ve ever been on. Lyn had her family over, so there were 10 of us in a rented toyota troop carrier as well as a whole lot of food, dive gear, and anything else considered essential for our trip. It was almost worth it for all the strange looks the locals gave us – we even started yelling out “Here comes the Dim Dim PMV!” (PMV is a Public Motor Vehicle – the equivalent of a bus in Australia – for those of you not in the know). Nothing like providing a bit of entertainment for the locals.

So we arrived at Serina’s place to be greeted by a special surprise that Lyn and Serina had organized for the family. All the local school children were in traditional dress, and performing a traditional welcome dance for us. It was a fantastic performance and a very special treat. The cutest thing was every time the beat from the kundu drum (local percussion) stopped, the kids would stop and look around, until they were told to keep going by the adults – and then they just didn’t want to stop! We were also allowed to have a turn of the kundu drums (they seem to be made from local wood – I presume some sort of palm – and the drum part is a stretched snake or lizard skin) – and Steve and I had a bit of a jam session.

The afternoon was spent in being shown around the place. We walked through beautiful bush/forest/jungle and river beds, and visited the closest local market (about 6 ladies and a dog sitting on the side of a river with some yams, greens, pineapples and paw paws). Serina then took us for a swim and taught us how to use the prawning spears that we would be using for a spot of night prawning. It was just so beautiful there. Standing in the river you could have been in almost any country in the world.

Serina and her family cooked us a lovely meal (I have to admit that I am enjoying yams more each time I have them – especially when they are cooked well), and then we got ready to go night prawning (or what we would call in Australia ‘yabbying’).

The idea behind this is that the little critters come out at night and are easier to see (especially with a great big torch) and therefore to catch. Well, I’m sure you’ve all heard Cam rant about prawns (and if you haven’t you are missing out – it’s a pretty good rant), but he became prawn obsessed, and even picked up a prawn related nickname. He thoroughly enjoyed hunting and catching them, and true to his word he actually ate them according to two of his rules 1) he knew how they were caught and where they came from, and 2) he caught them himself. PNG is full of new experiences for us!

Anyway, we took over Serina’s house for the night (10 people is a lot to fit into your house), and then the next morning we went for a walk. It started off deceptively easy. We went to Serina’s brothers house and were greeted by family (including a child with no pants – quite usual here) and a baby pig. I particularly liked the pig, and the pig particularly liked tasting peoples shoes – this made for creative footwork on behalf of the dim dim visitors.

We then went to see the pet cassowary – it shed light on why you wouldn’t want to meet an angry full grown cassowary in the wild – a small angry cassowary is scary enough.

The thing that impressed Cam the most though, was the crocodile jaw. Yes, it was estimated at about 2 months dead. We knew this because Serina’s brother (blue shirt background) was one of the men that killed this fearsome creature, and it didn’t look like it would have been a small one either…gives me the shivers. Apparently it got a little too curious about a village, and so the men all got together and tried to kill it. Repeatedly. Obviously they were successful in the end, but I definitely wouldn’t want to come up against one of these critters in the wild. (Based on the jaw size it was probably about a 9 ft croc).

We then continued our ‘walk’ to see a waterfall. This was very pleasant. We then continued on to see another one, and another – all up. Serina then took us on top of a ridge where her old garden was – no wonder Papua New Guineans are so fit – they walk to their garden every day, and they are all incredibly high up and hard to get to. I don’t at all blame them for thinking we are soft. Because we are. A bit more than we had bargained for, but enjoyable all the same.

In the afternoon we went to watch Serina play netball with all the local teams. Her team was called the Baby Giants and they were really very good.

Afterwards we went to the big markets and had a look around, buying some contributions for dinner, and plenty of fruit. By the end of the day we slept more than soundly. Serina looked after us so well – she’s such a good friend, and it was great to meet her family. And once the wet season is over she has said she will take us night diving to look at the dugong. That’s something to look forward too! To finish up here is a photo of us with Serina, her son Desmond and daughter Garube and the one thing Jane didn't mention the cat called GABI!!!

Monday, July 10, 2006

The Three Month Mark

Just thought We’d point out that Sunday was our three month mark. That’s right – yesterday we have been in PNG for three months. Hasn’t that gone fast?

We hope that all of you back at home and around the global traps are safe, well and happy. Lots of love Jane & Cam

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Waga Waga PNG style…

So, saying Wagga Wagga to an Australian (specifically a NSWite) will invoke a certain feeling/idea. But in Alotau Waga Waga (I’m sure you have noted the different spelling – no extra letters needed here thank you very much) is not a country town, with all the typical Aussie country town traps and dressings, it is a small village around the bay from Alotau. Indeed we have mentioned it before in one of our weekend posts. And it is fast becoming one of our favourite spots in Milne Bay (from what we’ve seen of the province anyway).

There is a lovely guesthouse there called ‘Treetops’ and it’s backpacker style accommodation with the added extras of not one, but two flushing toilets, a shower (with hot water system to boot), a biggish kitchen, mozzie nets, and a spectacular view.

It has the added benefit of not being expensive, which is always popular with us volunteer lot.

It is better if you have your own car (and even better if that car is a 4WD) to get there – the hill leading up to the guesthouse is rather steep. But if you don’t the guesthouse owner Warren, will pick you up and drop you off. Warren is a lovely man who is very tuned in to what dim dim’s want (e.g. mozzie nets on the beds, mosquito coils on the balcony – one would argue that there would be no guests left if these weren’t provided), and will provide bread and fruit (or meals for extra price) with the accommodation. I think we liked Warren even more when we walked down to his house which is host to a menagerie of animals including dogs, chickens, geese (I thought of you Mum!), a flying fox and a cassowary. Even better my doggy friends didn’t shy away when you went to pat them, and I think they were the first dogs in PNG that I’ve seen actually wag their tails – I think this suggests they are treated with kindness, which is rare here.

Apparently there are several walks that Warren can take visitors on (including one to the ‘Moon Rock’), and we would be interested in exploring these at some point in the future (just not when it’s too hot). The other attraction has something to do with water (how unusual), and we’ve mentioned it before – the wreck of the ‘Muscoota’. So far we’ve only been on one dive there, in conditions that weren’t the best…but even that was a pretty cool dive. The dive is only about 20-25 metres deep, but the ship is pretty big, and there is lots to look at – plenty of soft corals growing on it, and the little fish that like to live in the corals. Cam also became slightly obsessed about the miniature crabs that were hiding in some of the coral.

The good thing about PNG is that even when the water is cool, it’s still not cold, and even when the visibility isn’t good, it’s still a pretty good dive (listen to me – dive expert now!).

And of course here is Cam's obligatory aneomone fish photo

Anyhow I’m sure we’ll have plenty more trips out to Waga Waga – only an hour or so out of town, and so much nice stuff to look at. I’ve now got a new BCD that I need to try out too (thanks to Lyn’s family and Giac)! But keep your eyes peeled for our adventures at Porotona – aka our friend Serina’s village.