Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Independence Weekend

Historical fact: on September 16th 31 years ago Papua New Guinea became independent from Australia.
Other fact: on September the 16th 2006, we helped to celebrate Independence Day by going into town to see what celebrating was happening.

So after a rather excessive, but glorious, sleep-in Cam and I braved the wet and wild weather, and headed to the sports oval to check out Alotau’s Independence Day. The field was littered with stalls selling all types of food (yummy – lamb chops…so good), meri blouses, weavings and other assorted knick knacks…it was also covered in mud. It wasn’t the sort of mud that unobtrusively stays in patches, it was the sort of mud that enjoyed spreading everywhere. And due to the fact that lots of people wear thongs here, it well and truly was spread all over peoples clothing – got to love thong splatter.

We wandered around for a bit, grimaced over the sign that announced that “Jesus is the only Immunisation for AIDS you will ever need”, and said hello to our friends. I bought a meri blouse and we watched the greasy pole competition. Wow. The pole would have been at least 6 body lengths and slathered in grease of some sort. It is common in PNG to see someone or other shimmying up a coconut tree as easy as you please, but no-one could climb this. So the hours of getting grease off the pole started. First just at ground level, then a kid standing on someone’s shoulders…we couldn’t stay the whole time, but by the time we left there were 4 levels of people standing on each others shoulders, heads and faces trying to get the grease off enough to get to the top of the pole. And what was at the top? Just a couple of t-shirts, bags, and the reward of K100 for the first one up. It actually looked quite dangerous, and not worth the prizes, but I guess the kudos is a big part of it too.

It was an interesting and amusing day, but the weather was just too crap to want to stay for a long time. I don’t know if we missed the greasy pig, or if the event didn’t happen…disappointing, I know.

The next day we decided to go for a dive down at East Cape (about 1 ½ hours drive from town). It was a pleasant drive, and we did it in true PNG style – in a single cab ute with 3 people on the tray. Once we got there the water was flat and clear (20-25m vis), and we had a lovely dive, with a highlight of seeing a school of HUGE hump-headed parrot fish (it was kind of like being surrounded by a heard of coral eating suitcases)

My other highlight was actually managing to take this picture of Cam – pulling the moves underwater – it just cracks me up!

Monday was a public holiday, and was carried out in true public-holiday tradition by not doing much. Lovely. This week highlights will include: Jane starting driving lessons (we are hoping that I can get my PNG license in the next two weeks or so), call backs for the radio-play drama group, and Alix and Jace coming to visit us! How very exciting!

Friday, September 15, 2006

Our Town

So we've been very slack in sending pictures of our current home-town, Alotau. Last weekend Jane wasn't feeling great so we had a quiet day and spent some time walking around town, going to the markets and watching the soccer...and we took a few pictures for your viewing pleasure.

This picture is of the market place where we buy lots of locally grown fresh fruit and veggies such as bananas, cucumber, tomatoes, yams, pineapples etc. This is one of my favourite places to go - depending on what's in season you can get some great buys! Pineapples for K4 (under $2 AUS) in season. And bananas!!! well you can get a whole bunch for between K1.50 and K2 - the only banana crisis here is which bananas to choose.

The market is at the bottom of one of the main streets of town in this street there are 3 supermarkets, 3 general/department stores, 2 banks, the post office - almost sounds like the big smoke, but infact that's about it. There are also lots of people chewing betel nuts, and hence lovely red blobs in the gutters from the spit. Something one gets used to quite quickly in PNG.

On the way home from the markets there is always something happening on the sports field. On weekday afternoons plenty of people will be practicing and fooling around, and on the weekends there are soccer games all day with crowds and people selling food from popcorn, to banana chips. It's actually quite a nice view.

The other permanent fixture in town is Habona. Habona is probably the only person known to the whole of the Milne Bay Province (and some people in other provinces) apart from the governor. He's a little bit long long (tok pisin for crazy), but he's also alot of good fun. He always in the know about what's going on in town, and doesn't miss out on a social occasion - in fact we think he might have teleporting abilities as he always seems to be everywhere. He also likes to help out where he can, some days you're likely to see him packing shelves at the supermarket, another working as security at one of the local dances, or even helping to direct traditional dancers at the Hagita Show. The photo here is from Kaure's 2nd birthday party where Habona happened to turn up... A party in Alotau isn't really an occasion unless he does.

More coming soon we might post some photos of Jane and Cam's workplaces. Also Independence Day this Saturday, so no doubt there will be plenty going on in town. Rumour has is they have both a "greased pig" for you to try to catch and a "greasy pole" with prizes at the top if you manage to climb it! Fun times in Alotau.

Before finishing Cam needs to add a brief note about fish...did everybody notice that there was not one single clownfish in the last post...such self control is remarkable, but unfortunately Jane does not have it. Here is one that she took on her latest dive.

Quite good actually, oh and just in case you were wondering what she looked like with her new BCD, (or what a BCD actually is... {Bouancy Control Device: the vest thingy that hold the tank on and helps you float and sink}) her she is...

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Cam’s new job and a trip to New Britain

Ok. So many of you may have heard that there has been a new volunteer position on the cards for Cam. As you may have noticed we’ve been a bit cautious about putting it out there for various reasons, but most of all because we didn’t want to jinx it.

So. It turns out that he’s got it, and it’s pretty good. He’s working with a reef protection NGO and this country’s diving industry body (see links to the right for further information). His position is In-Country Representative for the NGO and Marine Environmental and Education Officer for the Industry body. If all works out this position may see him with volunteer work in PNG for an additional 18 months or so. It is literally the perfect job for Cam – if only he was getting paid. Sigh.

Anyhow so one of the things he’s going to have to be involved with is putting in moorings. The idea of using a mooring is that it prevents boats from damaging the fragile reefs with their anchors. It was thought that it would be good to give Cam some practical experience in using the equipment to do this. That’s right. His new reef protection job involves him going to pristine, untouched coral reefs and drilling holes in them (for their own good of course). In order to do this a trip was planned for him to meet a live-aboard boat in Rabaul (of Volcano fame, see Mt Tuvaru's ash cloud below),

East New Britain and move down the north coast of the island (drilling where necessary) over the course of 7-8 days, until they reached Kimbe in West New Britain. But, this is PNG…and things will go ‘buggerup’.

So. With the drill out of action for mechanical reasons, but the live-aboard dive boat otherwise fully functional, Cam had little else to do but make good friends with the crew, and get in a cheeky dive or two...or twenty three. In six days. Of course, for professional reasons, Cam took our under-water camera and here are some of the results.

Here is what a perfect mooring looks like png style, Cam go to see lots of these but not to put any in.

Fish out in the blue water:

Schooling barracuda

Batfish, apprently they LOVE ripe bannana

Fish closer to the reef:

Fire dart Gobies

A juvinile grouper

A very beatiful Lionfish

A mature grouper

A Spotted Sweetlips with a Cleaner Wrasse friend

Some other reef critters:

A beautiful Featherstar

A not so beautiful Moray eel

The always cute Hawksbill turtle

A really teensy tiny little anemone shrimp

And an EVEN SMALLER pygmy sea horse, I'm serious think "two grains of rice"... small grains, and you might realise why this photo is good but not great. You'd need a whole lot of these little fish to make even one half decent seafood stick.

But now for the really exciting stuff: the sharks. We basically saw two types, Grey Reefs the faster meaner, "sharkier"looking sharks, like these two...

and also the slightly smaller White Tip reef sharks that came in a lot closer and let us get shots like these...

Which was, as you can imagine, was pretty bloody cool.

In additon to the awsome crew Cam also had the company of a holiday making couple, Martin & Jo. Martin and Jo actually work on a boat (skipper and chef) but still love the water enough to take thier holidays on one (Well Martin does anyway, I seem to rember Jo saying someting about thier next holiday being very much on dry land.) Martin is the one staring through the seawhip and Jo is posing by the sea fan. These guys were heaps of fun and helped call in sharks on more than one occasion.

Here is a recording of the one afternoon with a sunset that we actually managed to see, the weather was not so great, but this one kept up going through the grey days.

But perhaps what helped us going most of all were the crew of the boat who were simply amazing I can't begin to thank them enough nor do I have what could be called "flattering" photos of them all... but here are a couple that I hope they'll like

This is a great demonstration of Jonahs trade mark bubble rings.

And this is the man himself (looking a little lost without his scuba gear, left) with Joe, Agnes and Pauline.

Once back on land Cam met up with a lot of important people that he's going to have to work with and amongst other things got a chance to help put one of the dive resorts day boats back in the water, with what can only be described as "a crane that was JUST big enough" thankyou to all the crew at the resort who also made Cam feel welcome.

Anyway we'll leave you with this final jem form Walindi which make us think that Cam might only have to keep implimenting the current policy to ensure that PNG's reefs are well protected.