Tuesday 14th March 2017

Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea

'Sirena' docked in Port Moresby at 10am, but our excursion, 'Coastal Villages', wasn't due to start until 1pm, so our plan was to take a complimentary shuttle bus into town as soon as the ship was cleared.

We went ashore in scorching sunshine and after a lot of searching and asking on the quay could find no shuttle bus, so decided to go on foot having been assured that the city centre was 'just over there'. Ten minutes' walking brought us to some shops and a shopping mall' of dubious quality. Also, there were a lot of locals just mooching about, and, although there was no reason for it, we didn't feel entirely safe, so we returned to the ship and had an early lunch.

The tour was very similar to yesterday, in that there was a lot of driving, with a couple of stops in rural villages. The good thing was that the mini-buses were of higher quality than yesterday's and, being in the vicinity of the capital the roads were better. In fact, a great deal of work was going on to build new roads and upgrade the existing ones.

We were in a convoy of nine minibuses, all driving with hazard lights flashing, just like yesterday. It must have been this that drew the attention of the locals, because everywhere we went groups of children shouted excited greetings to us; even the adult waved!

The first village we went to was going about its daily business when we descended like flies. They don't seem to have been prepared for our arrival, but were very welcoming nevertheless. Like in other places we've seen they live in circumstances that seem unacceptable to Europeans, verging on squalid, with very thin dogs dodging about for scraps. But everyone seems to be amazingly cheerful, their clothing appears to be clean and well-laundered and everyone looks healthy – well, loads healthier than the plump, arthritic Western pensioners who were visiting them! ;o)

We stayed for half an hour before setting off again for a journey that took over an hour. We'd been warned yesterday that Papua New Guinea isn't really set up for tourism and that our guides aren't professionally trained, so be ready to ask them questions. Our chap, Kensy, didn't talk a lot and when he did his English wasn't terribly clear. Also, when asked questions by the Americans on board, who seem to delight in getting precise local data, he was clearly making up his answers on the spot. When asked was the population of Port Moresby is he said, “Six hundred million”. His questioner said, “You mean six hundred thousand?”, but he didn't seem to understand. Gill did a quick double take, because she'd read the ship's guide to the city which quoted two hundred thousand ;o)

The second stop was at a seaside village called Barakau, where the locals were waiting to receive us with singing, dancing and drums very similar to yesterday. The junior school's playground was right on the village square, and our arrival completely disrupted playtime, with desperately excited children calling us to the mesh fence to chat with them. The all speak fair English, which is very impressive for such young children. They don't start formal education until they're seven, so they must pick it up very quickly. And they're all incredibly keen to have their photos taken.

Gill got into conversation with a older local woman who spoke excellent English and who made it perfectly clear that she loved the British and the Empire. And that has been a theme here – if you're British, or, more specifically, English, the locals light up in excitement. We were sitting on the mini-bus ready to leave when one of the guides asked if there were English people on board. We were sitting right by the door and said,'Yes', and were introduced to a charming man of around my age speaking flawless English. He said that he'd lived in London in the 1980s, in Camden Town. I asked what took him to London and he said that he'd been in his country's diplomatic service. He also had a very soft spot for our country, which is nice, because when you read up on the British Empire and the violence and exploitation on which it was founded you can't imagine why anyone would be anything other than glad to have seen the back of us.

We then had an hour's drive back to Port Moresby, and along the way I saw a wonderful sign looming over an overgrown field, reading, 'No trespassing, no dumping, no gardening'. Also, in the city in the morning we'd seen a van with the slogan, 'Buk Bilong Pikinini', which was intriguing enough to ponder over. Then, reading on a neighbouring van we saw it meant, 'Children's Library' – pigeon English ;o)

We now have two sea days before arriving in Darwin on Friday, so we may be a bit quiet until then!





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