Experience Papua New Guinea Up Close

January 2020

Front Row Society - Georg Berg 

The expedition ship True North is the ideal starting point for encounters with islanders who rarely receive foreign visitors. Georg Berg had a varied program in eleven days.

Early in the morning, Simon Tewson contacted the residents of several huts on Panasia Beach. Simon is on board the True North as a tourist guide. He grew up in Papua New Guinea with his Australian parents and helps with communication. I am introduced to Pidgin and given permission to take photos. The True North is in sight at anchor and John, who speaks to us for the families living here, is full of praise for our captain. Never before has such a large ship come so close to the settlement in the labyrinth of corals.

For the first encounter with locals only the guide Simon Tewson, who is familiar with the customs and understanding, can be driven ashore / © FrontRowSociety.net, photo: Georg Berg
For the first encounter with locals only the guide Simon Tewson, who is familiar with the customs and understanding, can be driven ashore / © FrontRowSociety.net, photo: Georg Berg

Simon inquires about the wellbeing of the islanders. If water or food is missing, the True North would help with on-board means. But everyone is healthy here and since it had rained enough in the days before, the tanks are full of water. The next time we went ashore we would have helped out with some canisters. Finally, the True North produces 1,500 liters of drinking water per hour through reverse osmosis.

Outrigger canoes are not restricted in their mobility in the water above the corals. The True North, on the other hand, has to navigate very carefully despite the shallow draft / © FrontRowSociety.net, Photo: Georg Berg
Outrigger canoes are not restricted in their mobility in the water above the corals. The True North, on the other hand, has to navigate very carefully despite the shallow draft / © FrontRowSociety.net, Photo: Georg Berg

On the beach it is discussed what awaits True North guests on the island. John says goodbye to his family and accompanies our little vanguard back to the ship, from which he will accompany our expeditions for the day.

The tour group carefully feels its way to the bottom of the natural cavern / © FrontRowSociety.net, photo: Georg Berg
The tour group carefully feels its way to the bottom of the natural cavern / © FrontRowSociety.net, photo: Georg Berg

With waterproof footwear, which is also suitable for a hike with a climb after the wet landing, we reach the small entrance of a cave, which opens inside to a huge natural cathedral. The sky is not visible, but daylight falls from above and rainwater is collected on a kind of platform under a natural funnel.At the foot of the cavern, sea water mixes with fresh rainwater, which is collected as drinking water in a container / © FrontRowSociety.net, photo: Georg Berg

At the foot of the cavern, sea water mixes with fresh rainwater, which is collected as drinking water in a container / © FrontRowSociety.net, photo: Georg Berg
The children of the island love the rocks of the cave as a natural diving platform / © FrontRowSociety.net, photo: Georg Berg
The children of the island love the rocks of the cave as a natural diving platform / © FrontRowSociety.net, photo: Georg Berg

On the trail of cannibalism

A second excursion in the afternoon will take us to a mysterious place of worship on the neighboring island. Hardly a trail is visible on the sharp-edged rock. Nevertheless, we are on the trail of cannibalism that has been practiced until recently.

John leads us through stony vegetable fields to an inconspicuous cave / © FrontRowSociety.net, photo: Georg Berg
John leads us through stony vegetable fields to an inconspicuous cave / © FrontRowSociety.net, photo: Georg Berg

We enter an inconspicuous cave. This place was still a place of worship in the previous century. After armed conflicts, the enemies killed were eaten here. With this magical act one believed to acquire their powers. Simon later tells us that a few years ago he spoke to someone who attended such a cannibal meal.

Skulls and human bones are clearly visible / © FrontRowSociety.net, photo: Georg Berg
Skulls and human bones are clearly visible / © FrontRowSociety.net, photo: Georg Berg

Warm rain and a wet sailing regatta

Although the True North has access to land on every coast, water is not neglected as an element. With six adventure boats you can go fishing, snorkeling, diving or simply sightseeing.

Fortunately, a tropical shower doesn't last long. But enough time to put on the diving goggles for the photo / © FrontRowSociety.net, photo: Georg Berg
A tropical shower is intense, but luckily it doesn't last long. Time enough to put on the goggles for the photo / © FrontRowSociety.net, photo: Georg Berg

The Polynesians have always had the reputation of being the most perfect sailors. Even today, they are admired for their talent by modern seafarers. The trip in a classic outrigger sailboat becomes an unforgettable experience.

The Prau, which is typical for Polynesia, is an ocean-going sailboat with a delta wing and an outrigger that is always on the windward side facing the wind / © FrontRowSociety.net, photo: Georg Berg
The Prau, which is typical for Polynesia, is an ocean-going sailboat with a delta sail and an outrigger that, due to its construction, must lie on the windward side facing the wind / © FrontRowSociety.net, photo: Georg Berg
The hull is made of thin hardwood. It is narrow, long and offers little space. During the journey, the water splashing in is constantly scooped out / © FrontRowSociety.net, Photo: Georg Berg
The classic boat is fast, narrow and offers little space. The hull is made of thin hardwood. During the journey, the water splashing in must be scooped out / © FrontRowSociety.net, Photo: Georg Berg
The crew consists of at least three people. At the back one determines the angle of attack of the sail and another crew member controls by shifting weight. With a loose paddle you can also control a little / © FrontRowSociety.net, Photo: Georg Berg
The crew consists of at least three people. Of the two rear one determines the angle of attack of the sail and another crew member controls with a loose paddle but mainly by shifting weight / © FrontRowSociety.net, photo: Georg Berg
The third crew member of a Praus takes care of the tip of the sail. Since the boat is longitudinally symmetrical, the stern and bow are exchanged when changing direction. The tip of the sail is carried on the picture / © FrontRowSociety.net, photo: Georg Berg
The third crew member of a Praus takes care of the tip of the sail. Since the boat is longitudinally symmetrical, the stern and bow are exchanged when changing direction. The boat cruises forward and backward. In the picture, the tip of the sail is carried to the other end / © FrontRowSociety.net, photo: Georg Berg

Until recently, the traditional Prau boats were able to compete with the fastest high-tech boats at the Americas Cup. The reason is believed to be the special aerodynamics of the triangular delta sail, also known as the cancer scissor sail. It's hard to believe that this technology was invented here in Polynesia 10,000 years ago.

Cultural diversity and political separation

On the 11-day tour with the True North, we get a fairly representative impression of the country with the world's greatest cultural diversity in the numerous shore excursions. There are 830 different languages ​​spoken in Papua New Guinea and it is good to have someone on board with Simon Tewson who, in addition to the smooth communication, is always on the lookout himself. During his stay in Bougainville, he was able to persuade the vice president of the autonomous region to visit on board.

Raymond Masono, the vice president of the autonomous region of Bougainville, explains the government policy on board the True North after the independence referendum / © FrontRowSociety.net, photo: Georg Berg
Raymond Masono, the vice president of the autonomous region of Bougainville, explains the government policy on board the True North after the independence referendum / © FrontRowSociety.net, photo: Georg Berg

Bougainville was a German colony until the First World War and was then under English, Japanese, New Zealand and Australian influence. Even when it was added to Papua New Guinea, which had been granted independence in 1974, the very nature-loving residents could not accept the foreign determination. Especially since the lucrative open-cast copper mining in the Panguna mine poisoned large areas of Bougainville and made it uninhabitable for decades.

The disused Panguna copper mine on Bougainville / © True North, photo: Oliver Oldroyd
The disused Panguna copper mine on Bougainville / © True North, photo: Oliver Oldroyd

After the civil war against the government army of Papua New Guinea and a long transition period as an autonomous region, when we arrived in Bougainville it was clear that the referendum was 98 percent in favor of independence.

One week after the independence referendum, you can only see remnants of the posters that promoted participation / © FrontRowSociety.net, photo: Georg Berg
One week after the independence referendum, you can only see remnants of the posters that promoted participation / © FrontRowSociety.net, photo: Georg Berg 
Everywhere on the island of Bougainville we are welcomed with a good mood / © FrontRowSociety.net, photo: Georg Berg
Everywhere on the island of Bougainville we are welcomed with a good mood / © FrontRowSociety.net, photo: Georg Berg

After years of isolation and political uncertainty, confidence is spreading. Anyone who learns that I come from Germany expresses the hope that Bougainville will also be noticed by us and will soon be accepted as a new member of the international community.

The inhabitants of Bougainville also stand out in the South Pacific due to their particularly dark skin / © FrontRowSociety.net, photo: Georg Berg
The residents of Bougainville also stand out in the South Seas due to their particularly dark skin. Here the musician of a typical Bamboo band / © FrontRowSociety.net, photo: Georg Berg

Wet landing on the beach

Whenever Simone, our cruise director announces a wet landing , the adventure begins for the guests on the beach.

Adjusting the moment between two waves, we go through the surf with a courageous sentence / © FrontRowSociety.net, photo: Georg Berg
Adjusting the moment between two waves, we go through the surf with a courageous sentence / © FrontRowSociety.net, photo: Georg Berg

Even if there is a lot of motion on the ocean , as Captain Gav knows how to curb big waves rhetorically, his crew brings all guests safely ashore.

The arrival of the strangers is watched with suspense on land / © FrontRowSociety.net, photo: Georg Berg
The arrival of the strangers is watched eagerly on land. The bird of paradise is the heraldic animal of Papua New Guinea / © FrontRowSociety.net, photo: Georg Berg

The encounter with the locals is very respectful everywhere. With useful souvenirs, individual True North passengers return the hospitality they have experienced on previous trips.

Fishing accessories are a perfect gift. The fair distribution is placed in the hands of the village head in front of everyone / © FrontRowSociety.net, photo: Georg Berg
Fishing accessories are a perfect gift. The fair distribution is placed in the hands of the village head in front of everyone / © FrontRowSociety.net, photo: Georg Berg

In addition to fishing supplies and money, it is primarily balls and stationery for schoolchildren that True North supports the population with. Especially in exchange with the local teachers, you can learn what is urgently needed on the extremely remote islands. Hard to imagine: people only see a doctor once a year - sometimes .

Cricket instead of fighting

We were challenged to a sporting competition on the Trobriand Islands , which are also known as the Islands of Love because of the permissive sexual ideas.

You don't have to be familiar with the international cricket rules to be allowed to play here / © FrontRowSociety.net, photo: Georg Berg
You don't have to be familiar with the international cricket rules to be allowed to play here / © FrontRowSociety.net, photo: Georg Berg

The game of cricket was introduced in the Trobriand Islands to redirect men's argumentative dispute into peaceful channels. Colorful and colorful, the two teams roar roaring into the arena. Their battle cries go through the bone as you play and you don't want to know what the translation is. First, the two local teams play against each other. Gradually, foreign visitors also take on their own roles as throwers or clubs.

After the game they dance together / © FrontRowSociety.net, photo: Georg Berg
After the game you relax again and you dance together / © FrontRowSociety.net, Photo: Georg Berg

Everywhere in Papua New Guinea people like to celebrate and sing. These festivals are called Sing-Sing in the common Pidgin language, even if they are very different from each other.

Souvenir photo for the pin board: Chief reporter Georg Berg with the victorious captain / © FrontRowSociety.netSouvenir photo for the pin board: Chief reporter Georg Berg with the victorious captain / © FrontRowSociety.net