We’ve developed a very bad habit since living in Madang. Every Friday evening, a group of us go up to the local tourist hotel, where we sit on the balcony overlooking the ocean, as the sun goes down, and enjoy an indifferent pizza and a couple of glasses of ropey red wine that comes out of a box. How’s that for decadence?
When I say ‘tourist hotel’ that is perhaps a bit of a stretch, because the majority of the people we see there are either NGO workers, helicopter pilots based at the local airport or government officials at endless conferences. Quite often our table is the only one occupied on a Friday night.
Last Friday was different. We turned up to find about twenty young people and a couple of adults having the effrontery to be sitting on our balcony! The nerve! We were outraged. How dare they?
After our meal, to satisfy my curiosity, I went over to the visitors’ table to say “Welcome to Madang” and to ask them where they were from. It turns out that they were a group of high school students from Virginia who were at the end of a two-week school trip to Papua New Guinea.
They had spent a week or so living as guests of a tribe somewhere in the Highlands of PNG where they had taken part in a ‘Sing-sing”, had their faces painted, eaten local food, stayed in grass huts and generally been absorbed into the local culture. Nobody was murdered, nobody was abducted or threatened, nobody was eaten by cannibals! They had had a great time and an experience that they will never forget.
I sought out the teacher who had organised the trip and congratulated him on having the inspired idea, and the courage, to bring his students to PNG, despite the dire warnings that you get once you start to research this country on the internet. I remember that before we came out here I consulted Wikipedia, only to be told that “cannibalism has mostly died out” in Papua New Guinea! Not a promising start if you are starting to plan your ‘around the world’ trip.
It was nice to know that there were now at least twenty young Americans who would go home with a very positive story to tell about their PNG adventure.
Given the reputation that this country has, it is not easy to develop a tourist industry, even though there are things to see, landscapes, both on land and under the sea, to marvel at and more exotic cultures than you could shake a stick at.
Based at the local museum, there is a VSO volunteer who is helping to develop excursions for any tourist that do make it to Madang. You can, for example, visit Alexishafen and see some of the remains of military hardware from the Japanese invasion in 1941; you can visit a wonderful orchid garden just outside Madang; you can even go and see the grave of Man Friday, left over from the filming of ‘Robinson Crusoe’ with Pierce Brosnan, a film which, quite deservedly, did not win an Oscar, nor indeed any other award, and disappeared without trace into the dusty catacombs of cinematic history where it belongs.
One of the ‘attractions’ that the Museum is hoping to develop is A’Aliyah’s Crocodile Farm, which we went to see a few weeks ago. (See below).
I have to say that, as a tourist attraction, this place has a way to go, but at least it is a start, if you like the idea of hundreds of slimey crocodiles wallowing around in what crocodiles produce naturally. For me it came into the category of ‘Nice Try’, but not on the repeat list. If we have visitors to entertain, the orchid garden wins!
The signage, for example, needs a bit of work done on it.
Where you see one…. … you are likely to see more.
Lunch time for crocodiles.
The enclosure for those about to embark on a career as a pair of very fancy shoes.
Don’t have nightmares!