Papua New Guinea

11 September 2018

This evening Andrew dropped me off at the airport for my flight to Los Angeles, then Singapore, and finally Papua New Guinea. I have always dreamed of visiting Papua New Guinea, so this year for my birthday I thought I would make it happen! Lucinda & Susan (two friends of mine) will also be joining! For the past several months I have been quite lazy at journaling – so I thought I would aim to do a better job on this trip… Fingers Crossed!

12 September 2018

The journey from Los Angeles to Singapore is a long one – nearly 16 hours! Luckily I took a red eye, departing at midnight from Los Angeles, so I slept most of the way. I started getting in a bad habit of eating unhealthy things when I travel, so I was very conscious this flight to eat fruits, vegetables, and healthy proteins. One of the largest pieces of advice I give people when they travel is to eat clean and be active (this will ensure that you come home from your vacation or trip with no regrets).

13 September 2018

I landed in Singapore this morning at 7:30am and I have until 8:30pm for my flight to Papua New Guinea. I decided to spend a few hours in the city of Singapore before my evening flight – as it has been several years since I last visited! I decided to go on a short tour outside the airport visiting Marina Bay park and the Historical Malaysian Quarter, two of my favorite places in Singapore. Singapore is a very bustling city, but remains incredibly clean nonetheless.

14 September 2018

And we are off! We landed in Port Morseby, Papua New Guinea this morning at 5:10am this morning – and quickly transferred to our early morning flight to Goroka at 7:30am for the Sing Sing Festival, this year marking the 43rd year of Independence for the people in Papua New Guinea. I am excited for the week ahead of us – as it is going to be an incredible experience & I have absolutely no idea what to expect! I am here with Susan and Lucinda, as well as a handful of other travelers from around the world who decided to join us – Mike from Florida, Peter from Brussels, and Mark and Natalie from London. Our group is small and everyone has incredible travel stories – so I am excited for all the conversations that are to come! When we arrived at our guesthouse in Goroka (Red River Lodge) all the neighborhood children and adults came out to greet us. They were so happy to see us and their smiles were just so big – I have never felt so loved and at home. When you take photos of the people they are so excited and their smiles are so big, which is something that I love to see.

15 September 2018

This morning was our first morning of the Sing Sing Festival and it was an experience I will never forget. I woke up around 4am (thanks to jet lag) and worked on my photos and writings for a while before heading to breakfast with the group at 7:30. As Papua New Guinea never runs on time, we were served breakfast around 8:30 and set of shortly after for the festival. I can’t believe how many people are outside here. There were thousands of people out on the streets headed to the festival and it was an incredible sight. When we arrived to the venue we saw hundreds of tribes entering the field in traditional dress, singing traditional songs and dancing. We spent the entire afternoon exploring the field meeting people and learning about how they live. I am still amazed at how kind the people are and how beautiful the traditions are. I spent the morning documenting their stories on camera which I am excited to share with you. We had bowls of simple rice and noodles for lunch and set off to visit Asaro in the afternoon. Asaro is the village where the Mudmen live, and our guide Espional is from this village. We learned about their way of life, saw their dance, and visited their spirit house. It was an incredible day!

16 September 2018

Today we spent the morning at the festival again, and saw dozens of new tribes. I have had such an incredible time meeting all the local people, asking them their names, and giving them hugs. It is incredible how much a smile and a hug can do when you can’t speak the same language. In the afternoon we set off for another village called Kenedisaro that was absolutely beautiful, we took a little hike and saw a traditional performance and dance – absolutely stunning! As usual, the entire village came to greet us and follow us along the entire hike, which was so beautiful. The village we visited was called the Kenedisaro Village, and it is one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited.

17 September 2018

Today I realized just how lucky we have been with the weather. This morning after breakfast we loaded up in our bus to travel onwards to Mount Hagen (on the other side of the Highlands). As soon as we set off it started pouring rain, and I realized just how blessed we were to have such good weather throughout the entire festival. It was a 5-6 hour drive and we made several stops, including one at the Snake Village. While the snake village didn’t really keep my attention (I am not a snake fan) it was an adventure to find the bathroom and hike down the nearby hill. We arrived into Mount Hagen just before dinner, and checked into our hotel – the Highlander Hotel (which is actually quite a nice hotel for Papua New Guinea Standards). Although we didn’t get to see much of Mount Hagen it was fun to be able to experience the drive though the highlands and get a feel for the city.

18 September 2018

It’s my birthday… well almost! It isn’t quite the 18th in the states yet – so technically I am celebrating my birthday early! This morning we woke up early to catch our bus to the local airstrip to catch our charter flight to Simbai (a short 15-20 minute flight over the mountains). We loaded into our 9-seater plane with our Australian Pilot and set off. It was an incredible experience to be in such a small plane, but the views were amazing! When we landed on the grass airstrip we walked around 30 minutes uphill to get to the guesthouse where we were staying – a beautiful property in the hills of Simbai. The guesthouse is overlooking the beautiful hills below, with one of the most beautiful views I have ever seen. I can’t wait for the Kalam Festival tomorrow!

19 September 2018

Today was such a beautiful day, as it was the start of the Kalam Festival. In the morning we went up from our guesthouse to the show grounds (less than a 5 minute walk) and saw the boys who were being initiated emerge from the “men’s house”. This year there are 5 boys being initiated into men which means that they get their noise pierced, slaughter a pig, and participate in the bride price payment. In Papua New Guinea the man must pay a price to the parents of his bride upon marriage, as well as each time one of his sons is initiated into becoming a man. The man will pay the price in Pigs, Chickens, Rice, Flour, Taro, and Kina (the local currency). The Kalam tribe holds a festival once each year in which the boys are initiated and the bride payment is made. It was quite hard to see the pigs being killed as they don’t use guns or bows, but instead clubs that they use to knock the pig alongside the head until they pass away. They then proceed to build a fire and roast the big until it becomes tough and they can skin it and butcher it – collecting each piece of the meat. It was an incredible morning, and we were grateful – as it started raining in the afternoon so we had to take cover in the lodge.

20 September 2018

Today was our second day in Simbai, and we were able to participate in the second day of the festival. All night long the men and women were chatting to prepare for today’s sing sing – it was so incredible that they didn’t get tired, as they were singing ALL night long! We had breakfast early, around 6:30am (the sun comes up around 6am and goes down around 6pm) and then headed straight to the show grounds. The men and women were in two different groups dancing and singing in their traditional dress and it was a beautiful sight to witness. We spent all morning with the Sing Sing groups before going back to our lodge for a delicious lunch. They really do a good job with the food here, preparing breads, vegetables, fruits, and so much more. There was even a lot of peanut butter – which I loved!

21 September 2018

Today we depart Simbai for Wewak on another small charter flight. I have had such a wonderful time in Simbai that it will be hard to leave, but I am excited to visit another part of Papua New Guinea!

The journey today was long but worth it. We went down to the airstrip to wait for our charter flight at 8:00am, and didn’t end up catching our flight until 11:30am. After an hour flight we landed in Wewak around 1pm and headed straight for the hotel restaurant to eat lunch and freshen up before our long 4-5 hour journey into the Sepik River by car. It has been raining a lot in Papua New Guinea, so the roads are really bad and driving takes a long long time. We arrived to the waterfront late in the evening and hopped on our canoe for the hour boat ride to our accommodations. I am amazed at how little infrastructure Papua New Guinea has, yet how expensive it is to get around anywhere. Our accommodations tonight are very rustic, as we are sleeping on a mattress with a mosquito net.

22 September 2018

Today was a full day on the Sepik River visiting villages and Spirit Houses. There are no roads here so the only way to get around is by boat or canoe. It was an extremely sunny day so we all got REALLY sunburnt – I have NEVER felt the sun so hot. When you don’t have a room with AC to escape to for the night, it is really really difficult to bear the heat.

Did I mention that we had crocodile for dinner? Not my meat of choice – but many in the group thought it was an incredible experience. The place we stayed tonight was once again in a Spirit House.

23 September 2018 | Wewak

Today we left the Sepik River, traveling all morning by boat and the rest of the afternoon by car. When we arrived at the hotel we were all very tired and hungry! The hotel we stayed at was the only hotel with Air Conditioning and WiFi (not the WiFi didn’t work the entire time we were there). It was a wonderful break from the incredible experience we just had in Papua New Guinea and we will all be very sad to leave tomorrow.

24 September 2018 | Singapore

We woke up at 5:30am this morning to catch our flight to Port Moresby. Funny thing was, the flight is actually not a direct flight – but actually stoped in Madong and Lae (two beautiful areas in Papua New Guinea that we didn’t get to visit on this trip). I hope to come back to Papua New Guinea soon – and visit the Solomon Islands too!

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