04 october Cairns (AUSTRALIA)

At dawn we are in Queensland, Australia: in Cairns.

We receive so many questions about our short visit but above all advices (indeed a real psychological terrorism) on our next destination: Papua New Guinea.

At some point I even wonder if we were too naive or reckless choosing this destination...

The dogs were sniffing luggage, many different cards to fill out, many questions and controls... the same seen so many times in episodes of  Australian customs police "airport security"... finally we go out and... peace!

Birds chirping between tall palm trees give us the "welcome"...

 

We go directly to "Gilligans", a sort of Australian "Jersey Shore", a huge building populated by pumped and tattooed guys and girls in heels since from 8 in the morning...

We soon go to the center despite the fatigue after a 9 hour flight... just two blocks away!

We spend most of our daily budget at the supermarket, we make a huge supply of fruit, (after nearly a month spent in Japan, we really needed it...)

We stroll along the Esplanade where they built a public pool just close to the big mudflats that characterizes the city.

On street corners, small groups of various skeletal Aborigines, abandoned by society and by themselves laze in the shade of tall trees. They seem scraps of humanity, invisible those pumped kids or Australian girls in miniskirts. Men and women who just exist but no one notices them...

 

05 october Port Moresby (PAPUA NEW GUINEA)

Three in the morning, while the nightclub of our hotel is in full swing, the Dj shakes the walls of the entire building, and all guys are starting coming back to their rooms after the evening spent dancing, we, backpacks on our shoulders, in a taxi driven by a young Sikh guy from Punjab, approach the small Cairns International airport!

Let the adventure begins!

Three-hour flight and we land in this wild island.

Panic at the Immigration when the gentle cop wants to see our visa. What? We do not have one... I have studied this issue on line and as far as I understood there was no need for us... panic... everything is solved when we explain that we are tourists and we are not there for business... here is a two months visa on our passports... it’s even free!

In a few minutes we reach the Wellness Lodge in Boroko, outskirts of Port Moresby.

Sinclaire, one of the guards escorts us for a ride in the area.

The background is very "African": red roads, tall palm trees, old colonial buildings abandoned, colorful shops selling everything. The natives are stocky, blacks, with big noses and overweighed bodies, black and crisp hair like cotton candy but they all loo so kind.

Everybody has warned us about the safety here but all the people met on the street have never  made us felt uncomfortable or in danger... on the other hand it is also true that many guys approached us but were dismissed by Sinclaire and all the shops were protected by high fences and metal bars.

06 october Mt Hagen (PAPUA NEW GUINEA)

[Stefy]: "Wake up at 4:45 in the morning to reach the airport... we had a flight to Goroka... actually... we thought so... at check in we find out that there is only one flight to Mt Hagen! Ok, let's take that!

We soon notice that we are the only white people; in the plane the hostess asks us if she can do the briefing in Pigini (local language)...

We take off... under us the lush greenery of this country makes a spectacular carpet, banana, coffee plantations, palm trees...

An hour and a half later we land in the Papuan Highland... we go down the ladder and a little man tells us to catch our luggage directly from the small airplane... weird... after all no one ever checked the documents...

Luckily Caspar Dama, our guide in PNG, our guardian angel during these ten days of adventure is waiting for us!

In a few minutes we are aboard a PMV (Public Motor Vehicle), one of the thousands which we will take from now on...

We could not believe it, I think I have never seen a such dirty van so far!

The guesthouse is tinged with lilac, the rooms are large, only the sheets are a little dirty... immediately we ask for another room... no worries, they are all free... soon we discover that we’ll  always be the only guests in all the places where we will stay...

Here we are! Finally, we go out to discover this new land! Caspar introduces ourselves his mother-in-law who, after a good handshake, pulls out a chicken bone from a pocket and starts to suck it... We walk a long distance on foot. Kids stop to look at us surprised, sometimes they are almost scared but after our smile all barriers fall down...

We take a PMV to the main station... so many people... Caspar and the other two men who escort us are struggling to keep up; dozens of van are moving around, people running up and down, everyone brings something, big bags ripped, frightened hens, who was screaming the name of the destination, women with typical bilum forehead (handmade bags)...

In 20 minutes of PMV we reach a dirt road through thick banana trees and surrounded by dense vegetation, we are in the village Awi.

We are welcomed by groups of children, women and men with curious eyes and easy smile.

James, the chief of the village, invites us to enter into the garden of a hut where some girls, with face made-up in black, with straw skirts and gaudy necklaces on bare breasts are preparing for the traditional Cili Moli dance.

All the neighbors come running on the lawn to enjoy the show... it's really exciting to see those ancestral rites...

We chat a bit with the villagers, one of them tells us that, on the other side of the road, his grandmother sells bethel nuts. Let's see that: girls and ladies smoke sitting on the ground and immediately they offer me a cigarette. I can not refuse. I enjoy this cigarette, although it’s a bit too strong for me, with these wonderful women who keep on repeating my name, smile at me, hug me... what a nice feeling of community. We shoot a lot of pictures and we look at each other smiling without speaking... but we women know how many things we have said under that tarp in the light rain that resonated mild.

Meanwhile, some men showed Mark how to "use" the bethel: two knobs of bethel and "dagger" (a root) plus a white powder obtained from the shells"....

07 october Mt Hagen (PAPUA NEW GUINEA)

The alarm clock rings early in this small wooden hut with no name who trembles at the passage of each vehicle...

The friendly owner of the guesthouse gives us a ride to the village of Kumunga; the road is in poor condition but with our 4x4 pick up we manage without any trouble!

We get to a few huts, a very old lady appears from a tiny door and immediately welcomes us hugging!

In a corner, five big woman of  "Molke" tribe gets ready for the "Weldo" dance.

The preparation lasts long and requires a lot of patience and precision during the makeup. The whole face is colored following traditional patterns, the feathers of various birds are chosen carefully and stored according to the type of  bird in the pages of a local magazine.

We follow these rituals getting impressed everytime when we think about the history of this ancient tribe, a community that displays on a branch of a tree a long series of jaws of pigs: pigs killed by the family over time and the higher the number is, the higher is the consideration that they receive.

Suddenly we notice a smaller skull. It is unique and different from the others. They calmly explain us that it belongs to a dog. A dog? Yes, they eat dogs, cats, cassowaries, snakes... the more I know them, the more I realize how different they are from us and, in a sense, still wild...

Not only the habit but also in body composition: their faces are more similar to the cavemen. They do not wash themselves, most of them walk barefoot and with feet that are now hard like rubber... I'm sorry to say these things but it is the pure and objective truth. In return, they have a golden heart and when they meet you on the street, they are always happy of your presence!

Are they really so wild? They solve their problems with other tribes killing themselves with slingshots or bows and arrows...

 

The indigenous people of the village were particularly proud because now they had also electricity and therefore they felt 100% autonomous because now they could also charge their cell phones!

I’m impressed by a girl: Sharon, who takes, secretly, some pictures of us with an old digital camera! I ask if she had a PC... basically we are in the jungle... and she: - "No" ... - "where do you watch them then?" - And she, wonderfully: "...on the display of course!"

The ceremony begins. What a thrill to watch those women by big bellies, from sagging breasts, multicolored faces, fetishes which adorned various parts of the body and a thousand colored feathers on their heads singing their old litany...

In late morning we are off once again towards Mt Hagen... on foot!!!

The road is long and it is very hot. Half village escortes us and takes us cheerfully.

(1) - (2) - (3)