By Geoffrey Heard
It is difficult to understand the concept of choices between two varieties of paradise. Paradise is perfect, right? So it can’t come in two varieties by definition.
Well, here in Rabaul, Papua New Guinea -- here in paradise -- your nitpicking rules simply don’t hold up. There ARE two kinds of paradise and that’s that!
Right now, I am living in paradise: the village of Vunakabi, inland from Kokopo -- the new Rabaul since the volcanoes devastated the township in 1994. But I’ve just spent the night at a friend’s house at Takubar, just along the beach from Kokopo. I am torn -- Takubar is paradise too. There are two paradises, which is the real paradise?
In the wet tropics, it gets pretty warm and not a little humid during the day. We’re talking 30-32 degrees celsius. Day after day. It can be tiring. Cooling during the night can be limited at near sea level. This makes the Vunakabi area, about 20 kilometres inland and a couple of hundred metres above sea level, a great contender for the title of true paradise.
That distance from the coast and the bit of height mean that while you can revel in the tropical warmth during the day, the humidity is not so aggressive, and at night it cools nicely to a very friendly “light blanket” temperature. No need for noisy, energy-hungry air conditioners. I’m sleeping like a babe. (There is plenty of airconditioning available for those who prefer it, of course.) Further, the views, particularly the afternoon views, over the great valley to the Bainings mountains are spectacular.
Paradise. Let’s call it Paradise 1.
But last night’s visit to Takubar on the beach near Kokopo has left me rent. The night was warm, so it was a case of no bed coverings at all until about three in the morning when a cooling breeze invaded my dreams enough to encourage me to pull a sheet over myself. I slept well nonetheless.
The big reward came with the dawn. That cooling breeze had dropped to nothing, the sun was rising and already delivering heat where it hit. I pulled on my swimming shorts, slipped out the back door, and in 30 steps was sinking into the warm, gentle embrace of the tropical sea.
The sky was blue, the Rabaul volcanoes on the horizon were enhanced by a few fleecy clouds seemingly tethered above them, and a small cargo ship was making into port cutting a white wake across the horizon. Someone nearby was strumming a guitar and quietly singing to himself. Further along the beach, villagers were enjoying their morning wash, happily tossing a wave and friendly “boina malana” (good morning) to me.
It was lowish tide, the sea was almost dead flat. The only word to describe the water was pellucid. Looking down, I could see every feature and creature of the bottom, including my rather odd looking, very white feet, rippling in a constantly breaking and reforming pattern of light and shade as the sun glanced off the tiny wavelets heading into shore. I launched out feeling as though I could swim forever, and although a dozen strokes were enough to disabuse me of that ridiculous notion, I nevertheless felt at once super-energised and languorous.
And I suddenly realized (in a relaxed kind of way) that while I had not enjoyed such an early morning swim in this tropical paradise for decades and thus had substantially wasted my life, there are actually millions of people as near as Australia who have never had this sublime experience at all.
Friends, you haven’t lived. Book now! Your destination is Rabaul (Kokopo in reality today), Papua New Guinea. The time to visit is right away, and if you can’t make that, book now for any time (particularly winter for those poor people who, like me, have been suckered into living somewhere that has such a nasty season).
Accept no substitutes -- particularly no pale imitations with a “North Queensland” brand. Remember the box jelly fish -- the one with a sting so painful that even if it doesn't kill you, you actually wish you were dead.
We don’t have them in Rabaul. As I said, paradise. ###
This material is copyright © Geoffrey Carrascalao Heard 2010.
The opinions and comments in this article are his own.