By Geoffrey Heard
Flying from Port Moresby to Rabaul in East New Britain on Monday afternoon, I was surprised mid-flight by the announcement that the weather in Kavieng, New Ireland (the adjoining island to New Britain where Rabaul is located) was fine and hot and we would be arriving there at 4.50pm. Huh? It was no surprise that the weather was fine and hot in Kavieng just a couple of degrees south of the equator, but we were landing there?
Turned out this flight bypassed Rabaul to land in Kavieng then flew the half hour back to Rabaul to overnight there. I had been itching to visit New Ireland on my last two trips to Rabaul but irritatingly, something always came up and I hadn't been able to fit it in.
Now here was New Ireland dumped in my lap! "You might be taking off again for Rabaul," I muttered to myself addressing the world, "but I'm not! I'll be getting off in Kavieng!"
We landed and I leaped off the plane with a happy cry to the astonishment and consternation of the plane and ground crews and the kindly concern of some passengers, including the United Church Bishop of Kavieng. They clearly had a notion that I was definitely eccentric not to say possibly somewhat erratic and ought to be handled with care.
You'll sacrifice the Kavieng-Rabaul leg of your ticket! I don’t care! Nobody will know where you are! Fine! Will anyone pick you up? Not that I know of. Do I have anywhere to stay? No. What are you doing here? Standing on the soil of wonderful New Ireland for the first time in 40 years, breathing the warm tropical air, looking at the coconut palms, and falling in love again.
I told the Bish not to worry, his kindly concern was not justified. I would be fine; one of the first lessons I learned on arrival in PNG nearly 50 years ago was that if you hang around a bit almost anywhere something will turn up.
In fact, Kavieng town was only 15 minutes' walk or so away, and I already knew it had a handy collection of hotels, resorts and guest houses. Since the vast, vast majority of the people around the world have the horrible misfortune to be ignorant of New Ireland's charms, I had no doubt there would be a room available.
I didn't have to resort to resorts, however. Ringing my family at Vunakabi, Rabaul, to tell them I wasn't on the plane led to them ringing one of their daughters who happened to be resident with her husband in Kavieng at the time (in my delight at being in New Ireland again she had slipped my mind) and 10 minutes later she drove up and I was safe and sound in the bosom of the family!
I had no need to use them, but I did tour around and see that indeed there was plenty of accommodation in a range of styles and prices for the traveler to lay his (or her) weary head in New Ireland and places to eat.
I stayed two nights in Kavieng, then took the bus down the Boluminski Highway (named for the German Governor who oversaw construction of it more then a century ago -- also known as the East Coast Road) to Madina Village.
I stayed a day and a night, enjoying the serenity and beauty of the place and most importantly, meeting tearfully with the sadly depleted ranks of old friends and becoming reacquainted with people I knew as young children who are now in late middle age.
Then I flagged down the bus for the run to Namatanai, New Ireland's second town, and the "banana boat" trip to Rabaul. ###
This material is copyright © Geoffrey Carrascalao Heard 2011. The opinions, comments, and photographs in this article are his own.