Papua New Guinea

papua-new-guinea-hulis-hagen-dance

Asaro tribe warriors in mud and pig’s faces at Mt. Hagen Cultural Show, aka Sing-Sing, a gathering of clans in Papua New Guinea.

Why visit Papua New Guinea?

This is a brilliantly colourful, diverse and fascinating country with over 700 languages (including the hilarious lingua franca, Pidgin), totally wacky traditional outfits (especially wigmen in the Highlands), bizarre customs, amazing bird life, great diving and a pretty rainforest/ mountain/ coastal environment.

Downsides

– Rascals, the PNG term for gang members, are unsophisticated but violent and pervasive.
– Papua New Guinea is expensive, usually wet and humid, and has a malaria problem.
-You have to fly just about everywhere.
– It is not easy for individual travellers and especially difficult for single women. Tours are advised for this difficult but absorbing country. This is a fantastically interesting country but NOT a safe destination for individual backpackers, however tough you think you are; real bows, arrows, axes and spears in use daily, against other people!

Papua New Guinea main attractions

papua-new-guinea-hulis-hagen-dance

***Tari (Highlands) to see primitive, bizarre Huli wigmen, their peculiar customs and living conditions and beautiful countryside.

***Goroka or Mt Hagen(Highlands) for walking, people watching and the fantastic, out-of-this-world annual shows (Goroka – mid Sept, Hagen – late Aug).

***Sepik Rivercruising on this long Amazonish river dotted with interesting stilt villages, crocodile cults and a fair bit of wildlife, see below.

*Madang, a pretty coastal town with superb diving, snorkelling and windsurfing.

**Trobriand Islands, cruising the yam cults, growing money on trees, free love and many more strange but true customs. The annual yam festival in June (ish).

Port Moresby? No thank you! Razor barb and rascals! Fly in, fly out, lookim you behin! (as they would say).

Papua New Guinea money grows on trees

papua-new-guinea-hulis-hagen-dance

Banana leaf cash, Papua New Guinea money.

Currency takes many forms in Papua New Guinea. Paper money is the Kina, named after the first form of money in PNG – pearl shells cut into crescents and worn around the neck. While travellers nowadays can pay their way with paper or plastic, local people still prefer to make substantial payments, such as a dowry or for building a house, in solid traditional style. Depending on the area they might use pigs, shell bracelets or necklaces, carved wooden bowls, stone axes, Bird of Paradise plumes, grass skirts or a root vegetable — the Yam.

Dog’s canine teeth used to be such a popular medium of exchange that pre-war German colonists had porcelain imitations made and shipped out. They still retain the same value as the real thing.

Out and around the Trobriand Islands women make their own money. Fresh banana leaves are scraped against a board that is engraved with the family seal. Strips of the impressed leaf are bundled into hundreds and are worth about one Kina/one dollar. Long hours needed, but it’s a sure way to make a buck.

And more PNG Money in other forms!

papua-new-guinea-hulis-hagen-dance

A selection of bizarre Papua New Guinea money, including feathers and shells and dogs teeth

Papua New Guinea  Activities

papua-new-guinea-hulis-hagen-dance

A Haus Tambaran and luxury tourist cruise boat on the Sepik River, Papua New Guinea

Hiking: there’s a range of walks, from strolls around the Highlands to 7 tough days on the Kokoda trail.

Diving, snorkelling & windsurfing: Clear water, good coral and lots of WW II wrecks. Madang +.

Bird watching: 38 species of birds of paradise, and loads of parrots, kingfishers, pigeons, cassowarys, cockatoos and hornbills amongst others.

Sepik River cruising, in small motorised canoes from Ambunti, Pagwi and Angoram, or luxury cruises like the excellent Melanesian Discoverer if you can afford them.
Paddle-your-own-canoe is tough but possible in PNG.

Papua New Guinea Festivals

papua-new-guinea-hulis-hagen-dance

Late August, 3 days Mt Hagen Sing-Sing
Mid September, 3 days Goroka Sing-Sing.
A Sing-Sing is a gathering of PNG’s clans, touristy but with sensational outfits, many of them for real. Well worth it.

Best season for Papua New Guinea travel

For the main sights of the Highlands or Sepik River
Best: May-October, but still wet!
Worst: December-April (wetter! )

Length of stay:
Min. worthwhile stay, not incl. flights: 9 days, e. g. Port Moresby- Tari, Mt Hagen and/or Goroka
Recommended : 3 weeks+ for Highlands and Sepik River