The main reason why I had booked a week stopover in Port Moresby was to attend the annual Hiri Moale cultural festival. As soon as I landed I met with my couchsurfing hosts who told me that the festival was cancelled and that Moresby was a dangerous city where you cannot leave the house without security, so I was about to ask my travel agent to change the flight to go rightaway, but instead I gave it a chance and am so glad I did so.
It was not because of the city itself, which stank of garbage burned on every corner on streets that were colored red by all the beetlenut spitting, but I managed yo have a good time because there was a lot going on for the coutry’s 40th Independence anniversary and because I was staying with great couchsurfing hosts and in the nearby island village of Daugo.
The first day I went to the Nature park close to the city center where I got to see thousands of flying foxes, tree cangaroos, cassowaries, birds crocodiles and some aviaries with some quite fascinating birds. It was a place to find piece to read and relax.
The rest of the days were just walking around to see markets and watch the traditional dances from the different regions (probably a hundred!) that were on display at Ela Beach and at the University. People spend fortunes traveling to the regions of PNG and here I felt like I got the same experience as if I would do too as so many tribes were represented with their own unique dances. There was a so called snake dance that happened unannounced between the performances where a bunch of black painted children were running in a line completely naked making hissing sounds. Other dances were with topless women or men wearing nothing but a woven penis cup. Some of the dances were really powerful Warrior dances with spears, bows and arrows where the dancers would leap towards the audience in a quite convincing way, scaring everyone to jump at least a meter back. I am really glad for visiting the people and at the time that I went as I think it would be the difference between having a horrible week instead of the great seven days I had in Port Moresby.
Having stayed with my Couchsurfing host in Port Moresby for five days instead of the initial two that I had asked for I was feeling that it was time for me to leave. Hotels are very expensive here and camping in the city is far too dangerous. I had to improvise and went down to the harbour to ask a fisherman on my age if I could stay with his family for the rest of my days in PNG. He said that was fine as long as I could contribute in some way which I of course was fine with.
His wife had prepared a fish and coconut sauce dish for us when we arrived which was just amazingly good, just like all the food I was served there. One of the days they even served me a lobster for breakfast.
During the days I spent some time relaxing on the beach, I was shown how to skin a turtle, I helped out picking seagul eggs on the neighbor island and I was introduced to pretty much everyone in the small village. When walking around everyone knew my pidgin name (“Danis”) and greeted me as I walked by. In the nights I helped out with spearfishing by shedding light on the biggest fish I could see so that they could dive down and spear them and then to signal to the boat to come over when fish was caught. Whenever I turned off the light the water around us was lit up by thousands of biolumicent plankton, like stars lighting up the sky. The whole six hours fishing in the night was a magical moment for me.
During my whole stay in the village I was only offered the best they could give me. They were about 10 people sharing just a tiny floor surface so I had to sleep next to the whole spectrum of infants to grandparents, which was totally fine except that they fed their children candy and soda drinks at all times of the day so that the children would run around and be really loud super late as well as early mornings. The reason for it was that they did not have running water and sweet food and drinks was about the only things sold on the island.
The evenings before fishing were spent smoking cigarettes and chewing beetlenut around a fire while telling each other about how life was in our own countries. Being grown up on an island and used to fishing and taking a boat to school myself, we found out that except for my host getting a family much earlier and making a bit less, our lives were alot alike on the opposite sides of the planet.
At the end of my stay I paid Laka the money I had left (a bit over a hundred dollars) for giving me a life changing experience and to try to help him out a bit. If you find yourself in Port Moresby I would reccommend getting in touch with Laka (details below) for a unique local experience and to be able to help contribute to the local community.
My host Laka and his family. Email og text him on 79725942 if you would like to stay with him too.
Lobster for breakfast one of the mornings
When I first arrived at Port Moresby and went out for a couple of beers with some volunteers I would be couchsurfing with, I was told that Moresby was one of the most dangerous cities in the World. They fed me stories of targeted break ins, blind voilence by gangs, car jackings, muggings and racial killings that had happened in recent times and said that they did not at all go unaccompanied outside. Their volunteer organisation provided them with drivers and security guards and had said that if they were seen wandering around without them they could loose their job and get sent home.
The first morning I joined them on their way to work and then just walked a bit around downtown, just to see that a lot of the people greeted me and wanted to make sure I was fine. I did not ask the police for help as I was told that they then would charged me for their service, but when asking people on the streets they were super friendly and even walked with me across town to make sure that I was all right as the white people here do not walk in the streets at all. As I was carrying only things of material value and having a good travel insurance that covered theft I traveled around with the local buses and walking by myself on the streets for a full five days without experiencing anything but friendly greetings, so my guess is that Port Moresby is a little less dangerous than it is said to be. Go there yourself and you will be met by only grins and not guns.
The loud and dirty Koki Market