Thursday, 22 November 2012

Arrived in Papua New Guinea

We're now in Buka in Papua New Guinea. It took us three nights and two days to get here, but all the time in sight of land. The Shortland Islands are only a few miles south of Bouganville (PNG), so in theory you could just day hop, but there's no customs in neither Shortland Islands nor in south Bourganville, so it's stiil a small passage to change country. I also got it mixed up in my last post, we stopped by Sagharaughombe and Liapari Islands before going to Noro to clear out of the country, as of course we wouldn't do illegal stops after clearing out of a country.

The passage was typical of the weather we have had in Solomon Islands, pretty light, but a bit of everything and lots and lots of lightening, thankfully all in the horizon, not near us. The wind was mostly on the forward quarter, which is great when it's very light, as we can actually move at a good speed, and it's not uncomfortable either. It's a fine balance though, and when the wind picks up, it's not so fun beating into it. We had 1/2 - 1 knot of current with us the first 24 hours, but halfway up the coast of Bounganville, it changed to being against us. The last night we were tacking into the wind and being pushed by the current away from Buka, very frustrating, but we managed to get there, even after some hours of heaving to.

Buka passage can easily have 5-6 knots of current, so trying to time our arrival was important, but difficult, because we couldn't find any time table. OpenCPN did have one, and Phil estimated that morning arrival was OK, which was also what we'd prefer, so that we didn't have to stay the night, but could leave again the same afternoon. We ended up having about 1 knot of current against us, which was totally fine, but not what we expected. We just passed the passage again coming back from town (in a local boat) and it sure looked like there was a lot more current then, so it will be interesting when we leave a little later on.

So far people here are just as friendly as in Solomon Islands and people are actually slightly better dressed and many have backpacks etc, but then it's quite a big place also, much bigger than Gizo for example. Bouganville has quite a tumultuous history with civil war and mining problems (the two being related), but there's peace now and in 2020 there's an election to decide if Bouganville should be independent. All the land is owned by private people, nothing by the government, so somebody owns the land where the gold and copper mines are, and there are now ongoing negotiations about the rights to the land. So much potential in this land, but who is going to benefit is the million dollar question.

Like in Vanuatu and Solomons Islands, men must pay the father of the bride a pride price. This is very old customs and today speaking with one of the friendly locals (John) from the boat we caught a ride on, I suddenly realised why that is. I already knew that usually the wife goes to where the husband comes from. The parents are therefore paid a sort of compensation for loosing their daughter. Yeah, I know I'm slow. These days it's mostly paid in cash, but there's also some traditional trading/goods involved. A typical bride price around here is 4-5000 kina (1 kina equals approximately 0.66 NZ$), so it's quite a lot of money a man has got to save up to buy a bride, but he'll often also get help from his parents. According to John it's much more expensive in Port Morseby though, there it's more like 50-60,000 kina, though that does sound super super dear!

We're now going to make our way north on the outside of New Ireland stopping at some of the small islands on our way to Kavieng, the next big port. Unfortunately we have a lot of miles to cover, almost 1000 miles, to get to Vanimo by the north coast of Guinea just before the border to Indonesia. From there we're going to hop north over equator to Palau, where we hope to spend Christmas, so we gotta get a move on and can't spend too much time exploring this big and interesting country. We're still in the transition period between the SE trades and NW monsoon, and hopefully we can make it (a lot of motoring is guaranteed) before we get too much headwind, but we'll have to wait and see.

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