Friday, 30 November 2012

Wild west gold mine visit

Lihir Island was a great stop. We stayed at Latakot Bay where there's a resort of the same name. It's basically a hotel that serves the big gold mine half an hour away. It's also an excellent and very secure anchorage, the best on the island. The expat Aussie owner, Mark, even has his own yacht parked up in the bay. As much as we like visiting remote islands and villages, sometimes it's nice to be able to just hang out on Sophia without a constant steam of visitors/audience. Not to forget the extravagance of rowing ashore and ordering a pizza as opposed to heating up Sophia even more with our cooking...

Every day a car from the resort drives to town and we caught a ride with it (of course at a price). The great thing about the drive is that it goes right through the open pit gold mine). Neither of us have ever seen a gold mine, or any mine for that matter, so it was quite interesting. It's a HUGE operation and it sure leaves a big open scar in the landscape. Apparently the whole island is very gold rich (mostly just dust though) and there are a lot of negotiations etc going on with various land owners and also some environmental considerations. The ground has a lot of thermal acticity too, and we did see steam venting up from many places around the mine, so they do used it to create geothermal energy to power the processing plant, but there was also a floating gen-set ship in the bay. Mark, the resort owner, did say it was pretty sad to see how so much wealth went out of the island (and the country). PNG is very resource rich, but it's going to take a lot of careful management to use it to the country's best interests.

The main town is a bit further past the mine and as this serves the many thousands of workers at the mine, including a good bunch of foreigners (aparently both Aussie and Asian workers), the supermarkets had an excellent selection and prices were even OK-ish too. There were a lot of local people hanging about the place, I'm sure many hoping to find a job, but the place did seem to have the feel that it has just pooped up very quickly, probably not unlike the wild west's mining towns back in the day.

We have now sailed to the neighbouring Tabar Islands and are anchored in Cigaregare Harbour, a very protected bay off the passage between the two biggest islands. There's no village here, just a few people that are looking after a Chinese owned plantation. But, unfortunately there are crocs around here, so no swimming, which is a real shame, as it's super hot! We are now also only 2 degrees south of equator, so it shouldn't be a surprise. It's very pretty though with lush green jungle around us and lots of bird singing.

Last night a banana boat came into the bay to get some fuel off the people that live here and they stopped by to say hi. They are from a village just around the corner on the west coast, Teripax, and invited us to come stay here. We had already considered that as Mary, the Swedish boat we briefly met in Stewart Islands back in February was here some months ago and wrote up a report to Noonsite on Tabar Islands and that particular village and proclaimed it one of their favourite places, so we'll probably go there this afternoon after we have done some laundry in the river while minding the crocs.

We were on the internet at Lakakot Bay, so there are new imagines from both Solomon and PNG on facebook now.

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