We landed mid afternoon in Port Moresby the capital of Papua New Guinea. Free SIM cards and data were offered at the airport which we took up.
We only had a couple of nights here so to make the most of it we hired a car so we could get out and explore the island. Plus with little or no public transport and everything being relatively spread out it was really the only option- unless we hired taxis everywhere.
Our RAV4 hired (4 wheel drive would be essential with a poor road network) we headed to our hotel which wasn’t to far away. We soon realised that Port Moresby’s roads were a confusing nightmare and looked nothing like what apple or google maps said. Finally arriving at our hotel we unpacked headed out to explore the town.
We drove down to the coastal port area to find the main town centre. From what we could find there wasn’t one. No western shops and limited western brands and far and few between restaurants for tourists: Port Moresby isn’t really set up for tourism. Pulling up along the coast we flew the drone across the harbour and surrounding areas. Mike sat back in the car as the locals seemed to give us strange looks. The foreign office advice for the country is one of caution. Supposedly one of the most dangerous cities in the world, we kept the door locked in the car at all times.
Drone flying done, we carried on our drive. Google said we were in the middle of the ocean but where clearly in a road so we navigated by feeling. We stopped at the fish market where we took photos of houses on stilts over the sea and drive past a local market and a volleyball match. With night fast approaching we headed back to the hotel. No western bars or evening activities that we knew of so an early night was the only option. We order room service and started watching the BBC drama ‘The Night Manager’.
We were up early the following day to make the most of our only full day on the island. Our first stop was the national museum. Once we had found it (the lack of signage for the entrance didn’t help) we discovered we were the only visitors. Signing in the guest book we were the first for several days. Surprisingly the museum was a delight and definitely worth it: the building had been restored with help from the Australian government. It housed a collection of PNG artefacts from tribes across all the islands. Various masks, tools, weapons and canoes were on display quite different to what we had seen before. Australian Aid had also paid for useful information beside each artefact and they had been displayed like a modern art gallery. In the centre of the building was what we thought was a courtyard but turned out to be an aviary. The birds flew free inside and one smart cockatoo named Cookie had learnt how to open the door! In fact, Cookie took quite a liking to Mike and climbed up his arm and sat on his shoulder digging her razor sharp talons in all the way. A man came out and fed them (just because we were there I think) and they all made a lot of squawking, including the huge horn bill who hopped around the branches. Cookie blocked our exit and the man had to come chase her away from the door otherwise she would have gotten into the museum.
In the grounds of the museum where various WW2 planes rusting away and the hill of independence. We flew the drone here trying to get pictures of the PNG flag (but there was no wind) and the next door parliament building. While Mike was flying, I was bitten several times by mosquitoes. It was in fact becoming quite clear that bugs never go for Mike, while I was a human BBQ for the little pests.
Trying our luck we drove next door to the gates of the impressive parliament building, explained that we were tourists and were allowed straight in. We were even able to drive all the way to the front door. After taking pictures outside a security guard beckoned us inside, where we were given a free tour of the reception hall and the MPs chamber with a very friendly lady who explained all about the government in PNG. She also took great pride in showing us their insect collection which contained many insects bigger than our two cats at home!
With the parliament ticked of the list we drove along the main road into the centre of the island towards the national park. Along the way we stopped at Bomana War Cemetery. With no signage it proved challenging to find but was worth it when we did. The only visitors (again) we strolled the grounds and paid respect. It was in fact the last stop on the Kokoda trail. The trail the Japanese took across the island to try and capture it.
Afterwards we drove for several hours (along much of the Kokoda trail) stopping along the way taking pictures of scenic spots, flying the drone over waterfalls and taking in the tropical rainforest. We decided to head for a creek that was on the map and drove and drove towards it. The road narrowed and we crossed several rickety wooden bridges until the road became loose stones, then dirt and finally red clay. The path became more and more difficult to drive even in a 4×4 so we flew the drone the final part to find the creek. The track as we had predicted worsened but we got some good shots with the drone.
We turned around and headed back along our route. We stopped at some scenic rapids (which some locals charged us for) and planned to stop at a school we had passed earlier on hill that looked very scenic. Upon reaching the school, the school day had just finished and hundred or so children all walked along the road. The strange thing being they were all carrying machetes! Our faces must of looked a picture as we drove through the machete wielding children and safe to say we didn’t stop for our picture!
Again in our way back we spotted a viewing platform and stopped to take pictures of the valley and waterfall. A local ‘caretaker’ jumped out demanding more money. There seemed to be a theme of locals hijacking scenic spots and demanding money from the few tourists who ventured past.
We arrived after a few hours back in town and headed down to what we thought might be the beach. The road we had planned to take turned out to not be a road so we had to go via the centre of town. However it was a muddy shore line with yet more houses on stilts. After walking around the small town we hopped back in the car and found a quite spot to launch the drone from so not to attract too many locals. Mike flew back over the houses and took some nice shots of the stilt houses over the ocean. Night fast approaching again we headed back to the hotel, had dinner and watched yet more Night Manager.
In the morning we packed, dropped the car off at the airport (and got stung with some hidden charges) and boarded our plane to our next stop- The Solomon Islands.