En Route to Hoskins, Papua New Guinea; July 24-28, 2014

It's taking a full four calendar days, although admittedly the dateline's involved, from leaving our house to finally boarding the MV FeBrina liveaboard dive boat at Walindi Resort, Kimbe Bay, New Britain Island, Papua New Guinea (PNG). We first flew to Sydney, Australia, then on to Brisbane. We positioned ourselves in Brisbane specifically so we could fly to Hoskins, the nearest town to Walindi Resort, with a layover but not an overnight in PNG's capital, Port Moresby. Sadly, Port Moresby is up there among the world's most crime-ridden cities.

We had an enjoyable one-day layover in Brisbane. Although we stayed in an undistinguished neighborhood near the airport, Emily went on a long run along the Brisbane River, and we were lucky to be very close to the hopping weekend Eat Street Markets (photos 1 and 2).  At the end of the trip, some of us will spend more time in Australia: Although Tim decided he'd like to head back home right away, Alex, Jennifer, and Emily will take a relaxed five-day road trip out of Sydney once we return from PNG.

Papua New Guinea is an independent country, occupying the eastern half of New Guinea, the world's second-largest island. The western half of the island contains the Papua and West Papua provinces of Indonesia. We'll be in PNG a little over two weeks, but a fair amount of that time is devoted to getting from place to place, with small buffers in case things don't proceed like clockwork, as they often don't in countries like this one. We spent our first buffer night at the Walindi Resort, to ensure we wouldn't miss the embarkation of the liveaboard even if we had flight troubles on finicky Air Niugini, which thankfully we didn't. Walindi is an extremely well-maintained, well-run operation despite its remote location (photo 3 shows our rooms), catering almost exclusively to divers and birdwatchers. Awaiting our diving, we did a bit of birdwatching (photo 4), visited some nearby villages (photos 5 and 6, courtesy of Tim), and of course Emily couldn't resist a last run before we head off on the boat (photos 7 and 8).

Our three main activities in PNG are, in order:
Scuba diving: We've been diving all over the world, but we come back again and again to the coral triangle, for its thriving healthy reefs and profuse sea-life, big and small. In fact, one of our best overall previous diving locales has been Raja Ampat, in West Papua. PNG is legendary among divers, but it's difficult to reach, and there are only a few dive resorts and liveaboards. Finally we're here! Liveaboards are the unanimous choice among hard-core divers, allowing one to dive a wider variety of locations during a trip, and spend more time diving. This will be our fourth one as a family, although Alex & Jennifer went on numerous liveaboard vacations before the kids were on the scene. Together with eight other passengers, we're spending a week on the FeBrina.
Trekking: Conforming to the scuba-dive-plus-peak-bag pattern we've established on many recent trips (Borneo, Hawaii/Palau, Lombok/Komodo, Baja), after the diving is done we'll attempt to summit Mt. Wilhelm, PNG's highest peak at a respectable 14,800'. While the trek itself is only two days long, getting there takes a while: We'll fly from Hoskins to Goroka via Port Moresby, spend a night in Goroka, then it's a long and apparently miserably bumpy ride to the village of Kegesugl at the Mt. Wilhelm trailhead. We'll spend a night in Kegesugl both before and after the climb.
Culture: Goroka and Mt. Wilhelm are in the "highlands" area of PNG, where most of the tribes live. Each region of the highlands has an annual "sing-sing" festival, where tribes from all over the region come together in an impressive display of costumes, dancing, and of course singing. These are not events put on for tourists! The most well-known sing-sings are the Goroka Show and Mount Hagen Show, but the timing of those didn't work with our trip. Some sleuth work uncovered the more remote and perhaps a bit smaller Enga Show in Wabag, running August 8-10. There's nowhere to stay close to Wabag, so we'll be basing ourselves at the Magic Mountain Nature Lodge near Mount Hagen; the lodge looks like it will be a little adventure of its own. We'll visit the festival for just one day, driving two hours each way, but if everything goes as planned it should be quite an experience. From the Magic Mountain Lodge we've again crafted our itinerary to avoid an overnight in Port Moresby, flying in one day from Mount Hagen to Port Moresby and on to Sydney.
Wifi willing, the next travelog will come along after our week on the liveaboard, as we head to the highlands.

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