Kicking around in Kavieng

Kavieng doesn’t disappoint for a cruising trifecta of greats: surfing, diving, and resort-style relaxing. Couple that with a town has all the basics to top up provisions, and a resort that offers passive security while welcoming cruisers to enjoy the vibe and refreshments. It’s no wonder people rave about this place!

Yet somehow, we didn’t get quite as warm and fuzzy feeling here that we’ve had so far in PNG. Partly because it just wasn’t as friendly… the betelnut juice stream that gets a little too close to be accidental, the kid on the wharf in town who needed a staredown from Jamie not to spit at our dinghy. Partly because during our stay, it was gray and squally: so the things that should be fun about being here were just a little harder to get out and enjoy, and the boat gets stuffy when we have to keep it closed up for tropical downpours. And partly because we were waiting for wind to continue west, but the wind never came, and the weather put a damper on finding fun as we played the waiting game.

That’s not to say it was all gloomy. Hardly. I love poking around towns. With Emily in company, I tracked down the hidden customs office and second hand shops. The wax and wane of the public market through the week was always a feast for the eyes, and getting stuck in a thunderstorm just meant striking up conversation and making a friend. For snorkeling adventures in bay are a Japanese torpedo bomber and a sweet little reef with incredibly colorful, diverse fish and corals. Iona from Nalukai and I went to a special Thanksgiving service on Sunday, when congregations from around the area came into their “parent” church for annual giving… an event which pitted their choirs against each other (such sweet harmony!) and ended in a fantastic feast (best. fish. curry. evah.).

The resort on Nusa Lik is part aviary, and we never got tired of visiting. There’s the old cockatoo, “Kaki”, who is lame (broken legs, doesn’t fly) but chipper and friendly and will talk to anyone in range. The hornbills, who are gorgeous and cheeky and will steal french fries off your plate if you give them a chance. The gorgeous parrots and birds of prey, and… the pigeon. Among these amazing, exotic birds- which are everyday features of this amazing country- the presence of what looked like nothing more than your average urban American rat bird was the truly exotic creature.

Giving up on waiting for wind, we topped up our diesel and then broke away a couple of days ago to begin working our way around the top of New Hanover under power. We will have to come to terms at some point that we are in the doldrums and between the change of seasons, and so there is probably a lot of motoring in our near future! Catching several Spanish mackerel softens the blow, and we hosted dinner on Totem for our friends from Nalukai and Muscat with a smorgasboard of fish dishes: sushi and poisson cru, and Jamie’s special, pan friend with a butter/caper sauce. Another sweet reef, one we dubbed “the theme park” for the incredible variety offered in sample sizes. A lionfish, a sea snake, a pair of immense batfish, a seahorse, a lobster. It also had more anemones and clownfish species than I’ve ever seen in one place, and several massive schools of fish you could literally lose yourself in- all in 6 to 12 feet of incredibly warm water.

We’re at Ungalik now, a little island near the top of New Hanover. On our own again, we were ushered in by a stream of dugouts as children came back from the “mainland” from school. We joke about how There is often a welcoming committee, and this time it’s Lawrence. Giving him a fish we caught on our way in, he led us into a good anchoring spot. Later we were given a tour around the island, with an entourage of children that grew to something over 70 (who could count?). In the evening, a suprise boatside delivery of a mumu dinner of yams, cassava and smoked fish (looking a lot like the fish we’d brought in earlier!).

We really need to get west. I’d like to have time to spend at Ninigo, and we know we’re on the wrong side of the season now. But it’s OK: we’ll get there. And while Ungalik was intended as a brief stopover, I can see our visit stretching through the soccer games tomorrow, and can imagine the hymns at church on Sunday…