Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea offers a level of natural beauty and wilderness unsurpassed anywhere else on the planet. Most of its tribal societies remain intact, and has the lowest percentage of people living in an urban area in the world. Although (or perhaps because) the government occasionally seems non-existent, society is usually peaceful and there is little in the way of political violence. The country occupies the eastern half of the island of 'New Guinea,' with the Indonesian state of West Irian Jaya occupying the west. It is only 160km north of Australia, which is from where most travellers would start their trip to Papua New Guinea.
Papua New Guinea has more languages per inhabitant than anywhere else in the world, with over 700 between its 6 million inhabitants. Tok Pisin, which is an obscure form of Creole English, is perhaps the most widespread and useful to know. The other official languages are Hiri Motu and English, although English is generally confined to government officials, tour guides, doctors and businessmen. Much of the tribal way of life in Papua New Guinean society still exists, and whole communities still function in relative isolation to the rest of humanity. A language for one tribe may be totally different for one on the other side of the mountain, so if you think you are going to want to communicate in any kind of depth with locals, you will need to organise an interpreter before you leave.
The unit of currency in Papua New Guinea is the Kina, which is divided into 100 toea. As of 31st October 06, 1 USD buys 3.07 PGK, 1 GBP buys 5.83, and 1 Euro buys 3.91. Currency is available in banks or exchange bureaus, but these are closed after three in the afternoon and at weekends.
Papua New Guinea has a tropical equatorial climate, with heavy rainfall and occasional monsoons between December and March. In the low altitudes, temperatures are usually above 30 degrees Celsius and humidity extremely high. In the mountains it is much cooler.
Trekking is one of the most popular activities among travellers in Papua New Guinea. It allows you to fully experience the rich diversity of the ecosystem in all its natural glory. Perhaps the most famous trail is the 'Kokoda trek', which has been declared a national park. The whole trail usually takes around 10 days to complete, but the route is intersected with several small towns containing airstrips, so you can easily split the expedition up, and walk for only a day or two. It is recommended to trek with an experienced guide, or as part of a tour company. The fact that Papua New Guinea has been largely unaffected by the 20th century may be the country's biggest attraction, but it also creates a large element of risk. For this reason, and to protect the delicate ecosystem of the area the Kokoda Track Authority was set up. You will need to contact them before beginning any trek.
Kokoda Track AuthorityP O Box, Boroko, NCD 111, Papua New Guinea
- Phone/Fax: +675 325 1887
The tribes of Papua New Guinea produce a vast array of traditional arts and crafts, which can usually be bought cheaply directly from the artisans themselves. Bilum basketry is particularly popular, weaved in intricate patterns from grasses and dried flowers. Tribal masks, traditionally used for ceremonial purposes come in a range of startling designs and make for interesting cabinet ornaments. They are usually made from cane, and decorated with animal hair and teeth and natural dyes. They usually resemble forest animals or tribal deities. Wooden bowls, walking sticks and plates are also popular, made from beautiful ebony or mahogany and lacquered with a glossy finish. If you wish to take home items produced before the 1960s, you will need an export license, and have the item approved for export by the national museum.
There are plenty of bars in Port Morsbey and around the larger beaches. Discos and clubs are more or less unheard of, with a couple of exceptions on beaches popular with surfers.
Papua New Guinea is not the most motorist friendly country in the world. There is only one highway in the country, in the north, and cities have extremely limited connectivity by road. Driving on the dirt tracks in the countryside can be dangerous as criminals occasionally set up roadblocks to ambush travellers.
Food and Drink
The traditional style of cooking in Papua New Guinea is called mumu. This involves roasting meat and vegetables wrapped in leaves in an underground oven. Traditionally, the staple ingredients of a New Guinean�s diet include root vegetables such as yams and taro, sweet potatoes, and the favoured meats are chicken and suckling pig. In contrast to neighbouring Indonesia, there is very little in the way of spices and sauce in the dishes. There is a great deal of fresh fruit available on the island, which is usually eaten for breakfast or for desert. You will come across paw paws, mangoes and guavas among many others. In the larger towns, restaurants serving Chinese, Indonesian and western foods are beginning to open.
Beer is very popular on the island, particularly the Filipino beer San Miguel, and various Australian beers. Drinking tap water is not recommended, even in cities. Bottled water is cheap and widely available.
Tourist InfoPO Box 1291, Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea
- Tel: (675) 320 0211.
- Website: www.pngtourism.org.pg