Papua New Guinea Off The Beaten Path Tips by Mauswara
Papua New Guinea Off The Beaten Path: 11 reviews and 12 photos
The PERFECT BEACH GETAWAY.
The guest house sleeps something like 18 people, but I have been there a good half-dozen times and never encountered another party staying there. It's rustic -- bush materials houses and furniture, kerosene lamps and stove, no shower -- but it definitely has its charms. The beds have foam mattresses on them and fresh sheets and towels are made available every day. Every bed has a mosquito net. It's in its own little bay that features a perfect white sand beach and turquiose water at one end -- complete with overhanging tree for shaded swimming -- and a pristine reef on the other. You wade out literally 6 feet from the shore, look down and you're in one of those under-water marine biology documentaries. You can rent a snorkel, mask and flippers there. There's always someone around with coconut milk to sell. Fresh water is piped in from a spring.
TO GET THERE: Find the post office in Wewak. Right across the street is a beach in a little bay area where you'll always see boats. Go a day or two before you plan to go to Mushu and ask someone if George from Mushu (MOO shoo) is around. Tell them you want to go to the guest house at Sup (soup). They may point you to someone named Matthew. Matthew is fine too -- he's George's brother. Make arrangements with either of them for a pickup day/time.
FOOD: George and family can make you supper, but it's a good idea to get some of your own groceries before you leave Wewak. Be prepared for a one-burner kerosene stove and a fire. No refrigeration.
TRANSPORT: 30-45 minutes in an open boat (small boat with outboard). The crossing can be quite rough and there are no life jackets.
BATHROOM: The only major draw back, as of July 1998. It's an outhouse which at that point was infested with ants. Not a biting kind of ant, but taking a long crap on a dark night is just not too gratifying when they're crawling all over you anyway.
ANGORAM, on the SEPIK RIVER: Angoram is not so much a place to see, but a place to experience. It's a tiny dust-bowl of a town, but it's an important station town on the lower Sepik – a hub for getting up to the villages or getting from the village to Wewak town. It's about 4 hours by public transit from Wewak (under US$10), and the scenery and experience of the travel alone makes it a worthwhile trip. If you take public transport (recommended) you'll be traveling in the covered back of a truck called a PMV, along a fairly rough dirt track cut out of the forest. The PMV takes you sharply up into the cloud-forest mountains behind Wewak (lush, dense forest with some incredible views down over Wewak and the coast); over grassland plains; and then down through more forest and rubber plantations into the Sepik basin. You pass numerous villages along the way. The PMV stops at a couple points along the way so you can get out, pee, buy some fruit and stretch your legs. As you enter Angoram, the PMV winds its way down through town toward the river. They say the Sepik puts a spell on anyone who has drunk its water, and it seems to be true. As soon as the the view opens up to the mile-wide brown water of the Sepik, the mood in the PMV changes – people around you start chatting more excitedly, laughing more easily, shouting and waving to catch the attention of people they know, and generally acting giddy. When you get off the PMV, the Sepik is right in front of you. The riverbank buzzes with activity, with the excitement of young people from the village finally hitting the big town, and with the anticipation of people returning to the village after a long journey. Dugout canoes of all sizes line the riverbank, and come and go in all directions filled with people and cargo. There are often people spear-fishing along the shore, and you'll see all kinds of people carrying all kinds of things up and down the river – you can easily pass an afternoon just sitting by the riverside watching people (and often have to while you wait for the canoe that was supposed to meet your PMV to take you up the Sepik).
There's a market just down the river bank that's pretty cool (unless the water level is really high). The locals call it 'Ai gris (eye-grease) maket' because it's filled with things that arouse your senses by how good they look (it doesn't all look so good to me, but I had some smoked crocodile meat there once that was unbelievable). It's also called eye grease because it's where the young people gather to check each other out – to 'ai gris' each other.
Ideally, you should plan it so that you experience Angoram on your way up the river, but if you're in Wewak but can't get up the river, it's worth it to jump in a PMV and make the trip just to go and hang out on the bank of the Sepik for a while.
GETTING THERE: It's a safe, cheap and relatively short trip on public transport. It's a 3-6 hour trip (depending on the roads and how well the PMV is running), but always plan for longer. Go to the Wewak market, look for the PMVs, ask any of the drivers (or anyone else standing around) which ones go to Angoram, climb on board the best-looking one (if you have any choice). Resist taking the front passenger seat, unless you don't mind looking like a total wuss. Get in the back with everyone else, and try and get into the scene. People will respect you if you cram yourself into the back like everyone else, and that will pay off in terms of your security while in Angoram. Think hot and dirty when selecting a wardrobe for the trip. TIP: get to the PMV and establish your spot early (i.e., 6:30-7:30 a.m.). The PMVs fill up quickly. However, be prepared to wait there or drive around and around Wewak town for several hours before departing. NOTE: there are no PMVs for the return trip until the next morning, so prepare to stay there over night. ACCOMODATION: limited. Try to arrange something while in Wewak -- whoever you stay with in Wewak should have some ideas. There's at least one hotel in Angoram, but I've never had to stay in it so I have no idea what it's like (Angoram Sepik Hotel, P.O. Box 35 Angoram Papua New Guinea Tel: +675 8583011 12 Rooms Price: $US 13 to $US 23). SAFETY: Angoram's a small town but it's got a rough frontier edge to it -- be careful, treat people respectfully, don't flaunt your wealth, and don't wander around at night.
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