So I took a trip to Alotau recently.
It’s a small city in Milne Bay province of Papua New Guinea.
Alotau is a sleepy coastal town…
…despite being the capital of the province.
And it’s quite picturesque in places and has some interesting history.
There’s a small harbour with a naval presence.
A community centre.
An informal market building.
A wind-swept park.
A bus station.
A public shower facility…
And that’s about it.
I walked from one end of the town to the other in about 15 minutes.
Yet, somehow Alotau has managed to earn a reputation as a tourist destination.
Personally, I think it needs a little work.
Cleaning up the harbour might be a good start. Believe it or not, this was AFTER they’d done a big clean up in preparation for the arrival of tourists.
And if they could stop people spreading tuberculosis by spitting betelnut everywhere, that would really help too.
Perhaps that’s what this public notice on the tree was about.
Most people seem to walk everywhere. Except this enterprising chap who was riding a bicycle.
Perhaps because his car was missing a front wheel.
Like elsewhere in PNG, people queue for hours everyday banking services that the rest of us do on our phones while waiting for our latte with extra foam.
They pass the day sitting on their boats.
Or walk to the service station in their gum boots.
They live in simple houses of iron sheets and wood.
Cross bridges built by the Allies in World War II.
And worship their gods through catchy slogans on the sides of their boats.
Alotau has a very colourful fire station.
Complete with a wrecked car in the yard. Perhaps they set it alight every now and then and use it for firefighting practice.
But these dazzling attractions were not the main reason why I visited Alotau.
The reason why I came to Alotau was that my Uncle and Aunt were visiting on this cruise ship, “Pacific Jewel”.
I met my Uncle and Aunt in the garden of the hotel. We had a few drinks there.
We took a walk around the town. My uncle mentioned that the State of Origin Rugby League match was going to be shown on the big screen of the ship that night.
I bid them farewell and watched the ship pull away as dusk approached. I had hoped to visit them on Doine Island the next day, but the logistics prevented me. The tourist industry is so immature in PNG that relatively simple voyages prove to be impossibly difficult. So I stayed an extra day in Alotau and used it to look at the historical sites around the town. More on that in my next post.
So I stayed at the hotel and watched the state of Origin. The hotel set up a special seating area near the television for people to watch the game.
And the hotel provided catering options for guests too. Personally, I just stayed in my hotel room and watched the game. New South Wales (my team) won the game. I don’t care to talk about the result in the game in the series.
As is expected here, the State of Origin resulted in violence. It makes perfect sense that a match between New South Wales and Queensland – two states in Australia – should cause people so much anger that they start killing each other in PNG. I think I could spend a lifetime in this country and still never really understand it.
Until next postcard…