The “Bula” experience in the island of Fiji

The island nation of Fiji is situated in shimmering South Pacific, between Hawaii and Australia. This island country in the South Pacific, is an archipelago of more than 300 islands and two thirds of the island is uninhabited, makes it one of the unspoilt places on the planet. Its famed for rugged landscapes, palm-lined beaches and coral reefs with clear lagoons. Its major islands, Viti Levu and Vanua Levu, contain most of the population. Viti Levu is home to the capital, Suva, a port city with British colonial architecture.

In looking at a photo, it is easy to see that holidays in Fiji will be spent in paradise. An archipelago of more than 300 tropical islands of all shapes and sizes, Fiji is all white sandy beaches, palm trees and turquoise lagoons. Fiji’s stunning natural beauty, luxurious spas and all-inclusive resorts make it an ideal wedding or honeymoon destination. Taking a trip to Fiji is equally loved by families, divers and relaxation-seekers.

Why Go?

Fiji, with diverse natural attractions, rich local culture and secluded and extraordinarily scenic archipelago truly offers something for every kind of traveller. This has enticed me to visit this island destination and adventure through some of the untouched islands. My impression of this island was not looking for a family-friendly getaway nor a romantic escape but rather an intrepid adventure. I was sure that Fiji wasn’t going to disappoint. Scuba diving in coral reefs, discovering lush inland landscapes fill with wildlife or simply relaxing on pristine beaches are the country’s natural attractions which are sure to amaze me but its the warm, welcoming locals that set Fiji apart from other tropical destinations. This leaves a lasting impression on any visitors to this island. Many first-time holiday-makers head to the Mamanucas, one of Fijis most popular destinations where they enjoy fantastic water-sports ranging from scuba diving to surfing and see some of the archipelagos renowned beaches. For me, it was my “own-time” leisure vacation in this tropical paradise, visiting Suva, capital of Fiji, Nadi, Lautoka and beach relaxation at Dream Island of Beachcomber.

It is time to discover the gorgeous beaches, wilderness landscapes and distinctive culture that make Fiji an unforgettable destination.

Getting there?

It was about mid-morning when I arrived in Nadi International airport, the gateway to the islands of Fiji. Not having to plan any of my travel arrangements, I found myself drifting about in Nadi before stopping in a motel for a peaceful night, which was few kilometres away from the Nadi airport.

Public Bus Transport

The next day, I intimately associated myself with the life of Fijian style and took a public bus to country’s buzzing capital, Suva, which is located on the island of Viti Levu. I was hoping to learn about Fiji’s fascinating history at the Fiji Museum, featuring an impressive collection of Indo-Fijian artefacts. Also, taking time to browse through busy stalls selling local produce, clothing and handicrafts at Suva Municipal Market.

There are four ways to get from Nadi to Suva. You either go on a public bus, self-drive on a hire car, go on a taxi or by plane. The buses in Fiji are efficient and inexpensive and I choose to take a 4-hour journey from Nadi to Suva on the main island by public bus – Coral Sun Express. Coral Sun, also known as the ‘Tourist Bus’, connects to all resorts and hotels along Queens Road to Suva. This way, it gives me the chance to see what Fiji has to offer on the west coast. Buses also stop at all towns in between and making quite an interesting bus journey and inexpensive.

Suva

Arriving in Suva around mid-afternoon, I made myself comfortable in my hotel located right in the heart of the city before exploring the area. Based right in the heart of the city for the next 7 days was the ideal introduction to the area and Suva life. Having to stay in the city have the advantage of been closer to most places, within walking distance.

The city of Suva is the heart of Fiji, home to half of country’s urban population and claims to be the largest and perhaps the most liveable city in the South Pacific outside New Zealand or Australia. It is a lush green city on a hilly peninsula, that gets more than its fair share of rain and has a vibrant cultural scene. The capital of Fiji is set on 15 square kilometre of peninsula adjacent to one of the finest naturally protected harbours in the South Seas.

Exploring Suva

Suva, the capital city, has colonial architecture, plenty of nightspots and restaurants as well as beautiful temples and mosques. Here in Suva, I found all the activities, I could possibly want and the list is endless – from culture, art, recreation, shopping, museums, galleries, markets to nightlife and continues to evolve with new complexes. Suva is a walker’s town and a great place to walk. Most of the places can be seen within one day. Municipal Market

I began my Suva stay, with a visit to the Municipal Market for a taste of Fijian life. This was a great place to pick up souvenirs and inexpensive food.

At this market, the Polynesian, Chinese, Indian and Fijian vendors hawk fish, meat, vegetables, fruit, coconut oil and nearly everything else that a Fiji household might need. I noticed that some sections (upstairs) virtually sell kava roots. It certainly makes it a fascinating glimpse into the trade of one of the most important commodities in the country.

Fiji Museum

One of Suva’s best attraction is the Fiji Museum. This museum is a “must-visit” place when your visiting Suva. I found the museum fascinating myself as the museum details South Pacific culture and discusses the country’s own history.

It has various displays including Indian art exhibits, HMS Bounty relics and artefacts that showcase traditional Fijian life, such as cannibal forks, shell jewellery and tribal weaponry

Government Building

This massive Government Building site is one of the most prominent in Suva. These impressive, orange-coloured government buildings were modelled after traditional Fijian thatched huts, and the complex is open to visitors or may be of more than passing interest to the visitor.

Some of the places visited includes Albert Park, The Grand Pacific hotel, Thurston park, Victoria Parade, Cumming Street, The Triangle, Old Town Hall, Suva City Library and more to fill your stay in Suva.

Though Suva is located on the coast, there is no pristine and sandy beach in town but it doesn’t amount to much. The best bet for a decent beach is to head down to Pacific Harbour, which is about 20 minutes by car or bus out of town.

Nadi

After 7-days of Suva experience, it was time to head to Lautoka to enjoy sun, sand and sea. From Suva to Lautoka, I did a self-drive on a rental car to explore some of the places of interest along the way. This was a great way to divert off the main road and enjoy the views and sceneries where it was not accessible by big buses. Along the way, I spent few hours in Sigatoka before arriving in Nadi for a short day tour before arriving in Lautoka by noon.

Nadi, located on the western side of the main island of Viti Levu was once a small community of farmers and shopkeepers but today it is the third-largest conurbation in Fiji after Lautoka. Nadi is multiracial with many of its inhabitants Indian or Fijian, along with a large transient population of foreign tourists. Along with sugar cane production, this city has become Fiji’s tourism capital and the mainstay of the local economy. The town of Nadi called by the locals both frenetic hub of sugar growing and tourism, surrounded by rolling, bucolic countryside.

Nadi: Half-Day Tour

In doing a quick half-day tour of Nadi, was to give me a chance to see and experience what this place has to offer. This tour gave me the opportunity to explore the Garden of Sleeping Giant, famous for its collection of orchids and tropical plants. This tranquil garden was founded by Raymond Burr in 1977. From there, we visited the chiefly village of Viseisei, the legendary landing site of the first Fijians. We had time to wander around this seaside village before continuing into Nadi, to the site of the largest Hindu Temple in the South Pacific. Finally, the tour took us in the colourful sights and friendly faces at the Nadi market. What a thrill and experience that was and I highly recommend this tour for any travellers to the area. After the tour, I took an easy self-drive to Lautoka for relaxation

Lautoka

Lautoka, the second-largest city and port in Fiji and an important business centre, is just located about 20 minutes north of Nadi. It is more ‘industrial’ in flavour, with fewer tourist attractions and more of a ‘local’ feel. Not only most of the vessels here sail to foreign ports but to the outer islands and the resort areas. Also, this city is a quintessential sugar town, with reputedly one of the largest sugar mills in the southern hemisphere. I have seen that, although tourism is an important to the region but sugar industry is still king here and the largest single employer in the district.

Beachcomber

After couple of days in Lautoka, it was time to indulge in sun, sand and sea – my island relaxation destination- Beachcomber. This tiny island is situated on a picturesque marine sanctuary in the heart of the Mamanuca Islands. Beachcomber Island Resort is almost 20 kilometres from Nadi International, Fiji’s National airport. This island resort is unique, spectacular and fun, that is for both the young and young at heart.

I came here to have a great time in the sun and enjoy the sand and sea. It is a place to have casual, relaxed atmosphere and this is what I wanted. I thought, I just came to experience the magic of Beachcomber Island just once but feels like, I like to come back year after year. Yes, this island is that easy to get there, yet so hard to leave. Definitely, this dream island and the memories will stay with me forever. It is an experience of a lifetime and ‘must-do’ island to visit.

Where to stay?

There are various types of accommodations in both Nadi and Suva to suit all budget ranging from resorts, backpacker, holiday houses, apartments, B&Bs and camping nearby. Also, these places offers a range of properties throughout the region to fit most holiday styles and budgets.

Many budget travellers and backpackers make their journey to Yasawa Islands. This place is known for its affordable accommodation and great nightlife.

Popular Attractions

Fiji is home to many iconic Island Resorts. Driving around in this area is possible if you have the time and want to see more of the area on your visit. To fully enjoy your stay in this area and to make the most of the region’s attractions, I’d recommend staying right in the main centre of the Suva or Nadi. This way, you don’t have to fight the traffic from locals on their daily commute and you get to sample the local areas within walking distances. Unfortunately, this is where the true heart of the area shines.

Fiji is filled with endless list of activities and attractions. Travellers looking to get active can enjoy an exhilarating kayaking or rafting excursion along the Navua River, which runs through the island’s mountainous interior. You can check out the dramatic 60-foot high sand dunes found at Sigatoka Sand Dunes National Park. For hikers and birdwatchers, visit Taveuni, the “Garden Island”, a thrilling destination for hiking and birdwatching. Here, you will find rainforest and towering volcanic peaks.

Exploring the area

Throughout the island of Fiji, it is entirely possible to get around and visit many attractions and places in this area with the help of public transport. However, my recommendation would be to hire a car or do a self-drive tour and explore the area on your own time. Driving in this area is straightforward as long as you keep your wits about you and don’t mind the locals who drive much faster than wary tourists. When visiting new areas, be aware of no-drive zones and one-way streets. Sometimes, you will save yourself a few headaches when it comes to parking or driving around places to locate the area, it is best to go on a tour and get away with less stress.

 

© COPYRIGHT: ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

© akamau.org. (2017). Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material (photography and writing) without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to akamau.org with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Port Moresby: The Land of Unexpected’s Capital

EXPERIENCE

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Port Moresby

Port Moresby’s charm lies in the diversity of its cultures and the distinct features of the people. From the highlands up in the mountains to islands of pristine beaches to coastal areas of the country, brings diversity and uniqueness

Posted by

akamau

Port Moresby in Brief

Known as the Land of Unexpected, Papua New Guinea is located in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. Port Moresby also known as Pom City is the capital and the largest city of Papua New Guinea. The city is situated on the eastern shore of Port Moresby of the Gulf of Papua, on the south-west coast of the Papuan Peninsula of the island of New Guinea. It is located about 100 miles on the northern tip of Australia. Port Moresby, has been growing rapidly since gaining independence in 1975 and it has been the fastest growing city in the Pacific.

With over 800 different languages, it makes this country one of the most unique, yet diverse place on earth to visit. Though English is commonly spoken throughout the country, the two main languages – tok Pidgin and Motu is widely spoken daily among the people. 

Aerial view of Port Moresby as we descend onto Jacksons International Airport

The city of Port Moresby is not a destination that families and travellers expect to come to enjoy or have a good time. It is a city with minimal attraction and tourism is non-existence in the city. The only main beach in the city, called Ela beach is deserted with no activities, except street vendors and locals prowling the promenade with minimal entertainment.With the rapid growth, there is a dark side. The gritty Port Moresby is not most travellers idea of an enchanting capital. The city has a spread-out collection of neighbourhoods – from modern office buildings in downtown and Waigani and a glitty marina full of yachts, to squatter shantytowns with no electricity or running water that cling to the hillsides. The scruffy market places are where barefoot settlers and villagers from surrounding areas come to sell their goods. The city illustrates the stark divide between expats, rich locals and the struggling locals. According to “Lonely Planet” travel guide, it rates Port Moresby has one of the worst places and most unsafe cities in the world to live. 

Street Vendors

I returned to the country where I grew up to visit families and to re-visit some of the familiar places around Port Moresby that were once safe. As soon as I stepped out of the Jackson’s International terminal, I went straight onto my waiting vehicle. From there, I took an opportunity to ventured through some of the city’s main roads and suburban streets. Driving along the city’s main road and streets, every street corners were packed with street vendors. It was the common scene, once we drove out of the airport. Whether it was in front of their residence, public bus-stops, front of the major shopping centres and along the busy streets, they were visibly seeing everywhere, selling virtually anything to make a living. It was quite a scene and it can be over-whelming if your visiting for the first time in the area.

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Betel nut, one of the major thing that is virtually sold everywhere by street vendors is a nut which many locals chew. It is a drug and can become very addictive. Being aware of the risks, chewing betel nut was not on my bucket-list. I was warned by families that visiting public betel nut markets alone was highly unsafe and tourists or expatriate are most vulnerable. I was recommended to go with family members as public markets, especially in Port Moresby were quite dangerous. The local betel nut chewers tends to be careless when spitting betel nut juice. Despite Parliament passing the amended Summary Offences Acts which prohibits selling, buying and chewing of betel nut, it has not solved the underlying problem. As I ventured further into the streets of Port Moresby, the streets and footpaths are stained by the blood red spittle that chewing produces and discarded husks clog the gutters. It was quite an eye sore and a very unpleasant introduction to the city. 

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City’s Image

The city of Port Moresby is one of the most populous places in the country and in the Pacific Islands. Within few hours of exploring the area, I began to find that the city has an image problem, with a firmly entrenched reputation as a violent and dangerous place. I found the streets to be unsafe to walk on and venturing out alone was basically taking my life in my hands. It is full of contradiction and pain. It is a place of wonder, fear, sorrow and neglect, considering hope. The country’s capital bursts with humanity on every street or corner I passed. I could virtually see it all there – poverty, wealth, good, bad, happy, sad, beauty and tragedies.

The more I began to explore, I noticed that behind the beautiful, lavish parts of Port Moresby lies the most abject poverty imaginable. Nothing could prepare me for the stark reality of desperation, misery and despair of walking through a real live slum in the heart of country’s capital. Sometimes the most severe poverty was hidden behind the walls and within the confines of a slum. Other times, it was just starring right back at me like a hard slap across my face. I tried to look away, and ignore the creeping, uncomfortable nagging guilt. But I couldn’t.

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These scenes may be a tourist delight but taking time to explore and talking with the locals on the street, I have found that it was expensive, dangerous ( or so many expats will tell you) and not easily walkable. It was easy for me to see why many visitors are tempted to spend as little time here as possible, unless they have a friend or family connection in the city. I found the local people in Port Moresby probably through out the whole country tend to sit on the ground and watch the world go by when they have nothing to do. It was quite intimidating for me as I was already semi-paranoid about rascals pounding on me any minute. 

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Beneath this heart-breaking struggle and despair, local people are charming and kind-hearted people. I found that, once you get to know them, they immediately consider you like a brother and are willing to help you at any time. 

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Getting there?

Port Moresby is the major entry point to another destinations in the country. It has a major international airport (Jacksons International Airport) and there are direct flights from Cairns, Brisbane and many other Asian countries.

Where to stay?

There are various types of accommodations in the area ranging from resorts, hotels and private accommodations. However, it is highly expensive to stay in all accommodations. Safety is a major issue but staying in resorts or hotels are safe as they are guarded by securities constantly.

Popular Attractions

With the unattractive side to the city, there is Port Moresby’s charms that reveal themselves:

* Parliament Haus (National Parliament): It is modelled in the style of a Sepik spirit house – “haus tambaran”. It is set in some beautiful and very carefully landscaped gardens. 

* A superb National Museum and Art Gallery: This superb museum, beautifully remodelled for the country’s 40th anniversary of independence is the best introduction you can get to Papua New Guinea’s rich indigenous culture.

* Port Moresby’s Nature Park: This is an island of calm. Located not far from the University of Papua New Guinea is this 2km of walkways thread under and through the jungle canopy, with well-maintained gardens displaying both local and exotic plants species, including native and hybrid orchids and many more birds, including the iconic bird of paradise of the country.

* The Adventure Park: This park is located outside the city within few minutes of driving. It is one of the major attractions of the city which includes water slides and ferries wheels, paddle-boats and wildlife encounters 

* Colourful Markets: Here you get to wander around and check out some of the locally made crafts, such as the hand-made string bags called bilums. 

Many other attractions includes – Bomana War Cemetery, Variarata National Park, Hanubada and Koki villages built over the sea on stilts, National Orchid Gardens, McDonald’s Corner and many more. 

All these are well worth a visit and they offer a pleasant way to get away for few hours when visiting the area but it is highly recommended to go with local guides in a convoy.

Exploring the area and Transportation

It is entirely possible to get around and visit many attractions and places in this area with the help of public transport but public buses are not reliable, unsafe and dirty. However, my recommendation would be to hire a car and guides and travel in a convoy. To do a self-drive tour and exploring the area in your own time is very dangerous. Driving in the area is straightforward but the locals drive much faster and careless and not wary of others. 

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While it is true that country’s capital Port Moresby can be dangerous but my experience overall is that it is far from being the hell-hole that the tabloid media love to paint it. With common sense, it will keep you safe and sound. Visiting Port Moresby was not the near-death experience it might appear to be but my visit to the city that I grew up was such an amazing trip. I had the chance to visit some of the places that I was familiar with and other unique places. The experience was a completely different culture and lifestyle that I am familiar with back home. 

When you have families or friends living in Port Moresby will definitely give you an unforgettable experience. In sharing my memories in this country, it can give others a different perspective.

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ABOUT ME


ic.golina

Papua New Guinean living in Cairns, Australia. Weekend getaway adventurer and Free-Independent-Traveller (FIT). Lover of unique and exotic travel experiences with a touch of luxury. Follow me to my travel world, brining you closer to your destination.

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© akamau.org. (2017). Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material (photography and writing) without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to akamau.org with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

In Pictures: My Village Life

EXPERIENCE

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VILLAGE LIFESTYLE

A snapshot of what life is like in the village. A simple way of life that wanna keeps me going back home

Posted by

akamau

What I love about going back home

Who wouldn’t love to go home? There is no place like home and home is where our heart is truly defines how each person or individual belongs to. Being happy, comfortable and relax is a place where you feel like at home and that is something above and beyond. 

For the last few decades, going back home to the village had long been a much-loved holiday destination when I could relax and enjoy a break from the 9-to-5 grind back home. The dream of getting off the hamster wheel of working life and take a short break from home away from home, the village life in Papua New Guinea. It was time to go back home and that was exactly what I did. I know it was going to be a culture shock for me going back but mainly for me, I miss the proximity with my families back home, especially after living overseas for almost 30 years, now families at home have grown up children and engaging in so many things. It was the greatest moment for me, seeing them for the first time.

During the few years of my absence from the village and when I went back home to the village, my camera has never been so busy. The village life there has been definitely an eye-opener; the delightful people, the breathtaking scenery, the vibrant village community gatherings, simple and relaxed way of life… Every day there was so many photo worthy moments. Sometimes, it is true that a picture can paint a thousand words. Each picture tells a story of a certain place and time. In my opinion, there is no place on earth that a simple photo can tell so much about a place than Inuma Village. Here are just a few of my favourites. 

Home

The life here in this tiny remote village of Inuma is much simpler than Port Moresby, the capital of Papua New Guinea and a lot more easier and relaxed way of life. You can go to the rivers, swim, gardens, bush walking and hunting. You can simply indulge in a stress and trouble free atmosphere.

The village isn’t big and I love it. I enjoyed traditional home-cooked meals on the fire and went for night swims in the river just within two minutes walk from the backyard of the house. I am so lucky enough to have this village located near the river, the main highway and accessible to many simple way of living without spending a cent. It is simply a beautiful area.

Village way of Life

For me, by far the most amazing thing about going back to the village is the way the local people live and how I have blended within the village lifestyle. Having grown up in this village, I still now feel that I am much more a part of their lives. I was lucky enough to witness a village community work progress during my visit in the village. Depending on the work but usually they complete the task within the day when the whole village community coming out to help the whole time but usually they all have their own individual or family gardens that they survive on. They’re bright, noisy affairs and a whole lot of fun too. I must say, the whole atmosphere was electrifying.

Faces

The faces of families back home tells a story. Despite modernisation and the threat to their way of life, especially their way of doing things to survive is gradually changing but their beautiful smiles are always cancerous and unforgetable. They still continue to live the way they have for centuries and they are happy. Here are some of my favourites. 

Family Fun Experience

Telling my friends that I was going home was a huge wake-up call for me as most of my friends in Australia know very little about village way of life. However, sharing some of experiences like this opens up a whole new world to many. I hope to go back again and spent more time in the village. The highlight of my entire trip was spending time with my families and at the river as kids go about diving above waste-deep waters for prawns for my lunch as we made fires at each site near the river while enjoying my prawns with dry coconut on the menu. Most of the children were happy to get fresh coconut for my refreshment and the entire experience was far better than I first thought. I simply fell in love with the beauty, pristine and untouched environment. It was absolutely extraordinary and like no place on earth to experience this unique way of life.

Road to Port Moresby: Maggi Highway

The trip back from the village to Port Moresby, capital of Papua New Guinea was an experience that won’t be forgotten easily and without a doubt, it was an experience I want to repeat again – that was jumping on any public motor vehicle (PMV) passing along the highway. It was a rough journey but will do it again whenever I go back for a visit.

The road to Port Moresby from the village is probably the least treacherous, however, that doesn’t mean it isn’t one of the most dangerous roads in the world. I found that, when it comes to driving the Maggi Highway, it is the journey, not the destination, that is the main attraction on travelling on public motor vehicles. There are few words that I can describe the beauty of this drive – rough and dusty road, windy, ever-changing green and lush valleys and passing through many tiny villages. There is only one town along the highway which is less attractive compared to tiny outback towns in Australia which are well-maintained with clean facilities and respected shops. To me this was the experience I wanted to discover – a highway to heaven itself. To others, experiencing and exploring this highway is certainly not for everyone. If you rather sit back, relax and simply enjoy the comfort – travel on your own vehicle.

The trip back home can be describe in one simple word – Incredible. I loved my trip and what truly made the difference was my sister, nephew, brother-in-law and my families back home in the village. Without them, this would have made the trip un-extraordinary. I have seen and experience the lifestyle in just few days and that was just only one small part of it. It was incredibly amazing experience.

ABOUT ME


ic.golina

Papua New Guinean living in Cairns, Australia. Weekend getaway adventurer and Free-Independent-Traveller (FIT). Lover of unique and exotic travel experiences with a touch of luxury. Follow me to my travel world, brining you closer to your destination.

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Spending little time in remote school in Inuma Village

EXPERIENCE

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inuma village remote school

Experience remote school environment with no electricity, no concrete floors and lack of simple facilities

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akamau

Inuma Village in Brief

In the deep south of the Magi Highway, away from the city of Port Moresby, you will find Inuma village, a tiny remote village located beside the highway is a place where time is seen differently from the western way of life. This village is located in central province in Papua New Guinea and about two to three hours drive out of Port Moresby. Untouched by mass development, this village is a place where you can still see and feel the real remote village lifestyle. Inuma village landscape is a diverse mixture of earthy agriculture, wide open spaces with untouched and minimal farming activities and some of the most beautiful natural forest with amazing scenery you have ever laid eyes on. 

A small village with a population of approximately 100 people living permanently in the village makes it one of the most friendliest and hospitable village you ever come across in this part of the world. Most of the people who are employed live in the nation’s capital, Port Moresby make their occasional trips back to the village during special occasions or holidays.

Inuma village

Why Go?

In 2013, I returned to the village where I grew up as a child to visit families but it was a life-changing trip for me. Whilst I was there, I turned my attention to village school to find out more about schools in remote areas in the region, especially, the elementary school in Inuma village. The elementary school in remote communities was introduced by the Papua New Guinea government for number of years. This system of education was to provide opportunities for communities living in remote areas to have access to the importance of education. I wanted to observe how this system had progressed in this tiny village school – Inuma. Despite having traveled quite a bit, there was something truly magical and mind-blowing about remote schools. I had never visited anything quite like it before. The people in remote areas live in wide open space with abundance of food surrounded by tropical flora and fauna but there is a lack of infrastructure in schools. Seeing these happy faces truly touched my soul. 

Faces of students at Inuma village school

Getting there?

My journey began with a two to three hour drive south of the city of Port Moresby, the capital of Papua New Guinea. The road leading out of the city, the Magi Highway wasn’t smooth as expected. Most of the road is bitumen but is rough and deeply pot-holed. This rough and pot-holed roads are visible and commonly recognisable both in urban and rural areas throughout the country. As we drove along the highway, we went through many beautiful remote villages one after the another. Throughout the country, where many of its people live in remote villages have little or no access to education. About 90% of people living in remote villages don’t know how to read and write. For those who are privileged, many times, we have taken education for granted.

Visiting the Inuma elementary school was one of my best experiences I ever had. The school is located in the heart of the village next to the village church building. The church building architecturally designed is built with modern building materials is visibly noticeable from the distance. The school classroom built with simple structure has corrugated iron roof supported by eight wooden poles with no built-in walls and no concrete floors. The school desks are made from local timbers, laid out sequently on earth-floor for students to use.

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The schools in remote areas throughout the country are under-resourced with very little or hardly any facilities compared to any typical urban schools in the city. However, one of the highlights of my visit which amazes as I took time to process and digest these cancerous corruption with the education system was the power of the children that I had come in contact with. For children who live and attend schools in remote areas like the Inuma village, the teaching standards and learning facilities are very poor. Sadly, all schools have similar experiences throughout the remotes areas of the country. Teaching in remote schools is a commitment and it is not for everyone. The conditions can be very challenging. However, it is a unique experience and can be immensely rewarding, offering a lifestyle you may never get to experience working in cities.

It was no surprise to me that many of the children come from under-privileged family backgrounds with either parents having no formal education nor employed. Many based themselves in the village to be subsistence farmers. Many of them come to the city to sell their surplus of goods or on the side of the road to pay for their children’s education and buy other items that they need.

This is the lifestyle that I found myself in a very familiar situation which I am no stranger to it. This is where I began my childhood journey and is still very green in my mind. Taking time to visit school like this in remote areas, is no stranger to me compared to what I have seen in some of the schools in most poorest countries in the world. Many of the schools in remote areas have dilapidated ammenities, crowded schools and uneven ratio of students per teacher. Though they lack many of the vital facilities, the children are happy and their cancerous smiles are priceless.

Faces of students at Inuma village school

These challenges children face in remote areas at home are varied. With parents lack of formal education creates a big gap for a child to further their knowledge and help at home. Most of the remote villages have no electricity, nor running taps. It is a common problem felt across developing countries and the strain in remote areas is acute. The schools in rural areas often operate out of single classroom or in unsafe buildings and the teachers are under-paid and trained.

From what I have seen and observed, the children are happy and always eager to learn. They have the luxury of freedom and the breath of fresh air goes a long way. They may struggle but their way of life, surrounded with rich natural environment creates an atmosphere where everything is worthless. It is definitely a place for adventure travellers paradise. 

Spending time with these children was the best part of my experience. All of these children belong to my immediate and extended families, This is what I have come to see and learn. Sadly, what I have seen with children’s standard of learning with limited resources created an environment that is depression but everyone seems to be so happy and free. It is a place where the children and community see it as a norm – A lifestyle they become accustom to from their worldview.

ABOUT ME


ic.golina

Papua New Guinean living in Cairns, Australia. Weekend getaway adventurer and Free-Independent-Traveller (FIT). Lover of unique and exotic travel experiences with a touch of luxury. Follow me to my travel world, brining you closer to your destination.

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Best of island time in Island Paradise Vanuatu

Island in Paradise

Vanuatu, an island paradise that lies in the South Pacific Ocean is just a short flight away from Australia and New Zealand. This island is still in its pristine environment where cultural way of life and tranquility of the place is very much in existence.

There is a lot to LOVE about Vanuatu. Charming locals, stunning natural beauty and friendliest people on earth – it is the “Island in Paradise”. One thing I love about, everyone is so welcoming. You feel like you’re on a different planet. This tiny island still holds a lot of options for laid-back and great value for money holiday destination. More and more tourists are discovering this hidden paradise island. I have discovered that everything is cheap (especially exotic local produce) here. It is safe to travel anywhere, less crowded and not being hassle by locals to bargain like most populated Asian destinations. Little wonder tourists flock here in their droves, especially mega cruise liners.

I first visited Port Villa, capital of Vanuatu in the early 90’s for holidays, an adventure that had been on my bucket list since childhood. I have decided to come back again to re-visit this beautiful island to explore what it is like today. After taking a short comfortable flight from Sydney to Port Vila airport, I checked myself in at the hotel for a detox evening from jet-lag and refuel for my next seven days of adventure and exploration. The nations capital, Port Villa is the main entry point to Vanuatu and most visitors arrive there. It is situated on the main island of Efate which sits at the edge of a magnificent natural harbour filled with corals and sea life.

Air Vanuatu
My comfortable seats

History in brief: Vanuatu is officially the Republic of Vanuatu is a Pacific island nation located in the South Pacific Ocean. This archipelago nation consists of 83 islands in the southwest Pacific Ocean, north of New Zealand and east of Australia. 

Leaving all my traveling bags and suitcases unpacked, I took a late evening stroll along the waterfront after a relaxing afternoon. Staying in this seaside hotel in the heart of Port Villa, means that everything was within walking distance. I was facing the waterfront with a private walled balcony over looking the best view in town. It was just surreal. Yes, the view from my hotel room was undoubtedly a “million dollar” view and unlike most places in Australia, most million dollar views comes with a price-tag. As I looked out of my hotel balcony, my eyes immediately connect to this magnificent view of the island with glittering sunrise, just like a magnet. It certainly created an atmosphere of a perfect holiday destination and I was certainly in my glory. It was truly an amazing experience every time I looked out of my hotel room.

View from the hotel balcony
View from the hotel below
View from the hotel balcony at sunset

Like many South Pacific islands, it is always relaxing and just put on your casual cloths and thongs and blend yourself into island time. As I enjoyed the evening walk, almost every locals greeted me as I walked past and felt like I had known them before. With this greetings of friendliness, I already felt the vibe of a friendly people and place. I love this laid-back lifestyle even though I was on the island only just for few hours. I must say, it was a perfect start to my Vanuatu adventure. The people are really lovely, friendly and very happy people. I just felt great and it certainly ticked a lot of boxes for me: safe holiday destination, friendly and happy atmosphere, great beaches, restaurants and bars, not too noisy and with a more mature and well-behaved people. I think I am happily settled here and won’t look back. It was definitely the best of Port Villa for me and it has never changed since I last visited this island many years back.

Local Market

Living in Vanuatu must be very cheap. I have seen local people living quite comfortably in their own safe environment. The next day, I decided to go to my favourite place to enjoy in this island paradise was the local market. I love visiting local markets in every destinations I visit. I always find the local markets fascinating, interesting and always see and smell something new. It is no exception in Port Villa main market. It is packed with local stalls with local produces with exotic fruits and vegetables, at the same time enjoying the exotic views of nearby islands and mountains.

Exotic vegetables
Coconuts and other fruits on display

Away from the markets there is always something new to explore and see. That is what I love about this place. It is peaceful but vibrant in its culture and a pick of places to go if you want a chance of pace.

Cultural Experience

One of the “must do” on my activity list in every destinations I visit is taking time to engage myself in their traditional way of life with the locals. One way of understanding the traditional or cultural way of life is visiting a Cultural Village Centre. In Vanuatu, cultural way of life is still active and strong in most of the islands. Within 10-minutes drive from Port Villa township is Ekasup Cultural Village Centre. This is the closest where you get to know their way of life where proud villagers share their centuries-old customs, crafts, music and stories. As I listen and observe during my self-guided tour, I began to reflect not only on my culture but what I have seen in Cairns – Tjapukai Cultural Centre where Australian Indigenous share their dream-time stories, painting and Digeridoo throwing skills. Natives cultural way of life is very different throughout the world and that is why I find it very fascinating and interesting.

Kava tasting at hotel where I was staying
Local dancers entertaining the guests at the hotel

Land Diving Experience

After spending few days in Vanuatu capital, Port Villa, it was time to take a detour, a change of scenery to explore some of hidden treasures of this island paradise. From Port Villa, I took a short flight to Pentecost island which is one of the 83 islands that make up the South Pacific nation of Vanuatu. Many of the islanders live in small rural villages, surviving by subsistence agriculture and growing cash-crops. Many of the hillside villages on Pentecost remain largely unaffected by the trappings of the modern world and it has some of the most stunning scenery and the Land Diving is almost entrancing to watch. 

All aboard the plane
Island airport
Children learn from young age, their duties
Ritual Ceremony for the jump
Top of the man-made tower from vines and sticks
The jump
Half-way down with twist
Almost there
Close to the ground
Made to the ground

Yes, Pentecost Island has become famous throughout the world for being the spiritual birthplace of the extreme sport of bungee jumping. This land-diving is a ritual since time began which occurs between April and June.

In witnessing this magnificent land diving ceremony, I must say, it was truly an once in a lifetime experience and without a doubt that was highlight of my Vanuatu journey. It was terrifying and excruciating to watch but what a thrill it was to watch using just vines as ropes. There is no such word that I could find to describe and express the feeling of the ground vibrating under the dancing and stomping of villages and the excitement of sitting beneath the man-made tower waiting with unease for the diver to jump safely to the ground.

After experiencing this warm and generosity of Vanuatu people, it is easy to feel that Vanuatu could be one of the most beautiful and top holiday destination places on earth if no exploitation of mass tourism and development is to occur.

From a personal perspective: After seeing what I have seen, you will get to know, understand and truly appreciate the pristine environment and the friendliness of the people that you will never see anywhere else. You only experience this when you travel to other destinations.

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© akamau.org. (2017). Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material (photography and writing) without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to akamau.org with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.