My first visit to PNG was back in 2005 and at that time I was fortunate to have my brother-in-law, Ken, living in Port Moresby. After a first evening in an ex-pat bar we drove down the coast for an hour to the village of Gabagaba where he had done some business. We walked over to the chief’s house for some talk-talk, and then I got some time to roam around the beach.
Gabagaba is half on land and half out in the sea, the houses lifted on solid stilts two-three meters above the surface. Boardwalks point out from the beach, like narrow alleys, lined by houses. This type of stilt villages have been common along the south-eastern shores of New Guinea for hundreds of years, and although the Gabagaba houses are of the permanent type, many of them very solid and well-kept, it still has a feel of the traditional and strong links to the past.
To me this was truly exotic. I was also taken by the friendliness of everyone that came up and talked to me – the waitman stranger with a camera. This, my first impression of New Guineans, greatly contrasted the warnings I had received from some Australians: “Raskols around every corner; you might get yourself killed!” I’m happy to say that my first impression of hospitality and openness has been confirmed during my several trips that have followed.
On later visits to Port Moresby I have enjoyed visiting the water villages in town, Koki and Hanuabada. I present myself and my innocent intensions and then I’m invited to walk around and take a few photos; talk to a few people. Again, all very open and friendly. I can’t say I’m impressed with the sanitary conditions, but the boardwalks with their endless clothes lines, the houses – some like shacks, some real nice – certainly have an atmosphere different from other places.
In my water village set on
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