Stolen title !!!!


Yes, I have sort of stolen the title ‘BEAUTIFUL TUFI’ for my book, I know. I guess I first encountered this phrase as a chapter title in expat Colin Baker’s book Doodle-Buggers in Paradise. This is a hard-to-get, out-of-print book that I borrowed from former Tufi resort manager Simon Tewson some years back, and besides some amusing stories from around the time of independence (70s) the title stuck in my mind.

I have then learned  that the beauty of Tufi has been commented by just about every passer-by, and that the Tufi people themselves are certainly aware of this particular characteristic of their home grounds.

Captain John Moresby, who ‘discovered’ this coastline in 1874, was mesmerized by this particular stretch, and then followed William MacGregor, British New Guinea’s first governor; Albert MacLaren, who established the Anglican mission on this coast; and George Le Hunte, MacGregors successor and the official who opened the the Cape Nelson (Tufi) colonial station in 1900 – they all commented on the beauty of the Tufi fjords in their reports and reminiscencies.

In 1921 the famous Australian photographer Frank Hurley visited British New Guinea. His love for the country came in full bloom when he stayed for some days at Wanigela and at Awanen – the southernmost of the Tufi bays. In his diary he wrote about:

“…palm fringed ribbons of golden beaches, washed by deep blue waters streached with opalescent tints of coral shallows; inlets studded with verdant islets, reclining at the base of somber wooded bluffs; a scene that calls back memories…” (Pearls and Savages p. 72).

Awanen Creek

In recent years diver/travel photographer and writer Don Silcock has used Beautiful Tufi in his writings as well (try Google his name for some fascinating articles and fabulous underwater photography!).

So ‘Beautiful Tufi’ is not just a tacky title, it’s just the way it is. It’s a fact! And I found it a most appropriate title for my book.

Read and check it out for yourself: click here


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My First Visit to Tufi

Morgensol  m tittel-2

We are sitting on the porch of Benson’s auntie having a well-deserved rest. I turn my head – the view from up here is as promised: absolutely gorgeous. The green ridges that line the fjords are stretching out toward the Bismarck Sea, parts of them covered with kunai grass, and parts of them forested. The sea is shimmering along a wide horizon.


This was back in 2005, and here from Kikita, high on the ridge behind the fjords, I had my first panoramic view of ‘Beautiful Tufi’. The walk up there, through the band of pretty, small hamlets, was the highlight of my first Tufi stay.

It was a short stay, only five-six days, but I had the feeling already before arriving there that this would just be a first glimpse; an entré that would be followed by longer and more adventurous visits.

I should thank my sisters and brothers-in-law down in Queensland for giving me the idea in the first place. Through them I knew that Papua New Guinea was not at all inaccessible, and since I was looking for a culturally exciting place to visit PNG was a natural pick. On the Internet I found my way to Tufi, with a small resort and possibilities for village stays. And so I took off.

Morgensol m kano

Paddling along coconut-lined beaches in traditional outriggers; stopping for a chat in villages and hamlets; getting to know people who were both interested in telling their own stories and listening to mine – this all made a deep and positive impression on me. I wanted to see more; I wanted to hear more.

Another of my memorable first-visit impressions was waking up to a beautiful sunrise on the beach just below the guesthouse at Kufure village. There I was also well taken care of by Davidson (in the photo below) and Erwatius, by Bona, Champion and Benson, and this is one of the reasons why I let my book both start and end at Kofure beach.

Davidson tak 2

The first paragraph here is from a little story that I wrote about my walk to Kikita for my old travel web page. If you’d like to see the whole story you click here.

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Jan’s Wildlife Special


When I’m in PNG I enjoy myself immensly. Since I’ve been writing and collecting stories for my book and some articles you might get the idea that I’m frightfully serious about it all. Well, I am serious, of course, but the one doesn’t outrule the other.

This is little spur-of-the-moment film clip to prove that. Most of it is filmed at Uiaku in Collingwood Bay, where I did some hiking with Arthur, Gilbert and Joe. I hope BBC will excuse me for borrowing their music.

Watch ‘Sir Jan in Papua New Guinea’ here:
(best picture quality if you watch on YouTube, and chose larger screen)

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Villages on the Water

Panorama - KopiMy 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.

Hus m jenteGabagaba 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.

KanoreparasjonTo 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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn later visits to PoOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERArt 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
you’ll see more photos from
these places, and many from Borneo:

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Memories from Morobe


Sad-eyed ladies of the Highlands

A mudman approaches me, his face a fearsome smile with teeth pointing in all directions and his arrow aiming straight for my chest; the feathers from the headdress of a Morobe warrior whip my face as he tumbles by; from the bright, red face of a Chimbu woman I am greeted with a look that could kill, before she dances on with rolling hips. The sound of drums and hundreds of voices fill the air while shells, dusks of grass and bird feathers whirl by in a cascade of colour. I’m at the Morobe Cultural Show in Lae, Papua New Guinea…..

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis was back in 2006, when I had timed my Lae visit for the big annual sing-sing. These big gatherings in Papua New Guinea, whether in Mount Hagen, Goroka, Moresby, Lae or Alotau, must be the ultimate places to see and indulge in tribal traditions and pride, to get absorbed into the music, the dancing and the colours.

A great thing is that the performances that are put on represent a living culture. The songs and dances are important pieces in the oral historic tradition that keep tribes, clans and villages together, and when I have visited Tufi I have stumbled upon several small and local events.

The Morobe show was the first big one I got to see, and what a spectacle. Bringing a camera to an event like this is a real challenge – you just want to keep snapping continuosly. Here I have dug out some photos and a film clip to give you an idea.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe top paragraph here is the beginning of a text that I wrote for my old travel story web page. A pdf of the full story is here, and below that a link to the ‘Under a Big Sky’ site:
Festival of sound and colour


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Colourful Collingwood Bay


Just south of Tufi is Collingwood Bay. It’s a wide, beach-lined bay with a mix of tribes and languages, and with a history intertwined with their northern neighbours. To find out about a mining project in the test drilling stage and a logging project of doubtful legality, I made my way down there, but I was also in for a wonderful and memorable visit. It materialised in an article for AirNiugini’s Paradise magazine. Here are some lines from the article, and further down you’ll find a link to the full article.

DSC_7910After passing the last houses, the banks of the Vayova River had come a little bit closer to our gently moving canoe, and soon coconut fronds and tall forest trees were forming a ceiling over our heads. The fiery, bright blossoms of the New Guinea Creepers lit up the greenery like strings of Chinese lanterns in orange and red, some places hanging straight down, while others drew beautifully curved arabesques above us, almost like circles. What a fabulous and colourful way to mark the start of our little expedition.

Joe and Moses were my companions and we were going up to have a look at the lake just north of the two hills behind the Uiaku and Ganjiga villages. For more than a hundred years this lake was only visited on special occasions – there is a sad story behind this – but now the young men go up there fishing, and they have decided it should be alright for a stranger and waitman to visit as well. After the short canoe ride I was looking forward to a long, nice walk through the forest.

– – –

DSC_7879One can’t visit the Maisin people without purchasing a prime piece of tapa cloth, and Betty is one of the experts. Tapa has been made for centuries along the northern coast of PNG and the Maisin have a well founded reputation for making the best. Betty had one that was almost finished, and I could tell it was going to be a great one, with the traditional parting into four similar sections.

It was going to be a girl’s or woman’s tapa, which they wear as a skirt when they put on their traditional costumes, so it was much bigger than the loin cloth variety that are for the men. The black contours were already in place and showed a beautiful, decorative pattern with iconic ocean waves on the top and bottom.

When I came back later that day Betty had finished making the red dye, the dun, and was starting to add it to the tapa with a pandanus brush. Earlier in the day she had collected the inner bark from a saman tree and leaves from the dun tree, which were then heated in a pot over the fire. When the consistency and the deep, blood-red hue was achieved it was ready for application.

The tapa fibers also come from the inner bark of a tree, the mulberry, and after being peeled off with the greatest care it is beaten on a wooden log with a mallet that looks like a small cricket bat. The fibers loosen and the bark extends. After one or two hours of beating, the cloth has got the right size and it is then hung to dry in the shade. Betty knows all the secrets of how to get a strong and beautiful tapa, and for her, as for all other Maisin, the keeping of this tradition has become an important part of her identity and it also generates some income for her family and her community. She is proud of her work.

Full Collingwood Bay article :

41-45 Paradise Vol. 1, 2012



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Chasing Flying Wonders

Here we knew the birds of paradise were possible to spot just a short walk behind the village.


We were in the bush behind Tumari village at Tufi. Philip, Pi-Pi, William and myself had walked for less than half an hour, and already we could hear the calls of several Raggianas. There must have been ten of them, spread in the canopy ahead of us. We left the path, following the calls, and soon we spotted one up to the left, 12-15 meters above us, then another one in a tree to the right.

DSC_1079The Raggiana is the fairly common bird of paradise which has become the national icon of Papua New Guinea, pictured everywhere, even on the PNG flag. Although not rare it is sensational both in appearance and behavior and to see them you have to walk for an hour or so into the rainforest. This morning at Tumari the sun was already rising in the sky so the daybreak courtship display was finished, but the birds were still staying close to the lek tree[1].

Only a few streaks of sunlight managed to slip in through the green dome of branches and foliage above us when Pi-Pi caught my attention, waving me over with one hand while holding a finger over his mouth. He had spotted one quite close. And yes, there was one – a beautifully plumed male – perched a bit lower for a rest, and checking his wings and feathers with his beak. Even in the shade this bird was almost luminous: the yellow-capped head, the deep green collar, the browns and reds, and then the radiant orange of the flank plumes.

I crossed my fingers hoping the light was sufficient for my fairly modest photo gear, and in slow-motion I raised my camera to my eye. One snap. Then one more. Then he flew off to another perch, hidden from our view, his plumes like a fireball disappearing behind a trunk and into the infinite green.

Thanks Pi-pi!


Pi-Pi returning to the village


[1] A dominant male can keep a favourite perch for more than ten years, and here he will display every morning and afternoon for his harem of females.

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All smiles from ESfO


George Nuku’s on-the-spot art work is a great illustration of the quality of the ESfO conference, Power of the Pacific, that was finished yesterday here in Bergen. As a newcomer  , surrounded by great anthropologists and others, I was impressed from day one till the closing lectures and speaches.


Invited guest speakers Anne Salmond, Marilyn Strathern, Vilsoni Hereniko, Tarcisius Kabutaulaka and Nicholas Thomas all shed light on the congregation, and the many sessions were of the greatest interest and inspiration for everyone, I’m sure, as they were for me (special thanks to my session chairs Anna Paini and Grant McCall).

Marilyn Strathern summarised the event

Incredible too to have a majority of the world’s scholars that have worked in Tufi/Collingwood Bay area gathered in one place, and actually in my home town! It was truly special for me to meet with John Barker, Anna-Karina Hermkens and Libi Gnecchi Ruscone (John and Libi below).


Everlasting respect to hosts Knut, Edvard, Eilin, Annelin + others!!


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Power of the Pacific

Power of the Pacific

A great start today for the ESfO conference Power in the Pacific here in Bergen Norway.

First an impressive panel of scholars highlighted one of the conference’s themes – Climate Change Challenges, emphasising the humen aspect of the climate change complex.

This was followed by a capturing lecture by Dame Anne Salmond from the University of Auckland, New Zealand, on ownership of rivers and lakes, focusing on Maori traditions, recent changes in legislation and privatisation.

Workshops tomorrow.


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First Contact at Spear Islets

                                                                                     Royal Anthropological Institute                           

                   The arrival of the gigantic ‘devils canoe’ at the northern tip of the Tufi fjords, 1874

In long, slender canoes, dangerous looking warriors came paddling out towards the ’Basilisk’. They were many, but they were of course totally bewildered be the enormous monster of a vessel that towered before them. The tall masts; smoke coming out of its gut; the huge wheel moving slowly by the ship’s side pushing it forward; and then the people aboard – white skinned, and with clothes and ornaments that must have come from another world.

The ship had stopped at the small islands – hardly more than grassy rocks – by the end of the long ridge pointing out towards the open sea. It would stay the night at this anchorage. The men in the canoes, some sitting and some standing on the platforms, were naked except for some shell and feather ornaments. Their hair was tied in long ringlets, like a bundle of firm braids hanging over their shoulders. Their bodies and faces were painted black.

They looked fierce, but this was nothing compared to what the ship looked like to them. The sailors aboard waved with objects for trading – axes, iron hoop and cloths – and a few of the canoes dared to come a bit closer. Then a sudden movement by one of the sailors had them paddle off again – fast, driven by the suspense of this surreal encounter.

The captain and some of his men went ashore to try to make contact in the village they had spotted, but they found the place deserted. All the villagers had taken to the bush, and they had even emptied their houses for many of their belongings. The waitmen looked around in the well-kept houses, with  neat                               State Library of New South Wales fireplaces in the middle, and outside and around they saw pretty gardens.

Back on the ship they were told that a couple of canoes had returned, and this time the men had come along-side the ship. Pieces of cloth had been traded with vegetables and shells. By the point an officer who attempted to map their exact position had a spear thrown at him. They therefore named the place Spear Islets.

The captain’s name was John Moresby, and he was one of the most honorable explorers who have travelled the seas. All certainly weren’t. With this journey he mapped the last unexplored coastline in the entire world – a true feat for the history books. I will return to him and this extraordinary journey in a later posting.

Next morning, from their hiding places in the bush, the villagers saw new smoke come out of Basilisk’s chimney, slowly shoveling the ship into motion. It headed out across the bay aiming for the shores of the Kaiva people further north. After some hours it was lost out of sight and it would take more than fifteen years before the next ship manned by waitmen would pass Spear Islets.

                                                                                 Royal Anthropological Institute

Did this really happen, they asked themselves, while looking towards the horizon. They were holding the red fabric in their hands, but still finding it almost impossible to believe.

Some facts: Natural land alterations have made the islets land-fast since long, so now this place is called Spear Point. The people living around the point today belong to both Arifama, Mokoroa and Miniafia clans, but it’s not clear who the warriors that met the Basilisk were. They could have been Mokoroa, Okeina or even belonging to the now lost Foyogha tribe. The little beach on the point’s eastern side is still a favored place for a break for passing canoes and dinghies.


        The lion profile of Spear Point’s tip

Do you have another first-contact story form New Guinea or the South Pacific? Please post or link!

Many thanks to the Royal Anthropological Institute, London, and to the State Library of New South Wales, Sydney, for letting me use the historic photos.

– RAI 20709. Canoes assembled for a celebration at Cape Nelson, with the government boat the “Merrie England” in the background.                    Francis R. Barton, c.1900 © RAI  (detail)

– SLNSW; ON3Box22_272-2; Mokoroa men at Tufi Station

RAI 20583. Kaili-kaili natives. Francis R. Barton, c. 1900 © RAI

Reference: John Moresby, New Guinea and Polynesia, London 1876

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