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Trip Start May 05, 2012
Trip End Sep 09, 2012

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Where I stayed
Laraibina VIllage eel farm

Flag of Papua New Guinea  , New Ireland,
Monday, May 21, 2012

I spent this weekend in Laraibina village on the east coast of New Ireland. This is where Jeffery's family lives, a local guy that made friends with me and straight away adopted me into his family.

On Saturday afternoon we hopped aboard a minivan bus servicing the village, about an hour drive south of Kavieng. The 13 seater bus crammed with what I counted 17 people darted down the narrow, single laned Boluminski Highway at 120km/h, overtaking any vehicles we came across..even on blind corners. Seat belts aren’t something you don’t wear over here. The trip to the village was picturesque with tropical beaches a few meters to our left and to our right a continuous mountain range and massive palm tree plantations (they harvest them for palm oil). We made it there and survived the return journey obviously.

On arrival I instantly felt welcome and was assured that I am part of their family now. A lovely lady named Cathy is the matriarch of the eel farm here, with a number of other lovely ladies living there as well as a couple of their sons with their families. There are a few scattered houses belonging to the family members next door. The place is jaw-droppingly beautiful and made that much more special by the hospitality of my new PNG family.

Kathy is a truly remarkable women and I spent a good day and a half captivated by her many stories. She spent most of her life as the head stewardess for Airniugini until she retired 11 years ago. This lady has been literally everywhere and has served on flights a number of famous people, including the pope and prince Edward. The amazing thing is that despite her extensive travel experiences seeing the world, she always yearned for her simple village life. They actually made a SBS documentary called 'the last paradise’ years ago which followed her as she juggled the life of flying and international hotels with returning back home to a traditional village lifestyle.

Like most people in PNG, the villagers are quite poor and only have the simple things in life. There was no fridge or microwave in the village and power is achieved by a generator…until it runs out of petrol.  Most nights Greg (one of the sons) puts on a movie on a small screen in the main room and all the neighbours come to watch. The houses are all traditionally built from bamboo. The living area and kitchen is all open with no doors or windows and they light the fire inside in the kitchen where they cook over a mumu or stove. Greg is apparently an awesome fisherman and diver (snorkel diving) and goes out at night for a bountiful catch of fish, crabs and lobster. Apparently, they sometimes see massive stingrays, turtles (which they eat the male ones in PNG) and dugongs on the shoreline.

I turned into a Japanese tourist with my camera as I was shown around the river as it joined the beautiful white sandy beaches, the local school and the densely vegetated jungle on the other side of the highway. Everywhere we went we were followed by an entourage of smiling kids and teenagers happy to be around the mono (white man). I took it for granted our access to technology in Australia as everyone was intrigued by the camera and wanted their photos taken. I’ll have to copy the photos to CD and give it to them as a present.

The house attracts countless tourists from all over the world who come to see the long freshwater eels that they keep as pets.  These eels are massive and amazing creatures! In their guestbook, they keep an A-Z record of the countries that the people they’ve met are from…to be honest I couldn’t name a country where they didn’t know someone from.  

They once had a guesthouse where people could stay…but all the buildings were destroyed during a king tide a few years ago. The eels had apparently sensed it days before and all swam upstream. Cathy explained how living in the villages, the people are much more in tune with the animals and environment…and can learn a lot from just taking a step back and appreciating nature. It really made me think how much we don’t notice the simple things while living our busy, driven lives.

I ended up spending another night there and came back to town on Monday morning. They made me promise that I’d come back to visit and I’m more than welcome anytime. I feel relaxed after spending the weekend at the eel farm and hopefully can go back and visit again before I leave.
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