18 February, 2010

Sand in My Shoes

I've just taken my mother to the airport for her latest adventure and I'm suffering from a case of wanderlust. My mother is on her way to India. I'm so impressed she is going.  She knows it will push her out of her comfort zone and she can't wait. I'm left thinking that I have been sitting in my comfort zone for a while now. It's been two years since my last big holiday and, since I'm no longer working, right now seems like a really good time for another trip.

Two years ago I wanted a tropical holiday. Hot weather, palm trees, coral reefs and friendly locals. Maldives seemed like the perfect place. As I did some research, however, I began to realise that it wasn't the holiday I was after. I didn't want to go to a resort where you spend all day by the pool sipping cocktails. I know it sounds wonderful but I would last five minutes before I would be bored witless. I like adventure holidays and I like mixing with the locals.

I abandoned the luxury part of the tropical holiday and went for hardcore adventure: Scuba Diving in Papua New Guinea. PNG is one of the best diving locations in the world and the plan was to spend ten days diving from an island followed by ten days sailing around on a boat. Living on a boat for ten days was going to be a challenge as I get horribly sea sick so we decided to travel to the island of New Britain which was a little more sheltered and the sea was less likely to be rough.

First night was in Port Moresby where we were told not to leave the hotel because it was too dangerous. Good start! The following morning we landed in New Britain in an aircraft that I think was actually a flying lawnmower. We were met by a guide who seemed excited that our flight had made it to the island. Some goose (American Army in WWII) thought it was a good idea to build the runway at the base of a dormant volcano. Sixty years later the volcano is no longer dormant and flights get turned away if there is too much smoke and ash coming out of it. Strangely this was not mentioned in any of the brochures.

Around this point I begin to realise that I'm not in Kansas any more. This is going to a wild trip and maybe I need to take some care. This feeling of caution lasted about 30 seconds. The guide stopped outside a local market to buy himself some cigarettes. The safe option was to stay in the van. Yeah, right, I was going to do that. Ha! With my very expensive camera draped around my neck and a “mug me” sign pinned to my forehead, the blond chick decide she was not going to miss a chance to visit a local market. In minutes every set of eyes was following me and I was thinking this may have been a mistake. At the centre of the market I saw a very seedy looking guy selling tobacco. Hidden under the tobacco leaves I could see he was also the local dope supplier. I figured if I was going to get mugged I might as well get a good photo of this before. I pulled out my camera and the strangest thing happened.


Hooch Dude and his stoner mates
A hundred sets of eyes which has been following me with suspicion suddenly lit up with joy. A camera! Take my photo! Take my photo! The guide books failed to mention that if you want to make instant friends with the locals all you have to do is ask if you can take their picture. I was swamped by welcoming people with beaming smiles. It took me forty five minutes to take everybody's photo and I only managed to leave when I told everybody I had run out of film. It is fortunate for me the locals were not too familiar with the working of a digital camera.

From this point on I never had the slightest reason to be concerned for my safety. For three weeks I saw some breathtaking scenery, met generous and welcoming locals and dived on some of the most specular reefs that can be found on this planet. And I only got sea sick once*.

I have so many memories about this holiday, it is hard to stop here. I will save the stories about how I corrupted an entire village of kids with stickers or how a Green Turtle became amorous with my partner at 20 meters below the surface of the water for another blog.

So where to next? I'm feeling an itch in my feet and a need to explore. I'm thinking Cambodia and Vietnam. I also have a longing to travel to Egypt, Syria and Jordan. Give me some ideas and let me know about any amazing places you have visited or would love to visit.


* it's remotely possible that I was actually hung-over not sea sick.
 
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After writing this I revisited the photos my photos from PNG and thought I would share some of my favorites with you.  Sorry if they are a bit slow to load.
 








5 comments:

  1. You take the best holiday snaps!! Pleased to hear you mother hasn't chickened out.

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  2. I saw your mother enter the departure hall. My responsibility ended there. If she subsequently chicken out she didn't come back here and I'm keeping her car.

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  3. They do look like photos straight out of a National Geographic, i'm a little envious of your photographic talent. I'm lucky if i don't chop the head off one of my kids with my photographic talent. Both Egypt and Cambodia will make for great vacations. I'm dying to try the Amalfi coast, Italy and the coast of Croatia. Happy planning.

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  4. That sounds like an awesome adventure!

    One of our recent trips was to Vanuatu (it's actually where Andrew proposed). We did everything from a black magic tour, to snorkelling, fishing and walking the rim of a live volcano on Tanna Island. We also spent a day driving around Efate, stopping and talking to the locals. One group showed us how they were making kava as a fundraiser for their school and they were all so friendly.

    Not quite as adventurous as your trip, but we have fabulous memories nonetheless!

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