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PORT MORESBY and AMBUA LODGE, PAPUA NEW GUINEA
We started the day again at 0-dark-30 in Lijiang - well before sunrise (I commented to the guide that because they let us sleep until 9 or so the day before does not make a 5am start any easier. When we got to the Lijiang airport for our commercial flight, even though it was early it was mobbed. In fact, mobbed and China are synonyms. The main airport in Lijiang and the old village were cheek-to-jowl with people. In spite of this crowding, this part of the country was attractive and clean. I also noted that in the old village, the teenagers used the site much like our teenagers use the Malls. One difference might be that these teenagers were expensively dressed in what I have to assume is the latest fashion, and sport very expensive cameras as well as phones.
It is nice to "visit our money", given that China holds so much of our National debt.
We got on our jet at Kunming and travelled all day, arriving at Papua, New Guinea at eight in the evening or so. Fortunately, the hotel is right behind the airport. There was a brief social hour and, because it was late and we had to repack our bags, everyone left for their room skipping dinner.
Let me explain what I mean by repack our bags. We travel with two bags, one a large suitcase which holds changes of clothes to accommodate the fact that we have gone from snow to a rainforest in the last week and will soon be going to humid Mumbai and then to the Jordan desert. Further, for some legs of the trip, we have to abandon the 757 jet we come to think of as home and use only a smaller bag known as a "wheely". This overhead-bin sized bag, stored in the hold of the plane, plus a carry-on is what we live out of for one to say three days.
Although each of the places we have traveled so far have been a far cry from how we all live at home, New Guinea is over-the-top. We arrive, having flown from Port Moresby in a large crop-duster, landing on an airstrip that is just slightly more upscale than a grass strip. There was a funeral going on, burying a well-loved person, with hundreds of people coming to pay their respects. While they were there, they goggled at the plane. This Air Neuguini only comes a couple of times a week and is a real event.
Our lodge was in an area called the Southern Highlands. The weather was comfortable. We visited a local village. Men and boys (after the age of 8) live in the "men's house" separate from the women and children. The local currency(in addition to the national currency) is based on pigs - yes, pigs. For example, a man is allowed to marry as many wives as he can support. To get a wife, the man bargains with the girl's family to purchase the girl. Love and beauty are not the qualities looked for, but the ability to work hard in the fields plus watch the pigs is. The man is essentially buying a beast-of-burden. If for any reason his wife goes with another man, the man sends the woman back to her family and demands return of his bride price (the pigs).
This particular village is contrived and has the feel of a boy scout camp. However, some of what is going on is real. Everyone shows up in costume ("native dress"), the children are let run free (they're darling), and the women, at least some of them, are bare-breasted. The natives try to sell handicrafts and put on a show. Unfortunately, it started to rain (it is a rain forest, after all) and the events were cut short. It rained all night and, unfortunately, if it rains tomorrow, there isn't going to be a whole lot to do (there is no WiFi).
The next morning we were presented with a series of skits about the native way of life. One was a "hair" ceremony (not the musical) which talked about how the natives got the hair raw material for their wigs. It is human hair grown under very strict circumstances. Then we saw a singing and dancing ceremony which consisted of jumping up and down, chanting and playing a small drum. The dancers were all males, heavily costumed in bird feathers (the bird of paradise has a lot to be concerned about) and clay paint.
It will never replace line-dancing.
We went on a short nature hike later in the day at an earlier hour than planned to beat the afternoon rain (not to be confused with the morning rain). I went on the "short" walk. It may have been lovely but it was following a river bed down a steep mountainside with wet clay and moss covered rocks all along the downside. I travel with two hiking staffs and needed them. I spent so much time looking down to make sure I didn't trip that I never saw the surrounding area. (I also packed and wore rubbers over my shoes. They looked dorky but saved my bacon and my shoes as the whole time we were at the lodge it was raining and the ground was muddy.) When I did look up it was all dense rain forest so maybe I didn't miss anything. The reward for the journey was a look at a really high waterfall from the bottom.
Carol took the "medium" hike which had 3 waterfalls and 2 suspension bridges. (CC comment: "Moderate" was a complete and total misnomer, but the hike was worth it anyway.) She had packed calf length boots which served well throughout the trip from snow to mud. They were also a fashion statement and were coveted by every woman on the trip.
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