Papua New Guniea and Australia travel blog

The volcano

Fire at the local cocoanut oil factory

Japanese submarine base landing zone

The Volcano

Gun that protected the Japanese airfield

Megapod digger

Outrigger canoe

Kids. the girl in the middle cried at seeing white people

Robert and Paulie

Japanese "Betty" bomber


We got up at 7:30 to do the harbor and volcano tour but… no one showed up. I used the time to explore the bunker at the hotel – painted with pictures of WW2 stuff including some nose are from bombers. The place is currently used as a shooting range.

We finally found out that the boat that was to take us had broken down and would not be fixed until 1:00. Suzie showed up and sent us off on a different adventure to fill up the morning. We drove with Eddie – very talkative guy – through a road where they had originally dug a tunnel through the ash because it was so deep - to the volcano observatory – actually just an amazing lookout spot where we could see the harbor, town, volcano, and everything laid out like a toy village. There were chickens and butterflies as well as flowers everywhere.

Then we headed off past the local hospital (lots of folks outside – many selling food) to the site of the Japanese submarine base. We drove past a number of old tunnels dug by the Japanese for supplies and shelter. At the submarine base we were met by a guide who took up to where the submarines docked – a storage area (tunnel) that opened up on the water. About fifteen feet out the water depth dropped off to 300 meters. There were still the tie downs used by the submarines, but much rusted.

Then up the hill to the only remaining gun emplacement and several more tunnels – including an interesting lookout post where we could see New Ireland Island in the distance. Then down the hill to the car where we met the owner of the property who was a kid during the war. He lost a toe and the Japanese gave him medicine when he got sick – he even remembered the name of the soldier who did it. But Alice wasn’t feeling well.

We drove back to the hotel and found that the boat was ready – but Alice wasn’t feeling well so she wanted to go back to the room. She apologized to me for ruining the vacation, but that wasn’t the problem. Nice of her to say though.

So with Alice win the room the three of us (Mary and Molly the Aussies) were taken to the “Lady Rose” – an outboard – and we sped out into the harbor. In the center in the remnants of the center of the ancient caldera – a spot where some people picnic. The water was fairly shallow and we saw lots of coral – the water very clear.

We rounded the end of the peninsula and came in close to the volcano. The air smelled of sulfur. We stopped first at a megapod dig. Megapods are birds that lay their eggs deep (about three to four feet) in the warm volcanic ash where they incubate and hatch. The baby birds are able to feed themselves. In any event local young men row their out-rigger canoes to the volcano and dig for the eggs which they sell in the market for about 2.50 Guineas ($1.25) each. Holes are quite deep and a man was buried there last year. All the men were covered in ash – quite the sight – especially with their bright red smiles (from chewing beetle nuts).

We then headed off to some hot springs – really hot – then made our way to the guide’s (Robert) village. When we landed a little girl – about one – walked up the beach toward us and started to cry and yell… we were the first white people she had ever seen. We were given coconuts to drink and met Robert’s son Paulie. Interesting village – like all over Rabaul all the women wore bright dresses and everyone said hello to us and waved. One woman was smoking a pipe and almost everyone had that beetle nut smile.

Then Eddie, another guide, met up and drove us to the site of the Japanese airport from WW2. It is completely covered with ash ut you can tell where it is because nothing grows very tall there. We drove to the end of the runway and viewed the remains of a Betty bomber that crashed there in 1944. Quite destroyed but still a marvel to see such a thing. Back at the car a boy set out some trinkets that he made for sale – the first souvenirs we’ve seen. I bought a couple necklaces and a Tabu – the ceremonial money made of crowie shells.

Back at the Hotel Alice was feeling better so I convinced her to walk to town – but she hated it because everyone said hello… We stopped in at a store to get a drink and some shampoo and Eddie was there buying flashlights. The other two tourists were going to go explore some of the Japanese tunnels. I chatted with Alice and she was more than happy to go back to the room and did NOT want o go see the tunnels.

So, back at the hotel the three of us set off with the guide on a one hour trip. Turned out that the guide did not really know where the tunnels were – so we bushwacked through the jungle, scrambled up some very steep slopes, crossed some amazing gullies and ended up on top of a mountain at an overlook!

There were a bunch of guys there and they said hello – then wanted to have their picture taken with us! It is strange to be in a non tourist area! Anyway, we were now on a road and wandered back toward town. We stopped in at the Japanese Peace Memorial and looked over at the town. Clearly visible was a fire at the local coconut oil factory. Seems some welder started a fire and the whole thing burned down. One of the few industries in town (another in the company that makes Go Go Cola).

A bit later on a local business man in his truck stopped and gave us a lift. I rode in the back. We finally got back to the hotel three hours after we started. I was literally soaked in sweat – it looked like someone had dumped water on me! Alice was amazed and so happy she didn’t go! Can’t say I blame her. It was an adventure hike but – no tunnels.

Finally we went to the Phoenix Room (the only restaurant in town) for dinner and goodbye to Mary and Molly – they’re off to Kokopo tomorrow. We’re scheduled for two snorkeling dives tomorrow but we’ll see. Things are different here!



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