A Travellerspoint blog

November 2002

Pangor Laut - Kuala Lumpur - Singapore - London - Bristol

This is an old journal, from our trip around the world in 2002, taken from the diary I wrote at the time. Apologies for the poor quality photographs, they are scans of prints taken with a compact camera and images from the scrap book I made afterwards.

View Around the World for our Silver Wedding 2002 on Grete Howard's travel map.

After a disturbed Lariam sleep, and it being ‘that date’, I sit on the balcony this morning determining the various countries I have celebrated my birthday in: Norway, England, Sweden, Bolivia, Fiji, Thailand, Nepal, Seychelles, India, Myanmar and now Malaysia. Where next?



Today is our departure day and our bungalow being so far away from the reception, we take our hand luggage to breakfast for convenience. The porters can collect the main luggage. I do hate waiting around, and this morning is no exception. We watch a Japanese family fishing on the jetty before the boat arrives and takes us on a choppy journey back to the mainland. The waves crashing over the side of the boat totally drenches one of the passengers. The quality of the buses waiting at the jetty has not improved since our arrival. Voicing my opinion that the transfer from the airport could be more in keeping with the style and class of the Pangkor Laut Hotel, my comments do not fall on deaf ears as their marketing manager happen to be travelling with us.

Only 12 passengers are on the flight again and we have the opportunity to sit on the best side to see our resort from the air just before it disappears into a cloud cover. Having left Pangkor 20 minutes early, we arrive in Kuala Lumpur Subang before the representative. In fact he is wandering around the shops and turns up five minutes later. In the mini bus to KLIA he plays some wonderful golden oldies on his CD player.

We manage to check the luggage through to London, but are unable to book our seats at this stage. On the flight to Singapore we are lucky enough to get three seats for the two of us and sleep soundly. Today is going to be a long day, so it’s important to seize any opportunity to slumber.

Changi Airport is just as enormous and as well equipped as I remember; and we ramble through many shops, bars and restaurants before settling down in a quiet area for relaxing. The bar is providing a band playing Christmas music (!), but they also do a rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’ for me.

The homeward journey is the worse part of any holiday, and this trip is no exception. Having spent five weeks travelling around the world, experiencing so many wonderful things, anything from now on is bound to be an anticlimax. How could you possibly beat this holiday: The polar bears in Churchill, the flight over the Nazca Lines in Peru, the giant moai on Easter Island, climbing Sydney Harbour Bridge, trekking amongst the Huli Wigmen of Papua New Guinea and staying in the water bungalows in Pangkor Laut – these are all ambitions fulfilled! What a holiday!!!!!

On return to the UK, I wrote a limerick in praise of our travel agent, which was also published in part in the local paper.

For our silver wedding we had a plan
And took our ideas down to Trips
A five week period the journey would span
They had plenty of excellent tips

This was to be no average tour
We both wanted plenty to see
Canada, Chile and so much more
The trip of a life-time for me

Just as we thought it was all arranged
And everything going to plan
Several flights then suddenly changed
Back to John at Trips we ran

Lots of e-mails and phone calls John had to make
To rearrange tours and hotels
An extra day’s holiday we had to take
Under Bali’s magical spells

Then Bali was bombed, it was not to be
More tours and hotels to be moved
John worked so hard it was plain to see
His worth he certainly proved

I wanted to see a polar bear
In Churchill on Hudson Bay
Although it was proving to be rather dear
They included a husky sleigh

In Peru the plan was the Nazca Lines
I’d read all about them before
On to Chile, well known for its excellent wines
- Let’s just try a little bit more

On Easter Island, the giant heads
Was another strange idea
Stone sculptures painted in browns and reds
They really are rather queer

In Sydney the bridge we thought we would climb
An experience totally awesome
Some friends we met, but so little time
Dining out in a friendly foursome

Papua New Guinea we had to include
The jungle was steamy and wet
Bright feathers, but otherwise almost nude
The Huli Wigmen posed no threat

From Ambua Lodge we wanted to trek
But day walks were taken instead
At the end of the hikes I felt quite a wreck
My blisters were sore and bled

A short stop in Cairns to wash all our stuff
It really wasn’t too soon
A bit of free time, the decision was tough
We chose to go up in a balloon

Still plenty to see, no need to feel blue
To Darwin, the top end, we’d go
To see ancient drawings in Kakadu
Aboriginal pride would glow

A plane was hired to take us aloft
We really do like to fly
Over the escarpment gently we waft
So spectacular from the sky

Borobodur cancelled, so what do we do
We can’t just lie on the beach
To Kuala Lumpur and Singapore too
These places are not out of reach

It’s all very well to live life to the max
It’s an adventure, that’s for sure
But we needed to have some time to relax
At the end of such a big tour

In Pangkor we spent the last few nights
Bright skies and golden sand
To chill out after twenty-five flights
And walk by the sea hand in hand

I’m ready and packed, no more room in my case
It’s the end of our holiday
Enjoyable memories from each little place
I really would much rather stay

A once-in-a-life-time, a marvellous treat
A very well organised tour
Trips’ customer service you couldn’t beat
We’re both left feeling in awe

Another last thank you I wanted to add
For all the time John spent on this
Now it’s over I’m sure he feels rather glad
That our holiday was pure bliss


A quick résumé of our trip



Polar bears from the tundra buggy in Churchill Manitoba.



Helicopter flight over the tundra


Dog sledding


Eskimo Museum


Night safari with northern lights



Toronto: Hippo Tours amphibious vehicle


Mamma Mia at the theatre





Flight over the Nazca Lines



Sand boarding at Ica


Dune Buggy


Boat trip around the Ballestas Islands Wildlife Reserve





Santiago: vineyard visit with wine tasting



Easter Island: former cave dwellings


Giant Moai statues


Pito te Kuno, considered to be the Navel of the World by the early settlers


Orongo Ceremonial Village


Ancient petroglyphs


Lava tubes


Kari Kari Cultural Performance



Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb


Meeting friends Jenny and David for dinner


Papua New Guinea


Tari: Hiking




Meeting the locals




Light aircraft flight to Mount Hagen



Port Moresby: PNG Arts


Botanical Gardens (tree kangaroo)


Port Moresby slums



Cairns: Hot air ballooning


Kakadu National Park: boat trip



Nourlangie Aborigine Rock Art


Scenic flight over Arnhem Escarpment


Ubirr: ancient rock paintings


Yellow Waters cruise


Termite Mounds





Kuala Lumpur


Pangkor Laut







Those of you who know me well, will be familiar with my penchant for writing lists and keeping statistics. This trip was no different. Here is a small breakdown of exactly what we did on this trip:

We spent:

244 hours asleep
28 hours travelling to / from airports
64.5 hours waiting at airports
91.5 hours flying

We travelled:

36,632 miles by air
1,679 miles by road
83 miles on foot

We drank:

132 beers
94 glasses of wine
13 ciders
5 cocktails
3 glasses of champagne
5 liqueurs
5 litres of duty free Bacardi


Posted by Grete Howard 06:22 Archived in Malaysia Comments (1)

Pangkor Laut Day Three: finally chilling

This is an old journal, from our trip around the world in 2002, taken from the diary I wrote at the time. Apologies for the poor quality photographs, they are scans of prints taken with a compact camera and images from the scrap book I made afterwards.

overcast 31 °C
View Around the World for our Silver Wedding 2002 on Grete Howard's travel map.

I wake at 03.30 and just snooze after that, before finally getting up – with a bad back from too much bed – at 07.30. A large breakfast of omelette with cheese, onion, pepper and chilli, followed by fruit and toast with pastrami and cheese sets me up for the day. I consider breakfast the most important meal of the day and load up accordingly.


After checking our e-mail account, we spend a couple of hours in the shade by the pool, reading and drinking their rather excellent smoothies. The quiet ambience of the hotel is one of the things I do like about it – there is no shouting, splashing, screaming, loud music, and people even talk in muted tones as befits the surroundings.



As we enter the lunch restaurant, Din, the waiter, says: ‘Two Tiger Beers Mrs Howard?’ We obviously have a reputation already. The burgers are mediocre, but the fries are first-rate. Particularly crispy, they appear to be coated in a kind of batter. I must try that at home. The meal is complimented with an exceptionally tasty pineapple relish.


An afternoon siesta by the pool becomes pretty sweltering, whilst the Jacuzzi cools us down to shivering point. We can’t win. The rain holds off this afternoon, so we sit on the balcony with a duty free drink, enjoying the last sunset in this idyllic place.




Fisherman’s Cove is reputed to be the island’s best restaurant; consequently we have saved it until the final evening. The young British couple we met earlier in the day are dining in this restaurant too; she is suffering badly from the effects of dehydration. Drinking red wine will not improve her condition, and I run back to the room for some Dioralyte for her.

Having been billed as superior to the other restaurants, the meal, although tasty and tender, is slightly disappointing. As the name would suggest, fish is the speciality in this place. For a starter I choose prawn and mango in filo pastry with a chilli dip, whilst David enjoys his lobster bisque. We both agree on stir fried beef with a black pepper sauce for our main course.

Tomorrow being my birthday, David ordered a birthday cake earlier in the day, and is astonished when one is brought out but taken to the next table. When they very kindly share a piece with us, I am glad I did not receive mine. It is far too dry for my liking and the mango and pineapple strudel I order is much more satisfying. An apple tarts completes David’s meal, and with a bottle of Pinotage, the bill comes to an agreeable £68.

Posted by Grete Howard 05:03 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

Pangkor Laut Day Two: Pool, Jacuzzi and Kayaking

This is an old journal, from our trip around the world in 2002, taken from the diary I wrote at the time. Apologies for the poor quality photographs, they are scans of prints taken with a compact camera and images from the scrap book I made afterwards.

overcast 30 °C
View Around the World for our Silver Wedding 2002 on Grete Howard's travel map.

I’m finally beginning to get that ‘chill-out’ feeling. It’s raining again, and we debate whether or not to take the arranged jungle walk this morning. Having decided against it, the weather of course clears up. We send e-mails instead, although the PC crashes four times during our time on there.

By the pool we get to know a very pleasant couple from London, Sian and Rob, who we spend a lot of time with discussing various hotels and destinations. As a travel agent, Sian is obviously quite informed about the world’s luxury resorts, but we all agree that this is by far the most exclusive hotel we have stayed at. They have stayed at another of my ‘dream’ hotels, the Dusit Rayavadee in Thailand, and consider that to be almost as good as Pangkor Laut. I must stay there one day!

You realise quite how wild this place is when you wander over to the pool shower and find a snake in there! Its location, coupled with the extremely attentive service and their eye for detail, are what makes this such an exclusive place to stay.



After a lunch of the best steak sandwich I have ever tasted (this is a real 1.5cm thick slab of meat – I am even asked how I want it cooked!) and Fish & Chips for David, we spend more time by the pool and even try the Jacuzzi. What a strange sensation – the water is cool! The sun even comes out for us – briefly.


By the time we go out in a kayak, it’s overcast again, but that is probably just as well. Being in a small kayak on the open water is a recipe for sunburn. We head for the water bungalows, but the kayak is rather difficult to steer – where’s that rudder?




The rain starts again while we listen to some music and write post cards in the room.

Fortunately the rain has stopped by the time we go for Dinner on the Rocks. Tonight’s dining is a different affair, more like a dinner party: everyone eats the same food at the same time. We travel over to Emerald Bay in a Land Cruiser, where lights have been strung out through the trees on the beach and the palm trees are imaginatively lit from below. The lighting effects, the sound of the waves crashing on the rocks and the many small geckos scuttling around our feet, make it a very unusual event, and very romantic.


There are only seven of us there, on three tables.


A three piece band provides pleasant background music for the complete dining experience, and a very excellent one too.


The five course meal is as follows:

1. Stuffed rice wrapped in banana leaf with a delicious crab and bean sprout salad.

2. Chicken and vegetable consommé.

3. A refreshing lime sorbet served in impressive goblets made from ice with flowers and leaves frozen inside.


4. White snapper in cream sauce with bok choy, split peas and sliced potatoes with cheese. With its slightly crispy coating and beautifully moist flesh, this really is the best fish I have ever tasted (as I’m not a great fish lover, that is quite saying something).

5. Heart shaped cheesecake with a hard chocolate edge, chocolate straws and a coulis of strawberry and passion fruit, decorated with fresh strawberries and lychees.

An absolutely fabulous banquet, but costly at £80.

Posted by Grete Howard 05:02 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

Pangkor Laut Day One: Emerald Bay

This is an old journal, from our trip around the world in 2002, taken from the diary I wrote at the time. Apologies for the poor quality photographs, they are scans of prints taken with a compact camera and images from the scrap book I made afterwards.

overcast 30 °C
View Around the World for our Silver Wedding 2002 on Grete Howard's travel map.

We must be getting better at this relaxation lark – we sleep for ten hours and don’t actually wake up until 08.30. After a rather pleasant sunrise, the weather becomes boringly overcast. There is lots of choice for breakfast: cooked ‘English Breakfast’, various fruits and yoghurts, 10 different pastries and 8 varieties of jam. As usual David opts for the full fried breakfast (with the rather inferior beef bacon) while I select French toast with syrup. In the trees and on the balconies of the overlooking rooms, there are monkeys frolicking. The breakfast restaurant overlooks the other pool and the hillside chalets.


Voted as one of the ten best beaches in the world, Emerald Bay is a short bus journey away from the main part of the hotel, and when we arrive there is only one Japanese family there already.


Sun beds are set out on the beach with towels; and waiters bring chilled, wet towels and bottles of cold water around at regular intervals to help you keep cool.


We take advantage of the fact that the bar service extends to the sun beds on the beach, and order some of their delicious smoothies and fruit punches.

Lunch at the small beach café could better be described as light nibbles rather than a midday meal. The peppered beef, spring rolls and samosas we ordered, actually all fitted on a small side plate.



The Norwegian ‘who dunnit’ book I borrowed is very gripping and before I know it, we have spent in excess of 2½ hours on the beach. The weather is mostly overcast, but we stay under the tree in the shade just in case the sun decides to make an appearance.


The waves are uncomfortably large, making swimming in the sea too perilous for enjoyment. Before returning to the hotel side of the island, we visit the very high-class beach showers: black marble with containers of shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, body lotion, tissues and an unlimited supply of towels.


Still hungry after the very inadequate meal at Emerald Bay, we have a ‘proper’ lunch at Royal Bay Beach Club, consisting of a very good pizza.

Back in the room we feed the colourful fish from the balcony and write post cards.


During yet more rain we take an afternoon siesta and later a sumptuous bath together, with the windows wide open to the elements outside. Pure luxury! Following on with the theme of a luxury vacation, we order Diet Cokes on room service and enjoy some duty free in the bungalow.


On the way to the Samudra Restaurant for dinner, we check out the e-mails and find we have received several since last time (mum and dad, Sharon, Angela, Helen and work). We reply to most of them. I go for the set Malaysian dinner comprising of chicken satay, fish in coconut, prawn sambal, chicken in coconut, beef rendang, green beans in sauce and steamed rice followed by green tea crème bruleé, while David has his normal steak. With the rendang being my favourite, I consider the meal to be much better than last night, but it is also considerably more expensive at £52. I’m not sure it is worth the price, however, but of course this is a very upmarket (and pricey) hotel!


At the Royal Bay Beach Club there are musicians playing popular tunes at an acceptable volume, and we stop and listen for a while. They are good.

Posted by Grete Howard 05:44 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

Kuala Lumpur - Pangkor - Pangkor Laut

This is an old journal, from our trip around the world in 2002, taken from the diary I wrote at the time. Apologies for the poor quality photographs, they are scans of prints taken with a compact camera and images from the scrap book I made afterwards.

rain 30 °C
View Around the World for our Silver Wedding 2002 on Grete Howard's travel map.

American breakfast this morning is included in the price of the room, and very good it is too. There is a choice of freshly cooked omelette and fried eggs, yoghurts and fruits, pastries and bread, cereals and pancakes as well as Oriental hot dishes. In order to replace the good bacteria in my gut I eat some live yoghurt – after the cheese and ham omelette.

Subang was once a great airport when it was the international terminal; now that it simply handles a few domestic flights it is sadly evocative with faded glory. We change some more money before assembling with the other eleven passengers in the small gate area. We are flying on 48-seater Dash 7, sitting right at the front of the plane. From the air we spot the island of Pangkor Laut. The plane lands on the main Pangkor Island, at a very friendly and welcoming little airport lounge.


I am disappointed at the inferior transport used to take us across the island to the ferry jetty. The mini-bus is cramped and some of the seats are broken. When we pass many vulgar and run-down resorts on the way, I am glad we are continuing to the more exclusive Pangkor Laut Island. I am no snob, but some of these hotels would make Weston-Super-Mare look like upmarket resort.

The jetty is busy and confusing. We are on a private boat, but there is no-one there to guide us to the waiting area or inform us of what is happening. We all just mill around, looking lost. There are nine of us in total travelling to Pangkor Laut Resort, two Italians, us and the rest are Oriental.


Pangkor Laut is advertised as “One Island – One Resort”. Only 20% of the island is developed, the rest is pure rainforest. On arrival at Pangkor Laut we make our way to the reception area, which is open-sided, bright and airy, and we are given cool welcoming towels. You can tell this is up-market, you are invited to sit down and the receptionist brings the check-in papers to you, rather than you queuing up at the desk. I like that.


After a welcome drink, one member of staff takes each couple to their room personally. Our over-water bungalow is at the far end of the walkway, and according to our ‘escort’, has the best view of all of them.


The room is amazing. Outside on the porch there is a seat, an imaginative light and a large urn with umbrellas (of course!).




The interesting 'door bell'

The room itself is very large with a huge bed and a chase lounge at the foot of it.


The balcony is almost as large as the room, with a couple of sun loungers looking lost, a coffee table as well as a bench down one end with lights of course.


The extra large bathroom contains the mini bar, fridge, tea and coffee making facilities, hair drier, a toilet that cleverly converts to a bidet, enough towels to dry off an entire family (14 to be exact) and the largest marble bath I’ve even seen.


My initial disappointment at not having a shower in the bathroom turns to delight when I discover it is set into the ceiling above the bath. Wow! The bath is built as an ‘extension’ to the bathroom itself and has a vast ‘shelf’ alongside it and windows on three sides that open up to the China Sea. The whole effect is very pleasing indeed.


We unpack and change before wandering down to the pool for lunch. Even the pool snack bar has starched tablecloths and napkins. From the somewhat limited menu we choose crab cakes and bruchettas plus a couple of Tiger Beers.

Then it’s time to explore the surroundings and take some photos. The setting is very natural, with lots of rainforest, meandering paths, peacocks on the lawns, hornbills in the trees and water monitors on the rocks.







From the library we borrow a book and a couple of CDs (to play in the CD player by the bed) and we buy some post cards from the small, but well-stocked shop. We play about in the pool and rest on a lounger for a while. The sun beds each have two towels on them: one for drying yourself with and one for lying on. I would expect nothing less. There are not many people around – we later learn that the hotel is only running at 30% capacity. This place is created for relaxation, but after four weeks of travelling, it’s proving to be rather difficult to wind down. After enjoying a Pina Colada in the bar, we try out the free internet access before returning to the room for some duty free while listening to the rain outside.


Fortunately the rain has stopped by the time we walk up the stairs to Uncle Lim’s Restaurant for dinner. We’re not far away should it start to rain again by the time we want to return to the room, the stairs are almost next door. We actually have the nearest bungalow to the bar – they must have heard about us!


The restaurant is run on a completely different concept to anything I’ve ever come across before. There are no menus. You choose your main ingredient (chicken, beef, fish or seafood – this is a Muslim country so there is no pork) and what vegetables you’d like with it. Then you decide the cooking method and any sauces to include. In other words, the food is totally made to order, anything and anyhow you like. We pick a few dishes: spicy Chezhuan chicken with cashew nuts, beef with chilli and garlic, plain tiger prawns, steamed rice and watercress soup. The food is served with Chinese tea, but we still order some Tiger Beer. Apart from the prawns, everything else is delicious.



With no menus we are very concerned how much the bill will come to, indeed, how do they calculate the bill? Having anticipated in the region of £60 to £80, we are pleasantly surprised to find it only comes to £38. Heavy rain has really set in now, and we break the journey to the room in the bar, where we are the only people. Boring. The lights on the walkway have gone out and we get very wet on the way back to the room. This is the only hotel I’ve ever stayed in where you can choose the time you want the turn-back service.

Posted by Grete Howard 04:49 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

Singapore - Kuala Lumpur

This is an old journal, from our trip around the world in 2002, taken from the diary I wrote at the time. Apologies for the poor quality photographs, they are scans of prints taken with a compact camera and images from the scrap book I made afterwards.

rain 35 °C
View Around the World for our Silver Wedding 2002 on Grete Howard's travel map.

After the fiasco of the expensive breakfast in the hotel in Darwin, we nip next door to MacDonald’s for our early morning feast of a sausage and egg butty. The portion is not large enough for David, but I am still feeling pretty fragile after last night, so it’s all I want this morning. We return to the room where I resume my sleep. After a fretful night’s kip where I woke three times to visit the loo, twice because of a bad cough, twice because I was too hot and once when I was feeling cold, I feel I need it. I sleep well for a couple of hours before being picked up at 10:30 for the transfer to the airport. The security check is different to any we have experienced so far. To check for chemicals they squeeze the air out of the bags while running a machine above it.

Changi Airport is absolutely amazing. It can be best described as a colossal shopping mall with a few planes attached. Unfortunately there are no Miles look-alikes. Maybe when we return to Terminal One on the homeward journey. There is even an e-café in the terminal and we just have to check it out. Betsy Bebbington has sent a very sentimental note headed Re: Miles RIP. It’s a lovely little note, very moving but not apportioning any blame. She suggests we buy another travelling companion, although not another Miles. ‘There will only ever be one Miles’. I feel emotional and quickly move on to the other notes from Nigel, Rachel and my parents.

Apart from the fact that I spill a whole glass of orange juice over David’s lap, the flight is uneventful. Once we manage to get through the long queue for immigration in Malaysia, the cases arrive quickly. The traffic in Kuala Lumpur is just as bad as it was in Singapore. When I comment to the driver that I cannot remember the airport being so far out of town, he explains that this airport is new, and we would have arrived at the other terminal last time. That clarifies the situation.

The hotel is very impressive, with all black marble and cascading water. The room is also extraordinary; a king sized bed, three seater settee, chair, coffee table, writing desk and chair with ample space around. The TV pulls out of a cupboard on a table and the bathroom is a very generous size.



The hotel is very centrally located, with a couple of shopping malls within easy walking distance. The malls are far too upmarket for our liking; they are full of designer clothes shops. We can find no shops selling knick-knacks, arts and crafts, souvenirs or post cards. Tucked away in a dark and dingy corner we find a currency exchange booth. I expect the rate is far better here than we will get at Pangkor Laut.

On the main street we enjoy a beer in an outdoor café. There is a special offer on during Happy Hour, two for the price of one. We still find it expensive at £2.30 for two small beers. Muslims are celebrating Ramadan at this time, but there is no obvious sign of fasting. People still appear to be drinking, smoking and eating during daylight, just as they would at any other time.


While we are in the internet café, it starts to rain. We make a run for it to a restaurant a couple of doors away, one that was recommended by the driver. This is fast food, Penang style, but the food is tasty and very reasonably priced. We order two portions of spring rolls with a chilli dip and end up with nearly twenty of them in total; chicken with mango, chicken with black bean sauce, mixed vegetable with sauce, fried rice and four beers. Compared with the Thai meal in Singapore last night, this is much better value at £18, and I consider the food to be superior too. It is still raining when we leave, and we become completely drenched while running back to the hotel.

Posted by Grete Howard 07:51 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

Darwin - Singapore

This is an old journal, from our trip around the world in 2002, taken from the diary I wrote at the time. Apologies for the poor quality photographs, they are scans of prints taken with a compact camera and images from the scrap book I made afterwards.

View Around the World for our Silver Wedding 2002 on Grete Howard's travel map.

We both wake up late with a hangover. There was an amazing storm in the night with lashing rain, deafening peals of thunder and dramatic lightning. The light is flashing on our telephone which means that the hotel reception has a message for us. We go down to check what it is and are delighted to find out that they have arranged a 12:00 check-out for us rather than the normal 10:00. That’s very good news, it won’t break up our morning such a lot. Not knowing what’s around the area, we take breakfast in the hotel. It’s good but rather dear for what you get.

With some time to spare we walk to the e-mail café we discovered last night to check out Hotmail. We’d received messages from mum and dad, Jan and Andy, Laura and John. Jan was saying she felt really honoured that we have found time to send her cards and e-mails while travelling. It makes it all worthwhile when people appreciate it! We sent a further 9 others, including one to the Bebbingtons to proclaim the sad demise of Miles. It was a difficult message to send.

After a light lunch at the Subway (one of my favourite fast-food outlets), we walk through the Mall to look for Immodium. I seem to be going through it at the rate of knots. When we get back to the hotel the pick-up driver is already there waiting for us – half an hour early. The journey to the airport is only short and although there is no queue for check in, it still takes absolutely ages. It could be something to do with the four Norwegian girls confusing the desk staff.

We have taken so many flights on this trip; we feel a little blasé about it now. The film showing is said to be very funny (My big fat Greek Wedding), but I find it incredibly boring and fall asleep half way though. The fact that you need binoculars to see the TV screen could have a bearing on it. The food is less than appetising. It is billed as Moussaka, but a Greek would be horrified at that description. In reality it is nothing more than a lamb casserole served with pearl barley.

At Changi Airport in Singapore, a Tour East driver is waiting to take us through terrific traffic jams to the Traders Hotel. Evidently the traffic is always this bad on a Saturday night with the shopping malls opening late with people making for Orchard Road to eat.





We merely deposit our luggage in the room and head for Tanglin Mall next door to the hotel. On the pavement outside there is a public parade of line dancing. Different! In the mall, some of the shops are already closed, including one full of teddy bears just like Miles. So close but yet so far. I almost claw at the windows, but however hard we look; no other outlets have anything of the sort. I never thought a teddy bear would be so difficult to replace!

We choose a Thai Restaurant for dinner without looking closely at the prices. It turns out to be somewhat expensive. The food is good nonetheless, and awfully spicy. David has minced chicken with chilli and basil while I choose the prawn and pineapple curry. With pineapple rice, broccoli and two beers each, the bill comes to £42. It wouldn’t be so bad but for the fact that I have to rush to the toilet to bring it all up again!

Posted by Grete Howard 07:16 Archived in Singapore Comments (0)

Jabirou - Escarpment flight - Bowali - boat trip - Darwin

This is an old journal, from our trip around the world in 2002, taken from the diary I wrote at the time. Apologies for the poor quality photographs, they are scans of prints taken with a compact camera and images from the scrap book I made afterwards.

semi-overcast 41 °C
View Around the World for our Silver Wedding 2002 on Grete Howard's travel map.

I must have needed the sleep, I dozed for 12 hours! I do feel better for it this morning, so that makes it all worthwhile. Breakfast is not included today, but we end up eating in the hotel as there is nothing else in the vicinity. The food is very average and overpriced. Typical Holiday Inn.


Our first activity today is an optional flight over the escarpment. Barry initially assumes that no-one wants to participate, there is only us and another couple (Helen and Bob) left on his trip, but we soon put him right. We always want to take any pleasure flight available. We like flying. This flight is moderately spectacular, with varied scenery of wetlands, escarpment, a rock bridge, and an ugly Uranium mine.










The pilot suggests leaving the windows open in the plane to keep the temperature down, but it makes it exceedingly windy in the back seat where I am. The pen on a string around my neck flies off as does the note book out of my pocket. My face tingles for a very long time afterwards, a most peculiar sensation.



Our stop at the Bowali Cultural Centre is somewhat forgettable. The discomfort of the heat, the aggravation of the flies, the pain in my chest and the inconvenience of my tummy upset all add to increase my disinterest. There are stuffed animals and stories of aboriginal culture but it all goes in one ear and out the other.

Of greater interest is Ubirr Rock where we climb the escarpment to see many ancient rock paintings. The setting is dramatic and we are impressed by the knowledge of the local aborigine ranger.







The attitude of the Australian aborigines fluctuates from one extreme to the other. Some, like the ones we encounter here, are very proud of their heritage and spend their time showing it off to travellers, whereas others squander their lives and valuable legacy by spending their days in a drunken stupor. There is something in their bodily make-up that means they cannot tolerate large amounts of alcohol, hence the number of drunken aborigines seen around the area and the growing problem of alcoholism amongst these people. It’s such a shame.

Lunch is a traditional Australian Barbecue. There is a choice of buffalo burgers, chicken satay or barramundi. David and I are the only ones who choose the chicken, and I must say it does not taste right. The texture is all wrong and it feels very greasy. The salad is nice though. With another dose of diarrhoea, I try out the long drop ‘dunny’ across the road. Not a pleasant experience!

Today’s cruise is more cultural than a wildlife experience, with two aboriginal guides explaining about the local traditions including fishing and hunting.





The only exiting wildlife spotting is a few crocodiles and a white cockatoo. While we go ashore a very large croc is spotted in the water nearby, and when we notice its previous track on land between us and the boat, a general unease develops. Helen rushes back to the boat and the rest of us are not far behind. Bob left his glasses on the jetty and lost his head net on the boat. He would get on my nerves after a while – just as well we are only with them for two days.





In Jabirou we pick up eight more people who have been out on a day trip and head back to Darwin along the straight and boring highway. A great opportunity to sleep. I wake up for the giant termite mounds; they are very imposing at 20 ft high.


The last stop is for a view of the sunset at Window on the Wetlands Visitors Centre. The building is very modern with a well laid out display and a pleasant veranda for drinks and nibbles. What a civilised way to end the day, although the sunset is rather an anticlimax.



It transpires that other people on the coach were going to Bali too and had to rearrange their travel schedules following the terrorist bomb there the week before we left the UK.

Back in Darwin, we check into the Mirambeena Resort again before venturing out on town for dinner.




Walking a couple of blocks we recognise a couple from the coach in a restaurant window, but we carry on to a particular road David had read contains many good restaurants. He is right. We choose a bar / restaurant called Rorke’s Drift where there are available seats outside on the pavement. To David’s delight they serve cider on tap and we enjoy a couple of pints while perusing the menu. We order another cider and some food - steak for David and a Caesar Salad for me. David thoroughly enjoys watching the young girls walking past on their way to a night out, dressed to the nines in next to nothing. Young men are cruising the streets in their high performance cars looking for the aforementioned babes. Unfortunately an inebriated aboriginal woman becomes very raucous and is shouting and swearing while swaying to the music outside the restaurant. Sitting outside is lovely, it’s hot but there is a slight breeze making it bearable. That is until the rain appears. We swiftly move to a table under the awning while we enjoy another couple of pints of cider. The shower intensifies, it’s absolutely torrential for a while, but luckily it has ceased by the time we walk back to the hotel.

Posted by Grete Howard 05:54 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Darwin - Kakadu - Yellow Waters - Nourlangie - Jabirou

This is an old journal, from our trip around the world in 2002, taken from the diary I wrote at the time. Apologies for the poor quality photographs, they are scans of prints taken with a compact camera and images from the scrap book I made afterwards.

sunny 43 °C
View Around the World for our Silver Wedding 2002 on Grete Howard's travel map.


Today it’s another early start with a 06:05 pick-up. Whilst the rest of this mammoth trip has been tailor made, here in Darwin we are joining a group tour. In the last few days, David and I have both expressed apprehension about the size of the group, and when a 50-seater coach turns up, our worst fears are confirmed. However, it actually turns out that there are only eight people on the trip today, half of which are returning to Darwin tonight on another coach, so tomorrow there will only be four of us. What a pleasant surprise, and being able to spread out in the bus does have its advantages.

The road out of Darwin is straight, with boring countryside alongside it; mainly palms and tree plantations. Although I love learning about trivia concerning the places we pass, I find Barry’s voice so droning and comforting that I give up the struggle to keep awake. I am beginning to feel travel weary, and thinking that perhaps we should have included a couple of rest days in between all these travel days. We haven’t had any relaxation since Easter Islands, which is nearly two weeks ago. The chest infection is making me feel very low and run down, and I have severe diarrhoea. It doesn’t help that this is the hottest season here in Darwin with relentless discomfort from the exceptionally high humidity. At present the temperature is well into the 40 °C’s with 86% humidity. Everything feels too much trouble today; I would sooner curl up and sleep than see the sights.

Today's lack of photographs is a direct result of me feeling so rubbish. Anything and everything is too much trouble! Including taking photos.

At the breakfast stop I drag myself out of the bus but feel enlivened by a delicious muffin. The restaurant is rustic in the extreme, with bench seats of logs and hides and lots of timber and tree trunks and other outback paraphernalia. I return to the coach to continue my slumber until we arrive at the Warridjan Cultural Centre. We find many similarities with the PNG culture in the Aborigine customs, such as pidgin style English, ancestral worship and the ‘pay back’ traditions. If a member of one clan has injured or killed a person from another clan, the wronged person’s family will insist on retribution in the form of money, gifts and sometimes violent reprisals.

At the centre we overhear two English girls discussing their forthcoming swim in the nearby Sandy Billabong. Barry is horrified and tells us about a German tourist on an Overland style truck who also went swimming in the billabong recently after being reassured by her guide that it was perfectly safe: ‘the aborigines have been swimming here for years’. Unfortunately she was grabbed by a crocodile and despite efforts to save her, she died from her injuries. This area is known for its killer crocs – I don’t think I would go swimming anywhere around here! I even heard a story about a crocodile that somehow found its way to the public pool in Jabirou, the only sizable town around here.

Barry has talked a lot about bush tucker, he even showed a video in the bus about it, and now is our chance to try some. The trees around the centre are crawling with ants, and these are particularly delicious ones. We pick up an ant, hold him by his little head and bite his bum off. Tasty. I never thought I’d be eating live ants on this trip! They taste of lime and the flavour lingers for a long time afterwards. Apparently the locals drop them in their gin and tonic for added zest.

For the Yellow Waters Wetlands Cruise there are only the eight of us so we can spread out on the boat.



With the moving vessel the flies are not quite as troublesome, although every time we slow down they are back with a vengeance. I’m glad I brought my head net along, but even that gets in the way when I want to take photographs or a sip of water.


There are hundreds of birds along the side of the river, mainly magpie geese. They are congregating awaiting migration north, hence the great numbers.



We also see eagles, ibis, darters, pelicans, storks as well as jacanas walking on the water lilies.







Crocodiles abound in this area and we do see several, mostly just with their eyes emerging above the water. I decide I want to photograph Miles with the ubiquitous croc in the background and perch him on the railing of the boat. He has had dozens of great photo opportunities on this trip, I’m sure the Bebbingtons will be pleased with his collection when we return. They wanted pictures to display in their shop and they’ve got plenty to choose from now. As I compose the picture, a gust of wind grabs Miles and tosses him overboard. I watch helplessly as he floats off down the river towards the crocodile. Reaching down and retrieving him is totally out of the question, the crocodile would have my arm before I had a chance to realise what was happening. I am totally devastated; Miles has been such a great travelling companion and a terrific ice-breaker in groups. How am I going to tell the Bebbingtons? The incident plays on my mind all the rest of the boat trip and I find I am not enjoying myself as much as I would otherwise have done. I feel so guilty for not looking after him properly. Was I careless? Would I have paid more attention if I had been feeling OK? I will never forgive myself for this lapse of concentration and its dire consequences. I have put a final ending to the whole concept of Miles’ world travels.



We lunch in Cooinda at another rustic visitors centre complete with a camp site. It’s very Australian. The salad buffet is first-rate, but my stomach certainly isn’t. I take a large mouthful of what I assume is hummous, but to my horror it turns out to be mustard. Yuk. I’m sure that does not help my tummy trouble one little bit. At least I can have a siesta in the coach after lunch, while the video shows a film about the making and playing of a didgeridoo. That’s enough to send anyone to sleep.

The temperature appears hotter than ever by the time we reach Nourlangie. It’s hot, damn hot! The flies also seem to be more aggressive and numerous, the head net is an absolute must here. Nourlangie is a sacred Aborigine site full of ancient rock paintings, and there is a pleasant little decked path along the side of the rock.



David and a couple of others decide to hike to the top of the rock for the view, but I decline the offer and amble back to the bus along the flat and easy trail. The paintings are under a cliff overhang and so protected from the elements. That partly describes how they have retained their colour and form for 46,000 years, the other explanation is that the stratum emits a chemical when it rains which acts as a varnish over the paint. The rock itself is very colourful with stripes of orange, white and black and it looms mysteriously from the surrounding plain.



The paintings depict skeletal human figures such as Namarrgon, the lightning man, as well as kangaroos and other animals. Under the board walk a wallaby with a joey are sheltering from the blazing sun. I don’t blame them; it really is unbelievably uncomfortably hot.


It’s a short drive to Jabirou and our hotel for the night, the Gagudju Crocodile Hotel. Reported to be the world’s only crocodile-shaped hotel, it looks better from the air in the post cards than it does from the ground.


David with a friend in the hotel lobby

It’s part of the Holiday Inn chain and although comfortable enough, is rather boring. Our room is by the croc’s rear right leg and from the room we have a good view of the hotel’s swimming pool which is situated in the ‘belly’ of the animal.


I feel so dreadfully unwell with terrible tummy cramps as well as the ongoing chest infection that I am unable to benefit from the hotel’s facilities. As soon as we have settled into the room, I just collapse in bed leaving David to watch Australian TV channels. I stay in bed, snoozing listlessly until the next morning.


Posted by Grete Howard 13:05 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Cairns (hot air ballooning) - Gove - Darwin

This is an old journal, from our trip around the world in 2002, taken from the diary I wrote at the time. Apologies for the poor quality photographs, they are scans of prints taken with a compact camera and images from the scrap book I made afterwards.

View Around the World for our Silver Wedding 2002 on Grete Howard's travel map.

I never sleep very well when I know I have to get up early; it’s the worry of oversleeping. We have a pick-up time of 04:25 this morning, but we do begin to think there has been some mix-up when nobody turns up by 04:45. We are just about to crawl back into bed when he finally arrives, apparently another couple didn’t wake up on time and he had to wait for them. Eventually he gave up, decided to call for us and then go back for the other couple. I’m afraid I would have just left them behind if they didn’t show up within half an hour of being called. It’s just as well I don’t run this outfit!


The journey to the launch site takes over an hour, and the balloons (there are five of them) are already inflated by the time we arrive. They are just waiting for us, and as soon as we climb on board the basket, they’re off.




The basket is the largest I’ve ever seen, and already looks completely full, but we do find some space and clamber in. There are 16 people in the basket including Sven, the pilot, a grumpy Yankee, a nice English couple and a chatty Japanese young lad.


Pilot Sven with Miles


Grumpy American to the left of me

From the balloon we spot a kangaroo running across the bush and many birds just waking up and taking off. We fly mainly across farmland, at heights of up to 1400 ft, and there isn’t a great deal to see below.




David is absolutely delighted to find that his video is in full working order again this morning.


It’s a nice sunny day, and all too soon we come in to land at a local airstrip. The basket drags for some distance before coming to a halt in the long dry grass. We all join in to deflate the balloon and pack it into its bag before continuing to the rest rooms for cleaning up. It’s surprising how dirty you get rolling up a balloon.


The breakfast is astounding, by far the best breakfast we’ve ever had following a balloon flight. With so many people to feed, it’s served in the Tjapukai Visitors’ Centre, and it’s a buffet: egg, crispy bacon, tomatoes, sausages, the best fried potatoes ever, every tropical fruit imaginable, bread, a selection of Japanese dishes, fruit juices and of course champagne. After the presentation of certificates, we head back into town.



One of the reasons we booked this particular apartment here in Cairns was to be able to wash all our clothes. Along the way, things have been rinsed out or sent to the laundry in the hotels, but now we have a chance to make sure everything is washed properly. We put a load in last night when we went to bed and again this morning before going out, and we still have more dirties to go in while we go shopping.

The receptionist gives us a lift to a huge shopping mall, not unlike Cribbs Causeway. She urges me to seek medical assistance for my cough, as she feels convinced I have bronchitis. The mall has a well-stocked chemist where I can get some cough mixture; I will try that first and reassess the situation when I get to Darwin. We are also able to stock up on Immodium, something that we both need at the moment. In the Post Office we find post cards, stamps and a cute little toy kangaroo in a sleeping bag. My mum collects soft toys so she’ll love the kangaroo; and the sleeping bag would fit Miles perfectly! None of the electronic shops in the mall have a cleaning tape for David’s video, so he’ll just have to carry on praying that it continues to work properly.

With such a magnificent apartment, we don’t feel we want to go out to eat lunch, so we buy a few ingredients in the supermarket for a light meal of pastrami rolls. After devouring the rolls, washing and ironing, we check out the Hotmail Account at a nearby Internet café, before catching up on much-needed sleep. The flight is late afternoon and we have paid extra to keep the apartment until departure time, so there is no need to rush and we enjoy the facilities of the complex.




At check in we sail straight through, we seem to have been lucky at all the airports so far. The flight to Darwin stops off at a small mining town called Gove. With a population of a mere 3000, it does appear to be the back of beyond – a real Australian Outback town. I am fading fast with the heat, my chest infection and the tummy upset and can’t wait to get to an air-conditioned hotel. We have to de-plane at Gove and the unpretentious airport ‘lounge’ doesn’t offer much comfort. I feel a trifle better after a sugary drink, and sleep for the remainder of the journey to Darwin, where a limousine whisks us the 15 minutes to the hotel. What a difference to last night’s arrival welcome in Cairns. The Mirambeena Resort has a 24-hour reception, a bar that’s open and people milling about. I like Darwin already!

Posted by Grete Howard 05:45 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Mount Hagen - Port Moresby - Cairns

This is an old journal, from our trip around the world in 2002, taken from the diary I wrote at the time. Apologies for the poor quality photographs, they are scans of prints taken with a compact camera and images from the scrap book I made afterwards.

View Around the World for our Silver Wedding 2002 on Grete Howard's travel map.

Despite the clamour of the jungle wildlife in the night, I slept like a log for over nine hours. I must have needed it. My cough is still bad this morning, and the view from our balcony is veiled in mist today.

After a fine breakfast of egg and bacon, Keith takes us back to town in his Toyota Landcruiser, where we meet the Trans Niugini reps in the Highlander Hotel. The hotel looks boring, modern and sterile compared to the delightful lodge where we were accommodated at last night. The Americans have stayed at the Highlander last night, and somehow their guide Sharon manages to get in front of us in the queue for check-in at the airport. The Americans are shielded from real life in another private room, away from the hustle and bustle of the departure lounge full of locals, while Sharon checks the whole group in. It takes forever.

Watching the airport activities is enormously mesmerizing. A helicopter carries cargo in a net hanging below, obviously dropping it off somewhere fairly close before returning for another two journeys. An outsized helicopter – Vladivostoc Air – arrives full of military personnel. Is there trouble brewing in the area? On three separate occasions since arriving in Mount Hagen, we have been asked about the security situation in Tari, being told we are brave for going there as the residents wouldn’t travel to that region at this time. Was it really that bad? Was it imprudent to visit Tari? Did we just not realise what was going on? Could we really be so callow not to detect unrest going on all around us? We’ll never know, but all is well that ends well, and the experience was amazing.

One of the passengers on this plane is a white missionary, being seen off by all his cronies. As soon as we start boarding, they all crowd around him to say their goodbyes, blocking the exit for all other passengers. Eventually we have to ask them to move; otherwise we might still be there! The flight is not full but there is an overwhelming smell of body odour on board. The whole cabin is stifling with such a repulsive stink it makes the entire flight quite unbearable. I try not to breathe through my nose but still feel rather nauseous by the time we get to Port Moresby.

Steven and Howard are waiting for us, with some very sad news. While we were away in Tari, Steven’s son was eaten by a crocodile whilst swimming. He died on Wednesday but his body was not found until Friday and they buried him on Saturday. The saddest thing was that Steven was not allowed to travel to his home town to attend the funeral of his only son as the agency is too busy with tourists. We feel especially upset by the news as we both talked to his son on the telephone while trying to contact Steven.

After a lunch at the Gateway Motel consisting of a rather good pizza, we are taken on a sightseeing tour of Port Moresby. First stop is the commercial break: PNG Arts, an enormous craft ‘supermarket’ full of mostly wood carvings.




I had especially requested that we call in this place as the only souvenir I want from this trip is a carved mask from Papua New Guinea. I have already purchased one fairly crude mask in Mount Hagen, but on closer inspection I found several bore holes, indicating an infestation. This means that the customs officials in Australia will undoubtedly confiscate it!


Therefore, I chose a mask in PNG Arts which I can have shipped home at a reasonable cost, bypassing the Australian customs completely.


Our mask collection

David’s video is playing up, it seems to have developed a ‘damp’ problem after all the rain in the last few days. It chews up the tape and we go back to the hotel to collect another. The new tape does not appear to improve or solve the problem, so now David’s camera is not working at all. Although it is not a total disaster at this late stage – all the main highlights have already taken place; it would be very disappointing indeed to miss out on filming the last couple of weeks of the trip. There is not much we can do at this stage though.

Most of the sightseeing here in Port Moresby is the ‘drive by’ variety as we are somewhat short of time. First we drive by the Parliament building which is really spectacular with unusually modern architecture.

We make time for a short walking tour of the National Museum. I read an article on the Internet before leaving home that the museum does not have enough cash to remain open for much longer unless it can get enough donations to pay for the electricity and rent. It would be such a shame as it is very well laid out, not too big and pretty interesting. All the local tribes are represented with their culture, dress and a short photographic history.


In the centre courtyard is a collection of birds and animals, including hornbills, a tree kangaroo and a cassowary.

Tree kangaroo

Blyth's Hornhill

We also rush through the Botanical Gardens, mainly to see the animals in cages there. Pythons, rabbits, tree kangaroos, birds of paradise and cassowaries are all there. The orchids are regrettably not in bloom.


We continue our ‘drive by’ with a journey past the dump (is this where we have the first date?) and some grimy and dusty slum areas to reach the water’s edge. Many people live in rickety wooden shacks on stilts over the water, reached by wooden walkways from the shore. This whole area was burned down during the Second World War and has since been rebuilt to the same dilapidated standard. Offshore is the wrecked hull of a ship.


Port Moresby city centre is full of modern high rise buildings and you really could be anywhere in the world, apart from the fact that we saw no other white faces at all. It’s not a big city, and it can all be seen from a look-out point on a hill. On one side of the promontory is Port Moresby and on the other a beautiful and deserted beach. On the rocks we find a WWII bunker and former arsenal store.

We follow the shoreline down to the beach and back to the airport for check in. Howard leaves us in the departure hall, the check in is open, but nothing else – I can’t even buy a bottle of water. Eventually they open up the Duty Free shop, which is where you purchase your Departure Tax from, but they don’t sell water or any other soft drinks. So many people enquire about water that in the end they send a man over to the kiosk to open up.

As suspected, there is a long queue for quarantine on arrival in Cairns. Most people have something to declare and when it is my turn I show them the mask. The official asks us how long we are staying in Australia and when we tell him five days, he comments on the bore holes but lets us, and the mask, through. He suggests we place the mask in the freezer for two weeks when we get home to kill any insects present. I am very surprised, but also pleased of course, that he lets the mask into the country. I will now have two masks – providing the carving we had shipped actually arrives in the UK.

The transfer driver is waiting outside arrivals, by now he is getting concerned that we are not on the plane.

The Regency Palms Apartments look awfully unwelcoming, albeit that we are arriving nearer midnight. There is no reception as such as we have to telephone the night porter to get her to open up for us. The apartment itself makes up for any bad feeling on arrival – it’s absolutely fabulous! The kitchen is every bit as well equipped as mine at home: washing machine, tumble drier, iron, ironing board, dish washer, oven, hob, fridge, freezer, microwave and lots of pots, pans and crockery.


The lounge / diner / kitchen are all open plan in an L-shape with a lovely little balcony overlooking the swimming pool. Two bedrooms and a bathroom complete the layout of the apartment – I’m sure there are flats in London half this size.



It’s a great shame we are not staying longer! We feel we have to make the most of such fine facilities, so we walk to the garage shop to stock up on snacks and mixers, and have a drink before going to bed.

Posted by Grete Howard 04:12 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Tari - Mount Hagen

This is an old journal, from our trip around the world in 2002, taken from the diary I wrote at the time. Apologies for the poor quality photographs, they are scans of prints taken with a compact camera and images from the scrap book I made afterwards.

View Around the World for our Silver Wedding 2002 on Grete Howard's travel map.

I feel pretty rough when I wake up this morning, I’m glad we are moving on today, as hiking would have been totally out of the question. We are travelling in one of the mini-buses with the Americans’ luggage to the airport this morning. The Americans themselves are following later in another bus. That suits us fine. We were initially booked on an Airlink flight later on this morning, but there has been some sort of mix-up, so Bob, the owner of Trans Niugini, is flying in with his little Baron six-seater aircraft to take us to Mount Hagen.


Getting to the airport is proving a little ominous though. During clan disturbances in the night, a bridge was burned on the main road, so we have to take a diversion through the outlying villages and some rather narrow, rudimentary tracks. Again we pick up a few police constables for protection during our journey. David and I are both enjoying the change of scenery and a different route, and view the whole thing as an adventure, but Peter is once more fearful for our safety. Obviously we are far too naïve to realise the dangers we are in.

At the airport, Peter is concerned when we meander around chatting to the locals, and makes us enter the locked and barbed wire protected airstrip enclosure until the plane arrives.



The departure 'lounge'

Getting into the plane alone is quite an escapade, we have to climb on top of the wing and crawl through a small door. David sits in the front with the video and the pilot while Miles and I have a seat each in the back. There is plenty of room with just the three of us.



The flight is stunning. In Papua New Guinea all flying is done on a visual basis, in other words: if you can’t see the top of the mountains, you can’t fly over them. For that reason we fly just above the tree line and around the mountains whose tops are shrouded in cloud. It’s a very exciting flight. Just below us are swathes of virgin rain forest with undulating hills, dramatic cliffs and breathtaking waterfalls. At times the flight is bumpy, but always spectacular and very thrilling.




After about half an hour, we land at the much more modern strip at Mount Hagen. It’s almost a shock to get back to civilisation, I feel a little disenchanted and almost deprived to have been taken away from the primitiveness of the culture and the sizeable, undeveloped expanse of nature we have just come from. Mount Hagen is by no means an urban jungle, but they have all the modern comforts such as telephones, electricity, shops, roads and traffic.


We are met by Mike who is taking us to Haus Poroman Office. We are confused – what is Haus Poroman and why are we going to their office? We are staying at the Highlander Hotel, which I believe is just a hop-and-a-skip from the airport. Has there been a change of plan? Nobody seems to know what is going on, but as far as they have been told, we are to be taken to the Haus Poroman Office and that’s what they will do. We just go with the flow, I’m sure we will find out what’s going on sooner or later. From the office we change vehicles to a Land Rover and head out of town. The roads are more as we know them from Tari, and one stretch is partly blocked by a land slide. Where are we going? This chap doesn’t seem to know any more than the others, he’s just been told to collect us. It appears we are staying at the Haus Poroman Lodge tonight rather than the Highlander Hotel, and when we arrive at the lodge we are absolutely delighted. What a super place.


The main cottage houses the dining room, lounge, bar, gift shop and reception (all one room with an enormous fireplace in the middle) and the guest rooms are scattered around the rolling grounds of the hotel. Each room is a thatched, woven reed cottage on stilts with wonderful views of the valley. Every one has a little balcony and they are all set in beautiful flower-filled gardens with the most enormous trumpet-flowers I have ever seen. Lizards abound in the grounds and the room, so David is in his element.


We enjoy a beer before ordering lunch from the menu (all the food is included). The dining table is a large slab of wood, very uneven and at an angle, but incredibly rustic and romantic. The stools are chunky logs, fun but not very comfortable. David chooses a toasted sandwich with chips while I have an omelette.



We decide to opt out of the afternoon walk planned for us, as I am suffering badly with my chest infection. It turns out to be a smart decision, not just because of my coughing fits, but David has a dreadful stomach upset and the weather turns to torrential rain later. We lounge on the bed listening to the magnificent peals of thunder, praising ourselves lucky that we are not half-way down some muddy slope at this moment in time.

We are both well enough to join the other guests for dinner. The other guests turn out to be one lone chap called Richard, a hospital worker from Australia in PNG on business. He is very odd, but fortunately he disappears straight after dinner. The food is very good indeed: more pumpkin soup, followed by Barramundi. Although I am not a great fish lover, I enjoy it very much. Dessert is fresh fruit salad and ice cream. As always when we go away, we are breaking many of the ‘rules’ set by the British Health Authority for travellers: Do not eat fruit you cannot peel, ice cream, ice in your drink, water from the tap etc… I live to regret it later, of course, spending most of the night running between the bed and the toilet. The night air is full of authentic jungle commotion: frogs clicking, cicadas screaming and other, bizarre and unrecognisable noises. What a wonderful place!

Posted by Grete Howard 05:20 Archived in Papua New Guinea Comments (0)