A hot and humid morning, in the distance the mist-filled valleys of the mountain range ahead of us. Over on our port bow lies Madang, with the prominent ‘Coastwatchers’ memorial lighthouse on the headland. On our starboard bow, palm fringed jungle and islands. (The Coastwatchers memorial is for those people who stayed behind enemy (Japanese) lines and reported on shipping and aircraft movements to the Allies. The majority were Australian, however some were native New Guinea’s. If discovered, they were executed).
A tanker is on our berth and as a consequence we time our arrival off the narrow entrance to the harbour just as it clears, we have a straight run in. Through the narrow neck and into a small bay, where we have to turn through 90⁰ before running astern onto the short berth; our straight hull is on the pier, however approximately 60 metres of our hull and bow are not.
There are large crowds watching us come in, apparently cruise ships are few and far between. Madang used to be called ‘the prettiest town in the south Pacific’, she now looks jaded and forlorn, pitted roads and litter-strewn streets; it is somewhere where one becomes a ‘traveller’ rather than a ‘tourist’. Perched on a peninsula as she is, surrounded by picturesque islands and sprinkled with parks, ponds and water-lily-filled waterways – her appeal seems to have faded.
That having been said, our intrepid band of ‘travellers’ were off the gangway to explore at the first opportunity, some by boat, most by foot. Not before they filmed or photographed a local group of dancers, resplendent in clothing that, according to our pilot, was meant to imitate the bird of paradise. Much banging of drums and chanting accompanied their rhythmic oscillations. Yes, as you will see from the photo, the ladies were topless and apparently this is regarded as quite normal here in PNG. (They were the only ones I saw during my photo-walk though).
The local populace were quite friendly, many wishing me a ‘good morning’ or ‘hello’ as I did my 45-minute reconnoitre. They were only too pleased to allow a photo, (I always ask first).
The main streets, of which there are around 4, seemed to be composed of supermarkets or large stores. People from the outlying islands come in to shop and take their goods back, either by ferry, (small boats with outboard motors), or the ubiquitous ‘bus’, (lorry).
Whilst 99.99% were friendly, one was not and one of my officers, riding one of our ship’s bicycles out of town and further afield, was accosted by a local who tried to steal the bike. He was thwarted by some gentlemen who were passing in a car and came to the officer’s aid, but not before he suffered injuries which resulted in him being off duty for a while.
Passing the locals, selling their souvenirs in the comfort of shade from a nearby shed, I have to confess that it was heaven to return to the ship and her air-conditioning, the heat and humidity were stifling.
By 4:30 all our guests were back on board and with immigration clearance, we pulled out of Madang and are now sailing across the Bismarck Sea towards the island of Yap, which lies 1,000 miles away from us. 2 days at sea before we reach there on the 24th, (which for most of you will be the 23rd).