We all began at the Port Moresby airport, but we divide in to three groups to adventure forth in PNG. The Sepik River group experienced no less than five modes of transportation to reach our riverfront jungle lodge. We began with a commercial flight to Mt Hagan in the middle of the country (flight announcement: “regulations prohibit smoking or the chewing of beetle nut on this aircraft”!), then took three separate single engine planes, flying low along the river valley, to land at a small grass airstrip along the Karawari river.
The young welcoming committee was ever curious and wearing ear to ear smiles, and very little else.
From there a jungle walk to the riverbank where we boarded “jet boats” (barges, really) for a 20″ ride up river to our lodge landing. From there we transferred to two open top, vintage Toyota Land Cruisers, for our ride up to the Karawari Lodge. Hot, muggy, buggy, and excellent.
After lunch we retrace our path to the river and boat to a local village for a demonstration of sago palm harvesting and “flour” creating. The fresh sago pancakes are decent (“better with peanut butter”, says our guide, jokingly), and the photo opportunities spectacular. Then back to our lodge, for a freshen up, and terrific dinner, and then a cozy evening under the mosquito netting, with flashes of lightening in the distance, and the quiet roar of the rain forest all around us.
Today was a long travel day – glimmers of sunshine lit up the blue and white of the island water, and we headed, with our wheelies, to the airport. We enjoyed the comfort of our jet en route to Papua New Guinea, stopping briefly to refuel in the Samoan Islands. After a smooth landing in Port Moresby, we explored variously the local museum and the art shop prior to arriving at our beautiful Airways hotel. Right at the airport, with (slow) wi fi, a surprisingly good restaurant, lovely rooms, and a breakfast restaurant complete with its own airplane. Really.
What I will remember forever about Papeete, Tahiti is “The Pool of Perfection”. That is my term for perfect peace when body and psyche are immersed in a wide awake but deeply relaxed and satisfied state of being. I strive for it in meditation and savor it in post-coital cuddling and nature focus. At the the Intercontinental Hotel in Papeete, my metaphor for perfect bliss was a literal place.
The pool of fresh water beneath our room was a lagoon finished with large black lava rocks along the die perimeters and a white sand beach from which to enter. On the horizon, the illusion created by the infinity pool beckoned me to swim into the ocean.
For one not a secure enough swimmer for the ocean, this lagoon eliminated all my fear. The soft sand beneath my feet as I waded in, and the lack of surf to dodge, allowed me to ease in the warm crystal clear water and gaze at the heavens.
Each morning as the sun rose to reveal turquoise waters, my husband and I again slid into the seduction of the lagoon water that matched the perfect air temperature. I paddled around in the dawn light and surrendered to the real life Pool of Perfection.
After a lovely, fruit filled, Tahitian breakfast we enjoyed a morning of exploration, shuttling between the Museum of Tahiti, the Papeete Market, the Marea Temple area, and of course, the Pearl Museum (of course, complete with pearl shopping opportunities). Alternatively many enjoyed a simple day of beauty and relaxation serenaded by many of the local birds (thanks, Alice G!) including the noisy ‘Oio, ‘oa, teeter and the beautiful Vini. The schedule picked back up at 4pm for a fascinating lecture by Professor Scott Pearson on the adventurous life of Captain James Cook and his wildly successful first two circumnavigations of the globe. The third one had a less than happy ending. Then on to an evening of cocktails, dinner, and entertainment. And entertainment it was! The pounding of the drums penetrated as deep as the sudden dramatic glares from the male polynesian dancers. These lads could go nose to nose with the front line of the Stanford football team! Enormous, rock solid, tattooed and glistening with perspiration – a formidable sight. The feather festooned women encouraged our women to dance, and later our men as well, and for a few drum pounding minutes, we all became honorary Polynesians.
Honorary Polynesians, Ruth Ann and Tom Hornaday
In true Travel Study style, our bus takes us right to the front door of our jet, on the tarmac, at SJ International Airport. A long day on board flying west, through the international date line (twice!), across the equator, to lovely (and wet) Tahiti. En route a lecture titled “how I won the cold war” by our faculty member, Professor Tom Simons, along with caviar and canapes, and ample time to mill around the aisles getting to know our new travel mates. Cocktails and live music greet us at the Intercontinental Hotel in Papeete. We’re off to a terrific start.
Our (very popular) warrior bell boy.
Music and ‘pupus’ welcome us.
And not to overlook the cool Tahitian beer on this warm evening.
A panoramic view of our Explorer Jet that we will call home for the next three weeks.
We’re off! After a lovely Four Seasons dinner reception and welcome by Travel Study director Brett Thompson and trip leader Eszter Foldvary, we retire to our rooms, pack our “wheelie bags”, and get ready for our grand Jet Trip adventure. First stop, Tahiti. Bon Voyage!
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Trip physician Dr. Eric L. Weiss greets our lead Captain.
Somewhere over the Pacific… heading west for the next three weeks!