Robin's Adventures

Tales of the South Pacific
A Tropical Island Adventure

Snorkling Adventures

After touring the island, we did a little snorkeling off one of the island's beaches. It had started to rain, but we were getting wet anyway and both the ocean water and the rain were comparatively warm.

The water was a little turbid, but we were still able to see some incredible coral, some colorful fish, and a Chromodoris geometrica nudibranch that was black with almost iridescent blue spots.

Underwater views

There were many different varieties of coral evident on our dive, including the colorful mushroom coral and the leafy cabbage coral.

In addition, we saw a fish, beautifully camouflaged with the sandy ocean floor, who was sitting very still with his mouth open while he waited for a tasty snack to come by.

Welcome to Port Moresby

Port Moresby, which is the capital city, is also the largest city in Papua New Guinea.

When we arrived, we were met by the local welcoming committee dressed in traditional native garb.

One noteworthy building is the parliament house. The building, which was officially opened by Prince Charles in 1984, is built in the style of a traditional ancestral worship house and decorated with traditional carvings and artwork of the people of Papua New Guinea.

Heading to Varirata National Park

Warnings had been given about issues with crime in Port Moresby, but you know it has to be a big problem when our tour bus had an armed police escort as we went to Varirata National Park.

A little internet research revealed an article in The Guardian which placed Port Moresby, officially called "the worst place to live," 130th on a list of 130 world capitals and described the nature and frequency of violent crime there in frightening detail.

We drove out of the city, along the windy mountain Sogeri Road which offered wonderful views of the valley below us, past mountains streams, and into a beautifully wooded forest complete with hiking trails.

Even in this breathtaking wilderness area, the armed escort from the police department joined us on our hike to ensure our safety.

Varirata's Terrific Trees

Although the hiking trail was wet and, in some places, very slippery and muddy, there were lots of interesting things to see as we trekked.

One interesting tree was the ceiba tree or Ceiba pentandra which had very thorny bark.

We also noticed that many trees had buttress roots, large roots that grow at the ground surface that not only help prop up the large tree, but also aid in the absorption of nutrients from the poor rain forest soil.

Another root variation was seen in the pandus tree, which had numerous aerial prop roots that look like horizontal branches that anchor into the ground and help support the tree.

Epiphytes, or small plants that were anchored onto the trunks or branches of trees were also all around us in the forest. These plants do not take water or nutrients from their hosts, but rather use them simply as a platform so they can grow above ground level and hopefully get more sunlight in shady forest areas.

Tiny Wonders

A closer look at the bounty of the forest revealed many tiny wonders on our trek. The black and white Yellow-eyed Planes butterfly or Neptis prasilini was perfectly adapted to hide in a forest with dark shadows and bright beams of sunlight streaking through the forest canopy, while the eye spots on the back of the Splendeuptychia butterfly provide a helpful adaptation to frighten off predators.

There were quite a few rather large and elaborate spider webs along the way, but the spiders, not wishing to pose for photos, were rather elusive.

The beauty and diversity of the fungus was amazing. We saw some beautiful Mycena cyanorrhiza or bonnet mushrooms growing in the leaf litter on the forest floor. In addition there were some great colonies of bracket fungi attached to various tree trunks.

Mountain Stream

Mountain streams meandered back and forth near our hiking trail. They were smooth and reflective along the top surface, but very cloudy and milky below which gave them an eerie whitish glow. Some of the locals like to hang out near the water and we saw children in some places cooling off by taking a swim.

The Tree House that Wasn't...

The Korowai people of Papua New Guinea, who lived in total isolation until the 1970s, are noteworthy for two reasons. First, they are one of the last tribes in the world who actively practiced cannibalism. Secondly, they built and lived in huge homes in the tops of trees, often more than 100 feet above ground.

The huge homes, built in the trees to provide protection from mosquitoes and evil spirits, both of whom dwell closer to the ground, are large enough to provide shelter for entire family groups along with their domesticated animals. As a result, the homes are quite large and sturdy in their construction.

With this background information in mind, we took a hike up a really steep hill on a very slippery muddy trail in order to see a Korowai tree house. Unfortunately, the sign that told us the house was under renovation understated the situation considerably. In fact, all that remained of the tree house were a couple of stray logs way up high in the canopy of a tree. All that I can honestly say about the tree house was that it was in a very beautiful neighborhood...

Local Housing in Port Moresby

While there are some modern looking buildings in the downtown area, a short drive away there are small villages and shantytowns as well as rundown stilt villages built over the water. Some homes still have no running water or electricity. The housing conditions are less than favorable for many people living in Port Moresby.

Local Commerce

Most of the local commerce seemed to take place in small open air markets where people had items for sale spread out on blankets or on small tables under colorful umbrellas.