Visiting Kaibola was definitely part of my plans for Kiriwina island, also known as Love Island, and when I meet a fellow traveller on the Dash-8 from Port Moresby to the airstrip, he turns out to have the same plan and we decide to go together. We are told that a cruise ship is coming in to Kaibola the next day, which would give us the opportunity to see many of the things that Kiriwina is famous for. We both have doubts, but the owner of the hotel offers us a ride (it has turned out difficult to arrange bikes), so off we go the next morning under a steady drizzle. When we spot the first dim-dim, we know he must be the fastest walker of the cruise ship. Indeed, soon thereafter, we see more groups of white people with IDs around their necks, and we park the car. Here I am, in a remote village on a remote island, but seeing more foreigners than I have seen since I arrived in Papua New Guinea. The rain continues, and it soon turns out that most of the performances are cancelled. What remains, is local girls dressed up in traditional clothes, lining up behind a bucket in which anyone who wants to take a pictures needs to leave a donation. The main street is lined with locals selling souvenirs. There is a steady flow of small boats ferrying passengers from the big ship to shore - we are told there are some 2,000 passengers on the cruise ship. The owner of our simple beach guesthouse finds excuses to take us to one of the caves in the vicinity where we could have escaped the crowd, so we walk out of town.
When the ship finally leaves, we are continuously approached by people wanting to change Australian Dollars for local Kina, and it turns out many people have given foreign currency to the poor locals who now have almost worthless money in their hands. The owner of our guesthouse takes us for a boatride off the coast, and we see limestone cliffs coming out of the transparent blue waters, and caves inside. We also see a pod of dolphins, and when we are back to shore, we walk the beach past an islet. The clouds lift, and a surprisingly beautiful sunset sets the sky on fire. The next day, my newfound friend already has to leave, and I stay behind, walking the beach, watching the pod of dolphins cruising the sea just off the beach, and men with nets, running and shouting after fish in the shallow waters. I had planned to visit the cave, take a PMV back to the Station, as Losuia, the only town on the island is called, but the owner of the guesthouse who is supposed to take me, is gone, and there is no PMV in sight either. I decide to walk south, and soon enough, a woman in a hut sends a young girl to me, who guides me to a local yam field.
The yam harvest is a big event on the island of Kiriwina, and for a while, I watch the men, boys and girls dig into the earth, finding the yam with their hands, putting them on a pile. It is lunchtime, and I am given a roasted yam and a coconut - delicious! Then, it is time to take the yams a little higher up, where they need to be cleaned. I now take one of the small wooden "knives", and help clean the yam, which the locals seem to find hilarious. I have now given up on the cave and going back to Station, and the fact that I am helping with the yam harvest makes up for all of it. Then, unexpectedly, someone shows up who can take me to the cave. The girl and her father join me: even though they have lived here all their lives, they have never seen the cave. The walk takes us through beautiful fields, and it starts raining just as we squeeze ourselves through the narrow hole in the ground. I fortunately have a torch on me, so we can walk the entire cave. At several places, there are human bones and skulls, and water dripping from the ceiling. When we come out, it is raining hard, and we walk back to the yam field. That night, heavy rain pummels the thin iron roof making it hard to sleep. The next morning, instead of waiting for a PMV, I decide to walk south. A fantastic walk, passing small villages where kids run out of schools just to greet me, until I reach a village with a particularly beautiful painted yam house. From here, finding a PMV turns out to be much easier.
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Kaibola (). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Kaibola.
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