By MALUM NALU
WEWAK from the air looks absolutely stunning that it absolutely takes your breath away.
Never mind that there may be problems on the ground, but the East Sepik capital is one of the most-beautiful places in the country, as far as natural scenery is concerned.
I grew up on Wewak Hill as a toddler in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when my dad was school inspector of East Sepik, and have fading memories of a wonderful town and people.
In those halcyon colonial days, Wewak, just like all other towns in Papua New Guinea, was very much like any town in Australia.
Sadly, after independence on Sept 16, 1975, Wewak and all other towns in PNG fell apart.
I feel an affinity for Wewak, and every time I go back there, I feel very much at home.
Last month, while in Wewak with a World Bank team to visit agriculture projects in East Sepik, coffee project manager Potaisa Hombunaka – himself a local East Sepik man from Yangoru – took me for a drive around town.
A strong supporter of tourism, despite being an agriculture professional, he took me to several sites around Wewak.
“We must show the world the positive side of PNG,” Hombunaka says as he drives me around Wewak.
The first place we visited was Cape Wom Memorial Park, located on the precise spot where the Japanese Lieutenant-General Adachi (18th Army) signed the official surrender and handed his Samurai sword to Australian Major-General Robertson (Australian 6th Division) on Sept 13, 1945.
A serene and tranquil place to remind us of the horrors of war.
Just next to the memorial is Wom Beach, yet another jewel in PNG, one of the best beaches in the country.
Meni and Moem are other excellent beaches in Wewak.
Hombunaka drove me around town, proving to me, yet again, that our country is indeed blessed.
We climbed Wewak Hill, taking in the Sunday afternoon, with panoramic views of Mushu and Kairuru islands.
The sunset that evening, as seen from Wewak Hill, was magical and turned the surrounding skies into pure gold.
Sunrise the next morning was also pure gold.
As PNG celebrates 44 years of Independence, it is worth remembering that we have one of the most beautiful countries in the world, as epitomised by Wewak.
The challenge is to turn that into tourism dollars.