By THOMAS HUKAHU
EVERYONE likes to promote their hometown or home province when people want to compare the beauty of one locality to another.
Is that a good way of evaluating how your local town or home province is?
Generally speaking, we are biased when we try to compare our own locality with another.
We usually assume that where we are is the best place for anyone.
A better and more reliable evaluation of your locality is for a visitor, and possibly a foreign tourist, commenting on the beauty of your town or province.
The subject of this article actually came from a comment by a non-citizen who was amazed by the beauty of one of our provinces in the country.
Along the Boluminksi Highway
The comment uttered was made about New Ireland – and particularly of the places you would pass as you travel along the main highway that connects the northern district with the south.
The Boluminksi Highway in New Ireland is the longest single highway in our nation. It starts from the provincial capital of Kavieng, which is also the name of the district up north, on the mainland.
It continues down the eastern coast to Namatanai, the other district in the south.
The road is 193km long and was named after Franz Boluminski, who was the German district officer from 1910 until World War I.
History informs us that New Ireland and other islands in this part of the Pacific, as in Solomon Islands, Nauru and others, were then protectorates of the German administration until after World War I.
The ride in March
Since arriving in Kavieng in early 2017, I have not had the opportunity to travel down to Namatanai until last month.
On March 21, I was fortunate to have accompanied a group of teachers to a meeting in Namatanai.
The trip started at about 5.30am in Kavieng and we returned home at 7.30pm.
Our Australian colleague picked me up from where I lived at about 5am. We then drove to another section of the town to pick up our driver, local man Malas Thomas.
With Thomas behind the wheels, we then picked up a third teacher outside a main shopping centre at about 5.40am and we rode out of Kavieng.
Dawn met us about 30 minutes later as we rode past local villages like Kaplaman and Putput.
It was a beautiful morning with no showers and we continued on to reach Lemakot at 6.13am.
By then it was clear and for the rest of the trip the road ran intermittently by the open sea and you could look out to see the rising sun casting its bright rays on the azure still ocean to the east.
We passed by Konos at 7.13am, the station which is like the midway point between Kavieng and Namatanai.
From near Konos, a traveller on the highway can sight the Tabar Group of islands to the east, about 40km off the mainland.
The group’s main islands include Tabar to the south, Tatau and then Simberi to the north.
As we passed Lemakot, I sensed the air was getting cooler and I deduced that it was because of the cool air from the inter-island ranges that were higher in this part of the mainland than up north in Kavieng, where it was more-or-less flat all around.
The main ranges of mountains continued down to Namatanai and the cool air would be felt as one travelled along that stretch of the highway.
Those awesome views
As we were going past Konos and approaching other villages along the way and looking out to the peaceful turquoise waters of the ocean, our Australian colleague continued saying that the views along the highway, towards the sea, were awesome.
In fact, the phrase she used was “these were million-dollar views”.
I am of the view that she meant that people in other parts of the world, as in Australia, would have loved to ride past such breathtaking oceanic views in these parts with the numerous mountain streams passing into the sea to the east.
As I pondered over the expatriate’s comments, and meeting different people over the two years spent here, I thought that people from different parts of the world come here to New Ireland for many reasons.
Some come here to enjoy the surf, while others want a taste of the tropical islands in the sun, as on many islands in Kavieng.
I am of the view that some people from other countries could come to this part of our country for a good ride down the coast – as from Kavieng to Namatanai.
They can enjoy the million-dollar views, talk to locals, buy souvenirs and enjoy the relaxed atmosphere in this province.
Interestingly, in our ride down the highway and just before we reached Pam, we saw a pod of dolphins enjoying the cool morning waters about 200m off the shore, jumping and splashing playfully.
That reminded me of something – and I mentioned that to my colleagues.
When I was in primary school back in the late 1970s, we often ran up a steep ridge on my mother’s island in East Sepik, to get to the primary school every morning.
The school was perched on one of the highest points on the island, and which overlooked the ocean and the fringing reef system of the isle.
On certain days, we would see a pod of dolphins playing a little off the reef.
We would see the older dolphins and younger ones jumping and splashing, as in having a game.
We were then told by our cousins that the swimming mammals often came to do that to show us, their human brothers and sisters, some new members of the family, if a few new ones were born recently.
The sighting of the dolphins on that morning in March did indeed add an extra flavour to the experience of riding along the highway and taking in the spectacular views.
At about 10am, we drove down into Namatanai, the town in the south.
As you are travelling to it, you would be running along a ridge, and the township itself is down on the coast.
My impression, as I mentioned to my colleagues, was as if I was entering another country.
The view from the ridge and looking down to the town is awesome too.
If you look out to the sea, you can also see the Lihir Group of islands.
Namatanai is much smaller than Kavieng with fewer shops but I was told that items sold in shops there are much cheaper because it is closer to Rabaul where the whole of New Ireland gets most of its goods.
As we were about to return to Kavieng, we stopped by a roadside market and I bought some bananas and a huge pineapple, the latter costing only K3 which I knew would be sold for K8 in Kavieng.
For one thing it seems, garden foods would cost less there in Namatanai than in Kavieng because the ranges were higher and the soil was also richer.
Our trip back
The return journey from Namatanai started at 3.40pm, after our meeting.
It was equally enjoyable and we stopped by Kolonoboi, where I took a few shots of the beautiful ocean view and surf. (It was my million-dollar shot!)
It was there too that we saw a group of schoolchildren travelling along the road. Some were walking and a few were riding on bicycles.
They all seemed happy when I asked if they were returning home from school. Their shy smiles were no different from other students in our many rural settings where life is very simple and laid-back.
Our trip back had us passing Konos at 5.30pm and by the time we reached Mongop at 6.16pm, it was getting dark.
We arrived in Kavieng at 7.30pm.
That was a memorable day for me.
Other memorable trips
When I thought about the ride along Boluminski Highway, I recalled other rides or trips I have enjoyed in past years in our beautiful country.
That included travelling along the Highlands Highway.
A number of rides from Goroka, in Eastern Highlands, to Kainantu, and then passing Kainantu and continuing past Yonki to get to Watarais in Morobe should be awesome for any visitor.
The views along that stretch of the Highlands is unique in its own way, where a travellers can observe the high-altitude vegetation, introduced pine trees and breathing in the cold air as well as at times passing stretches of grassy hills.
Such rides would certainly be memorable.
Riding along the West Coast of East Sepik, as towards Aitape in West Sepik, too would be memorable as well as travelling along Magi Highway to Kwikila in Central.
Boat trips too, as along the Sepik River and up the Yuat River in East Sepik, could be another enjoyable experience for anyone, foreign tourists or citizens who want to explore our beautiful backyard.
Those should allow you to enjoy other million-dollar views in our country.
They are places full of wonderful and unique environments and wildlife and should cause you to appreciate our country more.
- Next week: Welcoming your visitors. Thomas Hukahu is a freelance writer.