Stars visiting PNG to experience something different

Normal, Weekender

Polish supermodel Malgosia Bela who recently visited PNG says the country has a lot to offer and is definitely different from Fiji and other destinations, writes COLIN TAIMBARI

ONCE in a while the rich and famous come to our shores for a quiet break from all their busy schedules in search of that adventure off the beaten track and to mingle with real people and face the real world outside of their palaces made of polished bricks and timber or of shining steel and glasses.
For many, it is also a reality check. A way of reconnecting with reality, opportunity to enjoy some peace and quiet away from the ever persistent and menacing in-your-face sort of glare of the paparazzi that hound their every move.
There are also those who are curious and mystified to find out more about our primitive traditional cultures, customs or our simple way of life. Indeed, many are mesmerized by the rich and diverse beauty of Papua New Guinea and are too often humbled and rewarded by our people’s simplicity and generosity and that powerful Melanesian smile. 
Whether they be sports stars, leaders of giant global conglomerates, top military brass or movie stars from Hollywood – they just seem to find Papua New Guinea a perfect adventure getaway. And more often than not, they would prefer their trip to be as low key as possible and away from any media spotlight (not that our local media commands the same sort of attention as those of the developed world).
In the past for instance, it was rumoured that Commander of the United States Navy in South Pacific would often slip into the country quietly for his favourite pastime of diving. In the last four years or so, apart from the many sports heroes from Australia like Lote Tuqiri visiting on a fishing holiday last year, we’ve also seen stars like Matthew McConaughey and Sean Lenon visit as well.
McConaughey is a favourite actor of mine from the 2005 action movie Sahara and he is about to release another great movie titled Southbound – a thriller currently in preproduction about a boarder patrol officer who finds himself caught in a middle of a war between a Mexican crime family and the U.S. immigration police when he comes into contact with a beautiful Mexican woman.
McConaughey visited pristine Kavieng for some fishing, surfing and just relaxing in the turquoise blue waters. Sean, son of the most loved Beatle John Lenon and Yoko Ono and half-brother to Julian visited Ambua in Tari and parts of Sepik. Both visits were very low key and we were informed by the tour operator that the client has requested that his privacy be respected on his holiday.
However, one star that agreed to speak with me was super model Malgosia Bela – a Polish fashion model and actress who now lives in New York and struts her stuff on catwalks around the globe. She slipped quietly into Papua New Guinea like any ordinary tourist two years ago and was about to exit after almost two weeks in the country when we chanced upon her at the Ela Beach Hotel for a chat.
From the outset, one would not have taken her for a super model as she wore slippers, shorts and a simple plain top with a PNG bilum (local string bag) strung over her right shoulder and she still looked fresh and energetic even after climbing Mount Wilhelm – the highest peak in PNG at 4509 meters.
The climb was special as she celebrated her birthday at the lakes. She also snorkeled, went swimming and went cruising in the harbour on a catamaran in Madang. She also went cycling in a bicycle in beautiful New Ireland. So why Papua New Guinea?
“A sense of adventure, I guess,” she replied with a perfect smile. She said growing up in Poland, she heard about this far away exotic land in the Pacific and later when in university she learnt about the acclaimed Polish anthropologist Bronislaw Maniloskwi’s famous work in the Trobriand Islands which he named the Islands of Love.
So she decided there and then that she should visit this exotic land one day. She described the overall trip as a challenge but a very enjoyable one with lots of fun and excitement.
“I guess I travel a lot for my job and usually you just stay in one place in a fancy resort and it becomes a little bit of what I can a ‘Macdonald Experience’. For instance, wherever you go in Thailand or Borabora and you expect everything in a certain way and that’s the way they are and I think PNG offers something that’s different and unexpected,” she added. Unfortunately, she was not able to make it to the Islands of Love but she hopes to do that in future when her four year old son is a little bit older – maybe in two years time.
Malgosia was also taking a break from her last assignment which was a shot in Botswana for the Pirelli’s 2009 Calendar as one of the 10 models doing stuff like taking a bath with elephants. “It was a little bit like Out of Africa thing,” she added with a laugh. The Pirelli Calendar is like the best in the world they produce only 1000 or so copies which they mail to a very select group every year.
Malgosia says Papua New Guinea has lots of potential and she hopes to do her bit by promoting PNG as it is definitely different from Fiji and other destinations where it is sand, sun and the sea and nothing else. So more stars can come visit Papua New Guinea – which is definitely a million different journeys.