Papua New Guinea

Port Moresby, PNG

This was the trip that I almost started a journal. I say almost because I wrote one entry, and I never wrote anything else. I wish I kept at it though, otherwise I wouldn’t have to rely on my memory to document these trips, almost 10 years later. I do remember what the entry was about. I’ll say more about this later.

We left Melbourne for our first destination, Papua New Guinea, on a Thursday morning. Our flight took us to Brisbane, where we boarded a three-hour flight to Port Moresby.

The hotel we stayed at was close enough to the airport that we could have walked there, but we were given strict instructions not to do so. Safety was a bit of a concern and we were told not to go anywhere without a guide. The hotel itself, frequented by other westerners travelling for work, was protected by a fence and gate, and patrolled by guards armed with semi-automatics and shotguns. Such a site was a bit disconcerting, but it’s wasn’t the first place I visited where guards walked around openly with machine guns.

Despite all this, the hotel itself was quite comfortable. It was also quite large, probably the largest we visited during our trip, and although it felt like it was built for people on work trip, people could stay there for pleasure and feel quite happy. Like many of the places we visited, the dining area was open aired, and we got a stunning view of the runway from the airport. Great opportunity for plane spotting.

Members of the PNG met service, who were all extremely nice, picked us up from the hotel and drove us to the met office each morning. The drive was only a few minutes, but it was long enough to see a level of destitution I have not seen before. I know it’s trite to say that travelling gives you a great deal of perspective in how your own live compares, but to see it with one’s own eyes is a level beyond the descriptions you hear from others. It really brought home how lucky I am.

It also brought home how lucky I am to live somewhere that doesn’t have malaria. We had to take malaria tablets before, during and after the trip, and were told to make sure we had insect repellant on whenever we were outside for an extended period. The repellant plus sunscreen meant I was pretty greasy for most of the day. It didn’t help that the weather at the time — temperatures in the low 30’s°C and a really high dew point — meant that a great deal of sweat was added to the mix.

The PNG Met Service.
The PNG Met Service.

We were to spend two days in each country. The first day was mainly presentations, and the second was a demo of the catalogue, given by myself. Seeing the various working spaces of each met service was an enjoyable part of the trip, despite the fact that we were effectively working in an office. At least they weren’t as drab as those you’d see in a standard office building.

We spend both days in one of the larger working spaces, which I believe was where the climatologists worked. The mains power supply was a bit of an issue; we had a few black-outs which lasted a couple of minutes, and one that lasted a good couple of hours. Each one would trigger all the UPSes, which will beep and make noise the whole time the lights were off. They would also turn off the AC, and with the hot weather, you can imagine how uncomfortable it got after a while. Having a regular power supply was another thing I learnt to appreciate.

Your's truly working between presentations.
Your's truly working between presentations.

Friday morning involved the hands-on exercise, in which I gave a walk-through of the software. This was actually the first time I used a sat-phone, one that be brought along with us for emergencies. Before we left, we created some demo accounts, but I forgot the logins. So I had to call a colleague back home to reset the account. The sat-phone worked, but trying to understand each other was quite difficult. I wouldn’t want to use it for a normal conversation.

At the end of the day, we were treated to a bit of a tour to visit one of the LNG sites being built near the hotel. The tour wasn’t long: we basically drove to the front gate and back. But one remarkable thing I saw was just how close the vegetation of Papua New Guinea was to that of Australia. The hillside along the road had what could have passed as eucalyptus trees. Apparently the hot weather from the Australian continent was enough to influence the type of plants that could grow there.

Our flight was Sunday, which meant that we stayed the Saturday as well. Instead of hanging around the hotel all day, one of the senior members of the PNG met services offered to drive us around Port Moresby. We got a good tour of the many of the areas around the hotel, and then drove up the hills near the residence of Australian High Commission, which overlooked the bay. As tight as the security around the hotel was, the residence was like a fortress. But the view was amazing and we got some pretty decent photos.

The view of the bay from the hills near the Australian High Commission's residence.
Looking inwards from the bay.

To show our appreciation, my boss and I treated our tour-guide with lunch in a nearby shopping centre. We did have to walk through metal detectors to enter but the centre itself, and the place we had lunch, was pretty nice. We spent most of the afternoon sitting in one of the hotel lounges. My boss read while I worked on my Golang skills.

View of the met service on our way to the airport.
View of the met service on our way to the airport.

Sunday was pretty much breakfast, packing, checking out, then driving to the airport to catch our flight to the Solomon Islands.