It was 1964 and it was my first year of teaching. I was teaching at Korobosea School in Pt Moresby, Papua /New Guinea. It was quite exciting having my own class and classroom. I was nervous at the beginning but with support from my colleagues I started to get more confident. I was keen to do the right thing by the children and their parents and I worked hard at it. However, at the end of term it was time to have fun and explore this new country. Some friends and I booked up for a day trip by charter aircraft to the Trobriand Islands. They are a group of tropical islands off the north east coast of PNG in Milne Bay. See map.
Early in the morning we arrived at Jackson's Airport and climbed aboard a trusty DC3 aircraft. These airplanes were used a lot in those days in PNG. They were tough old workhorses. Pilots were also very good, they had to be to cope with the towering mountains, the sudden tropical thunderstorms and the hectic turbulence. I was pleased to see that we had proper aircraft seats this time not like the last time I went on a chartered plane ride, where the seats were webbed garden variety chairs along the walls of the fuselage.
The Trobriand Islands belong to PNG but in the sixties the people were still living like they had for thousands of years in grass huts in villages and feeding themselves from native crops and the sea. The Australian Government were establishing schools, medical clinics, law and order, cooperative plantations and generally helping the people to learn to live in the 20th century. (Whether this was a good idea or not is still debated) Church missionaries were also bringing western style religions. They also built schools and hospitals.
It was a fairly smooth flight over the mountains as most morning flights were. We landed and a truck picked us up and took us to visit some villages and beaches. It was extremely hot and humid as it is every day of the year when you are so near to the equator. We had our swim gear with us.
When we arrived in the village many of the locals came to meet us. They came to look at us and we came to look at them. I thought the little ones were cute.
These islanders were known for their beautiful grass skirts and they were a sought after souvenir. The villagers were happy to sell them and other artefacts too. Carvings were also popular. I still have two grass skirts in a cupboard somewhere.
These buildings were storage houses for their produce such as yams, taro and coconuts.
The colour was so bad in this 50 year old slide that I had to take it out altogether. These are the houses where the people lived.
After the buying of artefacts we climbed back on our truck and headed for a swim at the beach. These shy teenage girls came to wave goodbye.
This old photo doesn't do this scene justice. It was a lovely tropical island beach. After we had a swim we were all thirsty so one of our tour guides spoke to the local boys in Pidgin English and the next thing we saw.........
Then holes were punctured into the nut so that we could drink the cool coconut milk. It is great when you are hot and thirsty.
After a picnic lunch we were back in the truck to visit another village.
|A Trobriand Is village 1964|
|Food storage buildings|
In this village we were taken on a canoe ride along the river. It was wobbly and we had to be careful not to tip it over. Once we had all settled it was quite steady. One fellow sat in the front and one paddled at the back.
The children waved us goodbye and chased us into the water.
We passed some more villages nestled under the palm trees on the bank of the river. These children were playing on a canoe similar to the one we were on. It was if we had travelled back in time to see people living in such a simple, primitive way. All too soon it was time to head back to the airport for the flight back home to Pt Moresby. We were all hot and tired and it was nice to be up in the cooler air until we started to bounce around. In the late afternoon it is a bad time to fly. The afternoon storm clouds gather together over the mountains and the turbulence is bad. As the pilot manoeuvred his way along the valleys between the tall, menacing mountains we hung on tight like on a bucking bronco. Luckily we beat the storms home but I was glad to have my feet on the ground again.