Discover Rabaul: Papua New Guinea’s Enchanting First Capital
If you’re on the look-out for an original travel idea for 2017 or 2018, why not consider the remote and fascinating Papua New Guinea in the South Pacific? Our Australasia Product Manager, Lindi, travelled to the land of the unexpected with Papua New Guinea Tourism and experienced the remote and culturally diverse islands of this fascinating last frontier…
On a recent first-time visit to this incredible country I was entranced by Rabaul, Papua New Guinea’s original capital, located on the islands of East New Britain. This desolate, haunting landscape is dominated by the volcanic cones of Mt Tavurvur and Mt Vulcan. A major eruption in 1994 wiped out the city of Rabaul and although only 2 people died 50,000 villagers lost their homes and one of the South Pacific’s most attractive cities was completely destroyed.
Today this apocalyptic landscape is simply mesmerising. Local tribesmen from Matupit Island dig deep for Megapod eggs (think large black chicken!) buried 1-2 metres in the ash and cook them in the steaming sulphur hot springs in this bleak and windy terrain. The local tribe survives in the shadow of these two majestic volcanoes, living off the land as best they can. Relying on shelter from the fierce sun, they erect handmade tents from palm tree leaves and gather near the volcanoes to greet visitors with an array of colourful shell necklaces and bilums (string bags made by hand).
The locals have a rather stern countenance which is transformed by mesmerising smiles as they welcome rarely seen visitors and their children, of which there are many, are irresistible.
The road to Mt Tavurvur is rough and pot-holed and covered in layers of ash. The eruption in 1994 buried Rabaul’s buildings to a depth of 8 metres and the new road being constructed lies on top of these buried remnants of the old city. Only the Rabaul Hotel survives, harking back to an older more glamorous era. The Hotel is not lavish but it has a faded charm all its own and the choice of popular Asian and Western dishes on offer in the delightful Phoenix Restaurant was wonderful.