Papua New Guinea
Capital | Port Moresby
Population | 6,187,591 (July 2011 est.)
Area | 462,840 SQ KM
Official Language | English
Holidays | Independence Day, 16 September (1975)
Currency | Kina (PGK)
Time Zone | UTC +10
Best Time to Visit | June to September is cooler, drier and takes in the majority of the provincial celebrations and Highlands sing sings
Connecting with the Culture | Standing atop snow-flecked Mt Wilhelm on a clear morning, taking in both north and south coasts of the world’s second-biggest island. Attending a Highlands sing sing to watch tens of thousands of people gather bedecked in bilas (finery) of body-paint, masks and headdresses of bird-of-paradise feathers. Snorkelling over the teeming reef-life—millions of fish in impossible colours, giant clams, monster gropers and WWII shipwrecks. Travelling up the mighty Sepik River into the powerhouse of Pacific art. Visiting the ghost town of Rabaul, buried in Tuvurvur’s volcanic ash.
Read | biologist Tim Flannery’s Throwim Way Leg, an account of his many field trips into the interior’s remotest parts in search of tree-kangaroos.
Listen | to Telek’s Serious Tram CD (Real World), showcasing the extraordinary voice and music of Rabaul’s most famous son.
Watch | Robin Anderson and Bob Connelly’s cinematic triptych First Contact, Joe Leahy’s Neighbors and Black Harvest, an outstanding exposition of Highlanders’ first encounters with the outside world and their emergence into modern times.
Eat | fresh fish, lobster and market gardeners’ produce
Drink | SP Lager
In a Word | Em nau! (Fantastic! Right on!)
Characteristics | Penis-gourds; betel nut; sing sings; tropical islands; bilum bags; tribal art; laid-back ‘PNG’ time’; beautiful beaches; Kokoda Trail; Asaro mud men; yam worship; rascals.
Surprises | Women suckling pigs, umus (underground ovens), shell-money, shark-calling, ancestor worship, altitude sickness, birds-of-paradise, bats.