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PNG East New Britain tourism talk with Poreni Umau

The tasty, organic taro got my Milne Bay teeth working in overdrive, as kulau juice from Ulaveo, along the Tokua corridor, set in to join the midday menu I enjoyed under the October heat along Kaivovo Street, overlooking the golf course at Ralum.

The Baining taro was well prepared by Mr Mondo and the team at Kokopo’s newest locally owned eatery. Mondo Cafeteria right in the heart of Kokopo market. You can say it was a Simbu special.

Up ahead, along the road, under a shade tree, an old papa lay snoring in slumber. Caressed by the afternoon breeze sweeping across the St George Channel with tales from the Bismarck Sea. A few metres away, an upcoming Kokopo’s young golfer was lining up for a stroke on the neatly kept Ralum green.

The scene set my Milne Bay mind to Tiger Woods, a man known in the world golfing arena. My dream of making it into the PGA was shot-lived when I dug up a good chunk of innocent soil at this very green some ‘I can’t remember how many days ago’ in a school fundraiser game. I substituted the golf club for a bottle of the internationally awarded gold medal SP beer. Something I am very good at any watering hole than a golf hole. Passing lovebirds, headed for Gazelle International Hotel up the road, chuckled at the sleepy papa and my mind clicked back to reality, ending my five minutes golf dream. Noah Omi, my good old cheerful Gaidi merona came by in his usual chirpy mood. ‘Hey, Samatex’, he called out, smiling with bright red painted lips. The result of a dose of betelnut (areca nut), mustard and lime and protected in dark sunnies, giving him that future elderly version of Chinese actor, Jet Li.

Noah and family live out at Karavia village, along the Kokopo-Rabaul road. Sheltered by the famous Blanche Bay, that feeds the Simpson Harbour and blends into the St George Channel and deltas into the Bismarck Sea. Their home is host of the Japanese Underground Hospital. Just a kilometre of power walk from where I live.

During the New Guinea Campaign of the Pacific War from January 1942 to August 1945, the Underground Hospital served injured Japanese soldiers. It had chambers that included ammunition storage, mess, wards for the injured and storage for food rations. There are 14 entrances and has stairways chiselled out to indicate the ground floor, first and second floor. Above the hospital is a look out for incoming enemy ship, a tunnel dug to about 15 metres to the edge of the hill, giving a sweeping view of the bay and further to the Duke of York island group.

The place was also a campsite for prisoners of war. Most of them of Chinese origin. There is a guillotine also, where prisoners of war were beheaded if they did not follow instructions. A Chinese War Cemetery is also built in the area to honour those that perished. The area has many others including the Yamamoto Bunker in Rabaul, Submarine Base on the North Coast of Rabaul, the Tavurvur volcano and hot spring are some of the popular tourist sites in East New Britain that people in the province, outside and overseas visit when in East New Britain.

The East New Britain Tourism Authority encourages locals in the four districts of Pomio, Gazelle, Rabaul and Kokopo to visit the office and register their interest if there are certain places in their villages that have tourism potential. Apart from war relics, there are natural scenery, including sandy beaches, waterfalls, lookouts that provide postcard views, snorkel and picnic areas. Birdwatching and diving are others on the list. Even traditional activities, festivals and unique dances very different from the rest of PNG, traditional cooking or just culture are others draw interests from outsiders. Soft adventure including kayaking, hiking and trekking are some of the activities that also do lure visitors.

Even the unique traditional way of life and doing things also gives opportunity to outsiders to learn and experience our way of life. For many it is the experience. Trying something new. Alternatively, being to a place where they have not been or their friends have not seen. They want to be the first to see, do and partake in the activities on offer.

While the demand for new products is increasing, this offers the chance to those in East New Britain to jump on the bandwagon and be part of the fast growing industry. People must make it their priority to visit the office or contact us on enbtouriminfo@enbtourism.org,pg or pumau@enbtourism.org.pg or call us on 982 5360 to seek advice and direction.

Remember, we will never know what you have until you tell us and invite us to your local setting. There are also tourism officers in the districts under the Commerce Division, called District Business Development Officers, who you can approach and seek advice.

Tourism is everyone’s business. It’s either you tap into it or it taps you goodbye. East New Britain, this is your time. Get up and take up this opportunity. The National Government has declared East New Britain and the Milne Bay as tourism hubs and for those in the land of many volcanoes, this is your time.
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