Virtuoso Life - March/April 2009 - 132
WANDERLUST CRUISE CALL by Anthony, the local chief, dressed in the elaborate costume that makes Tufi one of the country’s most dramatic cultural experiences. Set amid stunning tropical fjords, the village is only accessible by air or sea and is renowned for its diving, trekking, and rare orchids. For the next hour we are feted like royalty: The villagers demonstrate the convoluted process of sago (palm starch) extraction, reenact ritual tattooing, and treat us to ballads by a children’s choir. “Thank you for visiting our village,” says Anthony as the experience comes to a close. “We wish you would come back again soon. Once upon a time, we would be so happy to see you, we’d make sure you stay – we’d eat you up!” And with that, he reels back in raucous laughter, slapping his stomach, his bright orange, betel-nut-stained teeth exaggerating his mirth. tHuS BegAN mY 12-DAY exPLORAtION Bordering Indonesia’s Irian Jaya province just 100 miles north of Australia, Papua New Guinea is a rugged, untamed land with an equally wild reputation. During the last century, first contacts were still being made with remote tribes, and cannibals continued to eat dinner guests. It’s a land of magic and mysticism and mind-boggling ceremonies. Tok Pisin (pidgin English) is the only unifying dialect among the country’s 800plus unique languages. Our route traced that of the advancing Allied forces as they drove the Japanese from the region. Evidence of the hard-fought campaign remains in downed aircraft, tanks, and shipwrecks. Long before the intrusion of Europeans, the ancient Papuans plied the waters of the Solomon and Bismarck seas in Wild Times go off the grid in Papua New guinea, in comfort. DOINg It Orion Expedition Cruises’ 106-passenger Orion offers three 12-day trips between Rabaul, Papua New Guinea, and Cairns, Australia, during March and April. Passengers can select from complimentary excursions or opt for adventurous outings such as hiking on an active volcano and scuba diving. Departures: March 18 and 29 and April 9, 2009; from $5,985. Pricing and dates for 2010 departures will be announced soon. mORe WAYS tO gO Four of Zegrahm Expeditions’ founders will join the 110-passenger Clipper Odyssey’s voyage from Auckland, New Zealand, to Brisbane, Australia. Activities on the 17-day journey include snorkeling and diving off Papua New Guinea’s Laughlan and D’Entrecasteaux islands, along with birding in New Caledonia and hiking in the Solomon Islands. Departure: January 30, 2010; from $9,980. Explore Papua New Guinea with Epic Private Journeys’ 12-day land-based trip. Travelers depart Brisbane for nature walks in the Wahgi Valley, jet boat rides on the Karawari River, and birding in the central highlands, with nights at plush eco-lodges. The journey wraps up with three days in Australia’s Daintree Rainforest. Departure: Any day through November 30, 2009; from $17,172. with Orion Expedition Cruises of Papua New Guinea’s northern coast, where a lack of roads and surplus of islands combine for ideal small-ship cruising conditions. And while witnessing local traditions is an important element of adventure travel, I’m glad that Chief Anthony discussed the sacred ritual in the past tense. Meet the locals in Madang. 132 VIRTUOSO LIFE (BOY) ROB HOWARD/CORBIS, (ISLAND) SYLvIA CORDAIY PHOtO LIBRARY LtD./ALAmY, (ZODIAC) RODeRICk eIme Fergusson Island excursions include visits to thermal pools and geysers.