My husband and I have been wanting to visit Papua New Guinea pretty much since we met. Our love for adventurous travel never really died when our children arrived, although, it meant that we had to make a few adjustments when they were very little. We replaced the backpacks and really long road trips for more comfortable hotels that provided the infrastructure for us to be able to have a good night’s sleep and enjoy a glass of wine in the evening. We have been waiting for Hugo to be a little older for us to go to PNG and this trip truly exceeded our expectations.
This trip was like immersing ourselves into a National Geographic documentary, not only because the surroundings are extremely remote but also because we visited places where people had never seen “children tourists” before. In fact, there was a place where we were the first tourists ever to visit them and this truly felt extremely special for them as well as for us. Despite the fact that the hotel infrastructure in most places in PNG is completely non-existent, we felt our children were old enough to enjoy this trip. It was a ‘back to basics’ experience, which is sometimes much needed and the fact that we had no access to the internet, no electricity in most places we stayed in, no warm water to shower, no windows… this encouraged the most incredible conversations from when it got dark between all of us, looking at the stars and getting to listen to the jungle around us without having a single noise that we were familiar with.
We first started our journey attending the music and dance festival in Mount Hagen. Mount Hagen is one of the biggest cities in PNG and it hosts a spectacular cultural event (not to be missed) which gathers all the tribes in PNG who come from every corner of the island to win a prize which will be shared with everybody. Originally this was set up for all the tribes in PNG to get to know each other. Despite the fact that most of the tribes do not share a language (850 languages are spoken in PNG, approximately one sixth of all languages spoken in the work in only one island!) everybody gets to communicate with each other through their music. During those three days we met with tribes who passionately maintain their traditions through art, initiations in the form of Sing Sings. A Sing Sing expresses the tribe’s dance, music and traditional costume and provided us with the opportunity to witness tribal traditions in an explosion of colour and sound. There are regular Sings Sings throughout the country and our children, although I must confess there were slightly apprehensive at the beginning, got the opportunity to share many of those dances.
I always think travelling with children is the best ice breaker making both of our curiosity a bidirectional exchange of impressions and will to please and get to know each other. We loved people watching and admiring the different costumes made with natural elements present in their own surroundings (mud, tropical leaves, paint made with natural pigments). It was an unforgettable experience and I can only say, we felt so welcome. There was a funny moment when we had a journalist from the National TV who was filming our children seeming to totally ignore the incredible spectacle around us and guess what his first question was! Why do you come to PNG with children? My answer was quite clear, because it is beautiful, unspoilt and I would like my children to be able to experience the feel of going to a place that lives the way we used to live a long time ago…This amongst many other things has been the biggest lesson of anthropology we ever had and will stick in our memories forever.