You may have noticed that I’ve been a quiet blogger over the past few weeks. The main reason for this is because I’ve been adventuring around the wild and dangerous country, Papua New Guinea. Actually, replace the word ‘adventuring’ with ‘working’, and the word ‘dangerous’ with ‘kinda cool’. The word ‘wild’ is still appropriate.
When I told my friends and family about the trip, their reactions were a mix of horror and concern. Papua New Guinea, or PNG, has a reputation of being a country you don’t want to visit, unless you’re proficient in the use of an AK47 and a machete (and I’m only proficient with a machete…). The nations capital, Port Moresby, is consistently ranked as one of the worst cities in the world to live in, with reports of theft, violence, and much worse happening every day. And since this was the first stop on my journey, the concern from my loved ones was understandable. I have to admit, I my own concerns as well.
But it turns out that PNG really isn’t that bad, as long as you keep your head (pun intended) and follow a few simple ground rules. To help you out, here’s my short survival guide for PNG.
Rule 1: Smile.
99% of the people in PNG are the friendliest folk on earth. Throw them a smile and you’ll usually get a wave and a great big glowing smile in return. It’ll also weed out the 1% of folk who want to rob you instead. They won’t smile
Rule 2: Don’t step in the bright orange puddles.
In fact, don’t step on bright orange anything. It’s Buai, and you don’t want to know where it’s been.
Rule 3: Keep your eyes open.
Seems basic, since most people have their eyes open when not asleep. What I mean is be aware of your surroundings. Part of this refers to safety, sincethere’s potential danger around each corner, which can be easily avoided if you keep out of dangerous areas. But it also refers to the scenery – once you get out of the cities, there is some amazing country to be seen, which is sometimes easy to miss through the metal bars around your transport truck (seriously,to prevent machetes and spears from breaking the windows. Yep)
Rule 4: Eat!
Another basic rule (survival shouldn’t be complex after all). Before I went I was told not to expect much from the local food, and there are some places where this is all too true. But you can also find some of the freshest fish, most tender beef (raised on palm oil, gloriously decadent), and the tastiest vegetables (totally organic as well, since they can’t afford chemicals) that you’re likely to find anywhere. And the fruit, don’t even get me started on the fruit…
Rule 5: Drink plenty of the local beer! (it’s a beer blog,surely you saw this coming)
There’s three local beers that you can get; SP Lager, South Pacific Export, and Niugini Ice. All three are brewed by the same brewery, South Pacific Brewery, which is somehow linked to Heineken. So each beer is slightly different lager, with marketing being the major difference between them.
The SP Lager is the most commonly found, and is the drink of the working class. The PNG nationals are fiercely loyal to it, with billboards and signs with the slogan “Our Beer” being seen all over the place.
I can can understand this loyalty – SP actually has a decent flavour! Old world hops provide a spicy bitterness which, when coupled with the light biscuity malt, provides a thirst quenching sensation more like a pilsner than a pale lager. I’ll go out on a limb and say that they also don’t use preservatives in the brewing process, because I never once ended up with a hangover! Just make sure you order it properly – either ask for a ‘green can’ or a ‘brown bottle’, depending on your preference.
The South Pacific Export is the more ‘upmarket’ version of SP, aimed at the expat community and those who want to be seen to have more money. It costs more, isn’t abbreviated to SP, and comes in a fancy green Euro style glass bottle. But that’s as upmarket as things get, with the taste being exactly what you’d expect from a beer in a green bottle. It’s bland, and the small amount of flavour that is present is too sweet. Do what the locals do, stick to the SP.
The third, Niugini Ice, is the ‘cool’ choice. It has a surprisingly sexy label, comes in a clear glass bottle, and is drunk by the younger nightclub crowd (yeah, I went clubbing in Port Moresby, but that’s a story to be told over a few beers). As far as flavour goes…well, it comes in a clear glass bottle. The less said about Niugini Ice, the better.
So there you have it, 5 simple rules to follow if you ever find yourself in PNG. It’s probably best not to consider this as a true survival guide (consult someone who actually knows what they’re on about for that, or maybe watch ‘Man vs Wild’), but if you follow my advice then you’ll at least have a good time (or at least have a good beer) in what is an intriguing country.