Cocunut Spray; The Niugini Experience

Wondering if there are surfable waves someplace you've never visited? Or have you had an injury and want to compare experiences? Do it here!

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Cocunut Spray; The Niugini Experience

Post by Slowman » Sat Feb 28, 2015 9:25 am

I just got back from a trip to PNG (11/02/2015). We had surf every day which was pretty good. The first 2 days were small and average around the islands, so for the next 2 days we did road trips down the main island of Kavieng and scored 3-4' glassy waves both a left and a right. Then the predicted swell finally hit the local islands (Nusa, Nago, Ral, Kavieng) and the winds swung offshore and we had 4-6' perfection for 3 days and 3-4' of good waves for the rest of the time until the last day which was back down to 2'.

The surf was good but I have to say Air Niugini the national airline is something else. I was thinking about whether I'd go back as I went with a number of guys for whom this was their third trip and were it not for the debacle with flights I'd have no hesitation. Air Niugini got us both ways.

We were supposed to arrive Saturday afternoon at Nusa Island Retreat in time for an afternoon surf, but the flight out was apparently delayed by weather conditions. It was raining heavily in Port Moresby. We sat in the plane at the gate for about an hour while captain Eric Pearson kept us informed. Until finally he announced he had some bad news for us, it was now too late to fly out because it would be dark soon. We had to stop on the way to Rabaul and I think this runway did not have any lights. As we later witnessed flights did arrive in Kavieng after dark every night! It makes me wonder why we just didn't drop Rabaul and disembark those bound for it and just fly direct.

Be that as it may we had to spend a night in Port Moresby. Air Niugini were going to put us up at the Crowne Plaza somewhere in town about 20 minutes way. The problem; they had to move 50 passengers or so up there with one shuttle bus that only takes 8-10 people. There were 18 of us plus all the others unloaded. Fortunately, we could leave the boards inside the secured terminal area and we hired Gabriel for 150 kina (AU$75) to stay with them all night. Apparently that is 2 weeks wages anyway he was willing and it was 10kina each - bargain. One problem solved, we still had to get 50 people to the hotel.

With a 40 minute round trip it was going to take 3hrs and 20 minutes to move us all up there, it was now 7pm with all the stuffing around we weren't going to get there perhaps until 10pm or later. We decided we'd try catching taxis but when the taxi drivers said only 2 per taxi instead of 4 we ditched that idea. We were a little concerned about security as well, Port Moresby isn't the safest place after dark. After some phones calls and more liason with Crowne staff they sent a bigger bus to get us. I had all but given up hope and said I'll sleep with the boards because if it was this much buggering around to get there how would we ever get back on time in the morning?

To be continued... :o

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Re: Cocunut Spray; The Niugini Experience

Post by Beanpole » Sat Feb 28, 2015 11:19 am

What was the airfare to Port Moresby, Slowman?

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Re: Cocunut Spray; The Niugini Experience

Post by Slowman » Sat Feb 28, 2015 3:24 pm

Beanpole wrote:What was the airfare to Port Moresby, Slowman?

Dunno Beanpole the package $4100 for 10 days included air fares.

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Re: Cocunut Spray; The Niugini Experience

Post by Slowman » Sat Feb 28, 2015 4:26 pm

We finally all arrived at the Crowne Plaza in Port Moresby probably at around 8pm. A quick shower and back down to dinner provided free of charge by Air Niugini and 2 softdrinks! The food was pretty damn good in fact. Like going to a hotel buffet at one of the up market hotels like Sharaton on the Park in Sydney. Plenty of good sized prawns and sea food, Thai dishes, Indian curries and so on, and all seemingly quite fresh.

The story was we had to meet in the lobby at 2am (!!!) to catch the buses back to the airport. I organised a wake up call at 1.30am, which came at 1.15! Only time in PNG anything was ever early. EVER! The buses were like those 20 seater mini buses. Provided to us by Guard Dog Security (the other security company up here apart from G4S who do keep our pesky asylum seekers "safe"), the buses had security grills over the windows. It kind of made you wonder just how bad things could get if they anticipated the need for this. Security companies seem to be everywhere and it looks like there is a lot of money in security. Crowne had organised the buses and so the trip back to the airport was relatively straightforward and without any issues.

When we arrived at the airport at 2.30am there were no lights on. The generators had to be turned on. We lined up anyway and it seemed like there were 100 people here there were other people who'd also been delayed. 10 minutes later the lights died! It was beginning to dawn on me why we needed to be here at 2.30am to catch a 6.30am flight. The generators required restarting a couple more times but it was now a point of amusement as we realised this was nothing out of the ordinary for PNG. We were eventually back inside the terminal reunited with our boards and greeted by one excited Gabriel looking for his 150 kina! We paid him as promised and he scuttled off looking pretty chuffed.

Finally, after getting through security re-screening, we were re-issued boarding passes which of course had to be different seats and better yet it seemed that they had tried their best to separate us all and sit us with locals. In my case in between them. It was no problem as they were friends I happily sat in the aisle seat. Once we were in flight and had the chance to look around it seemed even more ridiculous as the plane was like only a 3rd full. There was plenty of room to spread out. I grabbed a row and napped until we landed in Rabaul.

One thing about PNG that you first notice is the body odour. It's strong and it's everywhere! It stands to reason though, are you going to spend your money on deoderant or food? It's a tropical climate so there is no way you are not going to perspire (like a pig even). After a while you get used to it, at least it is fresh BO and not days old stale BO mixed in with other odours you find on homeless people in our own country. The one thing about PNG, not many look wealthy, a lot look poor even, but no one looks destitute or hungry.

We arrived at Kavieng Airport and Lou the Nusa Island Retreat manager was there to greet us and get our boards and luggage loaded onto the troop carrier for a short trip to the wharf and waiting speed boats for a 5 minute dash across the strait to Nusa Island. We finally arrived in time for lunch so we had lunch settled into our rooms and unpacked while Lou suggested we get our shite together and get ourselves sorted into groups for various afternoon shifts at the different breaks that had waves. First wave we surfed was Nago Island left. It was about 1-2' and just great to get into the water.

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Re: Cocunut Spray; The Niugini Experience

Post by marauding mullet » Sat Feb 28, 2015 6:43 pm

How was the place you stayed at Slowman, and the whole package ?(disregarding Air Niugini)
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Re: Cocunut Spray; The Niugini Experience

Post by Slowman » Sat Feb 28, 2015 9:20 pm

mentone mansions wrote:How was the place you stayed at Slowman, and the whole package ?(disregarding Air Niugini)
Mentone, Nusa Island Retreat was good, I'll get to it, but I'm not finished with Air Niugini yet :d

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Air Niugini's Fokker 100 for island hopping (they fokkered us about).


Air Niugini decided to throw the full comedic repertoire that it had for our departure. We left Nusa Island at 10am for an 11:50am flight. We were there at 10:30am and the airport hadn't even opened yet. We had no idea just what was ahead of us. The airport opened around 11:30 it didn't really worry us because the plane had not landed yet and we were becoming accustomed to "island time" and the way things get done. We had plenty of time still, our flight to Brisbane didn't leave Port Moresby until 2:50pm and it was like a 50 minute flight.

The plane landed and taxied up to the loading area and our luggage and boards were loaded on. We were only about 20 minutes behind schedule at this stage as we boarded. We sat in the plane for a bit and then the captain announced they were having a technical problem with one of the engines and he was talking with engineering in Port Moresby about it and expected to have it sorted out soon. After another 20 minutes he said he needed to drop power on the plane and power it up again. So off we piled and back into the terminal. Up to this time things were started look like we were going to cut things fine but we might have still made it. This was a deal breaker.

While waiting in the terminal we had met this lovely woman and her daughter, who'd both been visiting her mother in Kavieng. She was just so friendly and was very easy to talk to. Her daughter was an adult and they were headed back to Queensland where they now lived. She was interested in what all of us had been doing and asked us about the surf camp and just made general easy conversation about all manner of things. Like the difference between life here and in Australia. She struck me as well travelled and quite intelligent and it is fair to say I liked her instantly. Her daughter wasn't so chatty but still very nice and added to the conversation. This acquaintance was struck up in the first terminal sitting. When we went back for the second sitting Air Niugini had crates of chilled bottled water to hand out. The younger boys in our crew must have brought out her maternal instincts as she made sure we all got water and passed them out to us.

There were only 13 of us returning, the Woonona boys 5 of them were staying on for another 4 days. All of us were Garie or Cronulla crew and all hailed from the Sutherland Shire , yes we're all still waiting for that elusive first premiership...still! Half of us were old geezers in our 40s and 50s and the other half in their 20s. The connection between the old crew and young crew was familial, one was a father and son and the other a father-in-law and son-in-law relationship. Having the young guys with us was great it added a different dynamic totally. They tended to be a little more adventurous and game to push their comfort zones which pushed us too. Right now they were making new friends for us!

After an hour or so we we told to re-board. It was around 2pm there was still a feint hope if we radioed ahead they might hold the flight for us. However after sitting on the runway some more and leaving around 2:20 it was becoming more unrealistic an expectation by the minute. The pilot apologized for the delays and said he'd radio ahead and let customer service know there was a few of us that had missed connecting flights. We finally landed in Jackson Airport, Port Moresby about and hour after the flight to Brisbane had left. No way it would have left on time but it was gone anyway.

On making enquiries at the Air Niugini customer service desk it seemed the message that was radioed ahead must have been written down on a piece of paper and lost as it seemed to be news to them. It was not going to be possible to get another flight to Australia. Believe me I would have taken a flight to any city in Oz. I just wanted to get out of PNG as I battled against the inevitability that we were going to have to spend the night in Port Moresby, yet again. Air Niugini issued us again with vouchers for the Crowne Plaza, and again we wondered why the fark when there was a perfectly good hotel 2 minutes walk up the road. That stuff will drive you mad thinking about it!

At least it was still daylight and would be for a couple more hours. The good news was there were Crowne staff at the shuttle bus pickup area and they could see the requirements for buses. This time because we were in between flights we had to take our boards with us to the hotel. The concierges were on it and 2 shuttle buses arrived in reasonably good time. People on one boards and luggage on the other. That lady and her daughter were also spending the night at the Crowne too. This time we were all settled in by 6pm and this time it was only a 4am start. Same old dinner routine; 2 cans of soft drink with your dinner whether you wanted them or not! This time we had more time to have a few drinks afterwards and found a TV screen and lo and behold the Asian Cup final was on between Australia and South Korea. We started watching in the 2nd half and thought it was wrapped up and then the Koreans scored an equaliser and forced the game into extra time. The rest was history and kind of gave us all a moment of cheer.

I organised a wake up call again, and I woke up before it anyway. In fact I swear a porter opened the door of my room. I was sure I had bolted the door and jumped out of bed in attack mode and this guy walked straight back out. I ran to the door and looked out and no one was there... maybe I dreamt it? It seemed bloody real enough, one of the other guys reckoned he had a personal wake up call the first time maybe it was playing on my mind. I honestly don't know it was around 1am and I went back to bed and made sure the door was bolted this time.

It was 4am and we all met up back down in the lobby. We had to get up early to wait around some more. The buses arrived on time, the same ones with security grills all over them. So we arrive at 4.30am at the airport and instead of pulling up at the shuttle area in front of the terminal entrance they veer into the car park which is up a level and a bit of a walk. What on earth? So they finally go around the car park and take another pass at getting to the shuttle area. It turns out the problem was one of the buses' airport security sticker had expired and they guys on the gate wouldn't let them pass. So back to the car park and again and we carry our boards and luggage to the terminal entrance.

The international terminal has been renovated and is quite modern with air conditioning that was almost too cold for us. We went through security and check in without any dramas and just had to wait. The flight was due to depart at 06:15am no sign of any Air Niugini on the termac anywhere. We'd come over on a Boeing 767 and could see one around. Apparently they rented or borrowed a Boeing 737 (bigger) from Euro Atlantic Airlines (whoever they are). They had to go through a full engineering check and so we waited. Finally we boarded and took off at about 08:15, late yet again! The instructions inside the plane were in English and what I thought was Polish or maybe Czech - lots of Zs in the words. The pilot was a PNG local but he was good and steered us through the bump around Port Moresby okay and made a good landing in Brisbane.

Some guys had rebooked flights from Brisbane to Sydney and missed those too. I had decided to just wait till I got there and then get on the next available flight to Sydney. I did that and got a 3;15 flight and landed in Sydney around 3:30 and was finally home at around 5pm some 31 hours after beginning the journey.

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We got up at 4am to do some more waiting around!
Last edited by Slowman on Sun Mar 01, 2015 12:55 pm, edited 6 times in total.

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Re: Cocunut Spray; The Niugini Experience

Post by Beanpole » Sat Feb 28, 2015 10:23 pm

Yep a friend of ours has worked up there for years and throughout the Solomans etc. always talked about visiting but the vagaries have kept us away so far. Another friend of a mate has been a Lawyer up there for 25 years. Lives in a barbed wire compound in Port Morseby with Security Guards.

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Re: Cocunut Spray; The Niugini Experience

Post by MrMik » Sat Feb 28, 2015 10:42 pm

Great read, Slowman, thanks for sharing!

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Re: Cocunut Spray; The Niugini Experience

Post by Drailed » Sat Feb 28, 2015 10:49 pm

So did anyone root the mother and daughter?
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Re: Cocunut Spray; The Niugini Experience

Post by Slowman » Sun Mar 01, 2015 6:32 am

Drailed wrote:So did anyone root the mother and daughter?
:-D-: Well the father and son could have made it a tag team event! And I guess the father in law son in law tag team was never going to happen. One guy brought a drone it could have flown around the room taking photos too.

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Re: Cocunut Spray; The Niugini Experience

Post by rmb » Sun Mar 01, 2015 1:06 pm

Drailed wrote:So did anyone root the mother and daughter?
Great read that part of the trip was an anti climax. Any pictures were they bang-able?

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Re: Cocunut Spray; The Niugini Experience

Post by Slowman » Sun Mar 01, 2015 2:28 pm

Nusa Island Retreat (NIR) is quite a cosy set up. It is just a 5 min speed boat ride across a strait from the northern tip of Kavieng Island. Once across there is a 100m separation between Nusa and big Nusa. It provided us with a nice sheltered little cove for the boats.
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After finally getting there we had a quick look around and organised ourselves into groups of 5-7 because of the boat size. The system is one boat per break for a 2 hour shift to make sure everyone gets waves with only a small crowd. The resort itself has a cap of 20 surfers staying at any one time. Generally, this works well. After lunch and a chat my group went out to Nago Island lefts. Nago is just a 5 minute ride by speed boat and was where the Japanese executed many of the locals during WWII. It tends to pick up swell easily. The young ones went to Ral Island which is about a 20 minute boat ride. Nago lefts were 1-2' but quite surfable for a little wave and even with a cross shore wind. The further inside the more shelter there was but the coral heads soon started appearing as it became shallower. The end inside section was to be avoided at low tide. The reef was pretty much a straight line out the back through to the inside section. There is a section of reef out a bit wider that would swing in some wide peaks that at the right angle were very good but often they'd just fill up again. I was lucky enough to pick up a couple of these as they seemed to be the bigger ones. It was average but very worth getting wet, soon enough the next boat arrived and we left the boys to it.

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The dreamy view straight out our front door.

We went for a later one but the wind was getting into it a bit more. There was some punish of a guy leaving that night with a high volumed 7' hybrid that continued to paddle back inside everyone and really struggled to even do a cutback but he had the volume advantage. I was getting angry but it was so average it wasn't worth starting an argument over. It would have simply been a discussion about proper etiquette, the same as what everyone uses, you take it in turns and don't paddle back inside everyone in the lineup. Mick reminded "don't surf angry, you've got to let it go!" I didn't really appreciate the comment that much at the time but it was a case of shut up or put up. There was still some unwinding to do!

The next morning, Monday, was about the same and I jumped on the boat with the young blokes out to Ral. It had been 3-4' Sunday afternoon, so it sounded good. When we got there is was 4' but the wind was not favourable though we went out anyway. Well, some of us. A couple just stayed in the boat and didn't bother. The place picks up all the swell and has a lot of currents sweeping around the island and feels like you are right out in the middle of the ocean. The dull light and clouds gave it an eerie feeling. You know the one, that you are not alone! It was a throw away surf nearly every wave closed out or got blown over. It was a right with 2 peaks. If you were extremely lucky you might get one from the inside peak and it might hold up until the outside peak and you'd get a section to blast. Nine out of ten just crumbled into a closeout too quickly. There was quite a bit of push to the swell and when the sets came you spent your time duck diving avoiding the closeouts so it was a bit hard to keep to the right spot. It was just a bit if mess really. We were all back in the boat inside of an hour.

One of the guys, had been Australian 2000 Junior Cart Champ and former F1 driver, was into high tech photography, which I think came from his time in motorsport, brought his own drone which he launched and took a few photos and footage of the waves. It was neat to watch him control this thing and the screen allowing your to remotely navigate and see what it and the camera saw. We had a night where he put a bit of footage together quickly and some of the funniest scenes were the local kids pegging sticks at the drone. Some were petrified while others put up a fight!

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The evil drone.

The young guys were keen for a road trip but I wasn't keen - mistake. They had scored some good lefts heading an hour down the Bulaminski Highway down the east coast of Kavieng. I had hung around and took that chance to check out the island more and some of the digs.

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Nago Island.

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Re: Cocunut Spray; The Niugini Experience

Post by Slowman » Sun Mar 01, 2015 2:45 pm

rmb wrote:
Drailed wrote:So did anyone root the mother and daughter?
Great read that part of the trip was an anti climax. Any pictures were they bang-able?
:\
I should have mentioned the mother was also a grandmother! There is a site for that stuff ya know? After you have been away from women for that long they all start to look good even without the amber goggles. Some of the local women on the island were becoming highly desirable as time passed however after hearing some of the stories I've heard about what can happen if you get involved with local women you would keep well away. Guys do have relationships with the locals, like the resort owner, according the boys had a pretty local girlfriend one year they were there but I think getting there is navigating through a social minefield. You really need to understand the local culture and I'd venture to say the more tribal they are, like out on the islands and in the highlands, the more likely it is you are playing with dynamite.

There are plenty of middle class well educated ladies in Port Moresby and the ones that have been in Australia, or basically left the tribal connections behind are probably your target "market". Otherwise if they are part of a tribe and there is a chief and you just use his women you are going to be in some real bother. A mate whom I cycle with used to work up there for QANTAS and told me about this expat CEO of some company up there had his wife up there too and was carrying on with one of the local girls. The chief and the "boyz" came looking for him and he wasn't home so they stabbed up the wife, you know where. A very brutal and direct message don't you think? That is the crazy thing about the place you think things are sweet and then nek minnit you've stepped in it and you've become persona nongrata. Maybe I'm just getting too old and cautious and married and fearing for my furniture!

Yeah the daughter was! But there are no pics!

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Re: Cocunut Spray; The Niugini Experience

Post by rmb » Sun Mar 01, 2015 3:23 pm

Slowman wrote:
rmb wrote:
Drailed wrote:So did anyone root the mother and daughter?
Great read that part of the trip was an anti climax. Any pictures were they bang-able?
:\
There is a site for that stuff ya know?

A mate whom I cycle with used to work up there for QANTAS and told me about this expat CEO of some company up there had his wife up there too and was carrying on with one of the local girls. The chief and the "boyz" came looking for him and he wasn't home so they stabbed up the wife, you know where. A very brutal and direct message don't you think?
Fair enough, brings a new meaning to the term "Axe wound" though.
Enjoying reading about the trip what sort of boards did you guys take.

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Re: Cocunut Spray; The Niugini Experience

Post by Slowman » Sun Mar 01, 2015 4:32 pm

I'm 184cm and around 90kg I took 2 boards
1. Firewire Hellfire 6'0 x 20" x 2.5" 31.9L
2. Firewire Hellrazor 6'5 x 19.75" x 2.5" 33.5L
I used my 6'0 nearly all the time, I used the 6'5 when we got Nusa Lefts at about 4-6' for a couple of days. It was like this ...
Image

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Re: Cocunut Spray; The Niugini Experience

Post by andy2476 » Sun Mar 01, 2015 4:43 pm

That looks nice. Nice turn. Any photos of the 4-6' day,
Or just that one of the 3- 4' day ?
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Re: Cocunut Spray; The Niugini Experience

Post by Beanpole » Sun Mar 01, 2015 5:13 pm

Andy put down. I expected him to call it 1ft.looks good.

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Re: Cocunut Spray; The Niugini Experience

Post by andy2476 » Sun Mar 01, 2015 6:02 pm

it's not intended as a put down.
I made a sincere compliment. And my perception of the size is not a comment on slowmans ability
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