December 4, 2011
Louisiade Archipelago Papua New Guinea Sailau Expedition
In October 2011 5 ‘Dim Dims’ (white people) climbed on board a traditional sailing canoe (sailau) and spent 3 weeks sailing around the Louisiade Archipelago, a remote part of Papua New Guinea (PNG). I was lucky enough to be one of these people and felt privileged to be a part of this unprecedented expedition through the Louisiades.
The Louisiade Archipelago is located South East of the Papua New Guinea mainland and consists of hundreds of coral islands. Sailau canoes still play a vital role for the people of the Louisiades as they are used for trade, transport and communication.We flew to Misima Island from Port Moresby and departed from Bwagaoia Harbour. We spent the following few weeks travelling with the crew of Hex, staying on uninhabited islands and in villages. On one memorable occaision we overnighted on Hex while we travelled through the night.
Along the way we met some amazing people and I was blown away by the genuine friendliness and resourcefulness of the people of the Louisiades.
The Sailau we travelled on is called Hex and it was a first for both crew and us to be taken on a specific tourist trip around the islands. Powered purely by wind, Hex is normally a trading boat that travels the islands exchanging goods and produce throughout the villages of the Louisiade Archipelago.
No electricity is available throughout most of the Louisiades and it was great to witness local islanders still living, in many ways, traditionally. The local Louisiade Islanders still commonly use baggis, stone axes and pigs as currency, which plays a vital role in trade between the islands. It is common for villagers to use clay pots for cooking and coconut or sago palm thatching is still used for roofs and walls on village huts.
Government assistance for the people of the Louisiades is virtually non existent so a small eco tourism trip through the islands helped out some of the villagers and people we encountered. Trade goods like clothes, fish hooks, sewing kits, torches and batteries were popular to swap for food and local items. Along the way we donated some medical supplies (to remote medical clinics) and books/pens to schools.
The crew of Hex were very accommodating and our trip had a background soundtrack of ukulele and singing. Travelling on Hex was an amazing experience, the natural sailing ability of the crew was incredible and we were privileged to spend time onboard their home.
Here’s some footage captured by Eco Citizen Australia during the trip…
and a selection of photos…