One evening in Ninigo atoll anchored of the Nth side of Hotum, (isolated and stunning) we were having a campfire on the beach. The stars were out, the new moon was rising and the tide was coming in slowly. The kids were poking the fire and feeding it new branches, which they had collected from the dense bush before sunset; the adults were happily chatting away. Seathan jokingly said that the only thing missing was some crayfish to put on the fire. But we were on a desert island, so no chance of asking anyone where to find crayfish here. And then suddenly, as if by magic, three locals turned up: a man, a woman and a child. They had been looking for sea cucumbers around the reef and just finished work for the day. They came to say hello and brought us some crayfish! They politely chatted with us for a few minutes and then left to go home to nearby Pihun Island.
The people from Ninigo have been extremely welcoming and have been bringing us gifts (carvings, shells) and food (fish, crayfish, eggs, coconuts, oranges, lemons, papaya, bananas, aubergines) without wanting anything in return. They like to chat and are always respectful, friendly, warm and very proud of their remote island atoll.
They also have an ancient tradition of sailing specially designed, 10 meter, pirogues. It’s been impressive to see them speeding past when we were at anchor, showing off their excellent seafaring skills. They resemble a fast catamaran from the distance but once closer by they remind us of the ancient Maori or Polynesian outrigger canoes with a lateen sail.
The people also remind us very much of the Polynesians, both culturally and in terms of looks. They are lighter skinned than the Melanesians and some have straight hair just like the Polynesians. It’s been great getting to know some of the local families and last Sunday we were anchored near Longan Island and we were invited for a farewell feast. The village slaughtered one of their precious pigs and the women spent all morning cooking and preparing food. We had a great afternoon eating and talking and the kids ran along the beach and played with the local children. As we were leaving the next day, Oscar brought each of the three yachts another package of pork to take with us, along with some sweet potatoes. They just wanted to make sure we had enough food for our crossing to Vanimo
Ninigo also marks our last stop in the South Pacific as we head into Asia. It’s been a wonderful stop and PNG has rocketed into our top ten favourite places ever. Like many other islands in the South Pacific, these remote atolls have crystal clear turquoise water, desert islands and stunning reefs. We will miss the South Pacific very much. Hopefully, one day, we will be back.