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Community & Business

5 September, 2023

PROBUS Club August Meeting Report - 2023

By Shirley Marks

PROBUS Club president Pat Thompson welcomed members to the August meeting, with special welcome to visitor Margaret Peart.

Following morning tea, guest speaker co-ordinator, Phillip Yeo, introduced guest speaker and member Diane George, who had recently cruised several of the pacific islands. Diane emphasised that what she was about to tell us were her views only and that others may have different opinions. Her photographs of the trip complemented her talk.

The first port of call was Honiara (Solomon Islands) where the harbour was beautiful. When passengers dis- embarked, they were greeted by a native band and group of dancers, all of the performers were men. Onshore trips had been offered by the cruise company, however on this occasion a group, including Diane, opted to hire a taxi for their sightseeing as it was much cheaper, and they could choose where they went. Travelling along one road they came upon a car with its motor running near a stall, where other cars were lined up. This turned out to be a fairly primitive carwash. Along the edges of the roads were many little stalls, selling all types of goods.

The taxi driver they hired had good English, howev- er he told them he had seven children, was separated from his wife, and his next wife would be Australian!

At the top of one of the hills was a war museum, however as it was very hot on the island, they didn’t get out of the air-conditioned taxi. The driver accompanied his passengers around the markets, which were very colourful and sold everything from beautiful flowers, clothing, crafts, and many fruits which the travellers hadn’t seen before, translating where necessary.

Rabual was the next port of call, where a choir was on hand to greet the passengers, even singing ‘Advance Australia Fair,’ though in their own language, so it was not very recognisable to the visitors. However, a lovely welcoming gesture.

Again, the locals had stalls set up everywhere. Of course, there are no social security payments, so every- one has to make their own living to survive! Many people, including the guide, had badly stained mouths and teeth from chewing on betel nuts most of the time – not a good look or good for the health.

Much of the transport was in the back of small trucks sitting on benches, covered with a canopy and no seat belts. A vehicle Diane and friends hired was not a great improvement on these. A feast had been prepared for the visitors of potatoes cooked in coals. Bananas were served on banana leaves together with watermelon.

A model ship had been constructed with various raw materials and was displayed on stilts for the benefit of the guests. The war memorial displayed relics from WWII, basically equipment left there from the war. Many kilometres of tunnels were constructed by the Japanese during the war as shelter from air attacks and are still in existence.

Passengers were warned by the ship’s crew to keep an eye on their handbags and wallets. On a previous occasion someone had taken a video on their mobile phone of an incident taking place. From this the police were able to identify the culprit and he was flogged in front of everyone.

Kirriwani Island was the next stop with the mode of transport being small boats. Tenders from the ship were used to get passengers ashore and with 2000 passengers aboard, this took some time. Children had been given the day off school to welcome the tourists. Diane had a lovely photo of a large bird however a fee was required to have a photograph taken with it.

Conflict Island was the next port of call, this island is privately owned with approximately 30 people living there permanently. It was peaceful and relaxing with no- one trying to sell souvenirs and there were snorkelling tours offered in addition to small boat hire. The scenery was beautiful with visitors taking the opportunity to enjoy the beach, or they could walk from one side of the island to the other.

The ship returned to Cairns and from there sailed to Norfolk Island and then to New Zealand, so this was a very comprehensive and varied cruise trip lasting 26 days which was thoroughly enjoyed by Diane and her travel companion Val Smith (Hazlett) originally from Gilgandra.

Marg Zell thanked Diane for sharing memories of her trip with members and commented that the natives in PNG all looked very happy even though they pos- sessed very little. A certificate of thanks on behalf of PROBUS Club was presented to Diane.

As there was a short time to fill in prior to lunch, Phillip Yeo conducted one of his great quizzes with a number of local and other questions – this one featured local bridges and it is amazing how soon we forget – eg ‘Who opened the Jack Renshaw Bridge and when?’

Do you know?.. 

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