Interested in Papua New Guinea?
We'll send you updates with the latest deals, reviews and articles for Papua New Guinea each week.
The roadtrip less travelled: travelling down the Boluminski Highway is an experience of a lifetime! Jump on a truck, drive down the freshly paved highway together with the most colourful people in the world and jump of in a world which seems centuries ago! This is the true adventurers roadtrip. One which should be on the same list as Route 66, The Great Ocean Road or Via PanAmerican...
Where is this Bolumisnki Highway? Never heard of. The Boluminski Highway is the main road on an island called New Ireland. New Ireland is part of Papua New Guinea and a 3 hour flight from Port Moresby. Why is this highway so unique? Well, with it's 193 km of perfectly paved road, it gives a unique chance to meet local melanesian tribes and experience life as a villager like no place in the world. There's hardly any tourism. Which makes the environment unspoiled and the local people very open and willing to meet you!
There hasn't been written a lot about the Highway. Or even New Ireland. But a little research on the internet learns that it has perfect surf, fantastic diving, a genuine art culture and the most unspoiled beaches ever seen. Because of its remote location, it's not the most common place to go for your surf break. But this remoteness has a true advantage: it's unspoiled!
It's very hard to get a good impression on what to expect from New Ireland. Most tourism focusses on the capital, Kavieng and it's surrounding Islands. Perfect for beachcombing, surfing and diving. Not many travel literature has been written about the highway. But there's more to explore. And New Ireland Tourism is very helpfull. View these websites for information and inspiration:
PNG is not cheap. Even worse: it's horribly expensive! Don't make the mistake thinking an undeveloped country can't be that expensive. Everything, but litteraly everything has to be imported. Most things come from Australia and with Australia vecoming very expenisve over the years, PNG is getting even more expensive. Buying ingredients for a soup or a salad in the supermarket can cost you easily 30 AU$. An avarage room in a hotel 100 to 150 AU$ and a meal with a few drinks is easily 30-50 AU$. Even renting a bike for a few days on the Island can be quite expensive. However, jumping on a truck and drive down the highway is very affordable. For about 10 AU$you're almost halfway down the road!
50-75 AU$ a day per person makes you a budget traveler. High End is only available around Kavieng. The good part is: there is no High End or Midrange accomodation down the Highway. The bad part is: budget is still very expensive. It might be wise to save some extra for when you return to Kavieng, just to treat yourself on a nice meal or a fancy beachhut!
Arriving on New Ireland is an adventure itself. Air Nuigini flies frequently on Kavieng, the capital of this remote but huge island. When you jump of the plain, it's very likely you're awaited by someone from New Ireland Tourism. They will hand you a small green booklet, with a lot of information about the Island, the villages along the highway, but also more about the westcoast of New Ireland. Keep it! It's your most valuable source of information! If you haven't booked anything, they'll even phone to the guesthouse of your choice to pick you up. This is very convenient there only the more expensive places are listed on booking sites and email is not always checked by guesthouse owners.
Probably coming from a place like Cairns or Hong Kong, it feels like you have landed in a remote country town. There's nothing there! At the supermarket they sell mostly rice, corned beef, tinned fish and instant noodles. If you fancy a decent meal, you probably end up in one of the more expensive hotels. This might feel like you've landed at the end of the world. Far away from all the comforts you're used to. Very limited in options. The funny thing is: when you arrive back at Kavieng, from a few days or even weeks staying at villages, Kavieng feels huge! Everything is there! And you'll love it!
Kavieng has a wide range of accomodation. This varies from very very basic, staying at a church, maybe a decent but simple guesthouse or going to a nice fancy beachhut at one of the Island right of the coast. Whatever suites you, the option is there. New Ireland Tourism made a very complete list of all accomodation including budgetranges. View there accomodation list: http://www.newirelandtourism.org.pg/a...
Driving down the Boluminski Highway asks for some serious preparation and planning. After all, this isn't just a regular highway in your homecountry. There is almost no cellphone reception, email is a rare item like tourists are. You'll need to let them know you are coming! Here's a small list to keep in mind when planning your roadtrip:
You'll need at least one day to do some shopping at Kavieng. but start whit paying a visit at the Toursim Office. It's an adventyre itself! At least 3 or 4 people will be lingering around the office. You might have to ask for the right person a few times, but they're abe to provide you on information about travel times, places to stay, things to do etc. They will make sure you are on the right truck, walk with you to show you that one supermarket where they sell uncooked spaghetti and maybe most important, they will make sure to send word to your guesthouse of choice! Yes, word. With a serious lack of communication options on the island, most is done by word of mouth. It might happen that someone hears you go down to Dalom and asks you to make a reservation for them...
So make sure you send word to your guesthouse, so they'll know you are coming and are able to stock up on supplies!
The supermarket is an interesting chapter in Kavieng. Most supermarkets are ran by chinese. Not all locals are very happy with their precense. It might happen that they simply deny that a place exists (even at the tourism board), or that they very clearly advise you not to go there. But getting you shopping done ain't easy! Every supermarket has 5 ingredients: rice, nescafe, tinned fish, corned beef and instant noodles (the only billboard in PNG are from tinned fish, Nescafe and Maggi noodles). The rest is very different per store. So you get your baked beans at one store and your vermicelli (substitude for spaghetti) at another. This way you easily run arund the whole town to get your groceries done! They mostly dó have onions, tomatoes, paprika, green beans, banana and papaya at the villages. They garden that themselves. At Lelet they have oranges and cucumbers. things as garlic, oil, peanut butter or jam will be very handy. Also milk creamer and sugar may became usefull. Of you are planning to do some serious cooking,ake sure you bring salt, peper and soysauce with you!
There are a few options going down the highway. The highway is long. About 193 km. So walking would be an option, but yo probably end up roasted a few miles down the road. Consider one of these:
Depending on your interest and the season you are visiting, there are a wide range of places to go. All along the highway guesthouses are available. Keep in mind that standards are basic and pets come as a standard accesory with your room. Ask for a box or a cupboard to store you food in. Otherwise you might wake up during the night and find a mouse eating your beloved chocolate cookies! Roomrates aren't cheap. You are facing easily a 50-100 AU$ for two persons excluding food. If you think roomrates are too high, there's allways the possibility to walk into a village and ask for a place to sleep. People are mostly very hospital, but it might happen they think their place isn't good enough for you. Here are a few recommendations coming from own experience:
Traveling in New Ireland is very safe. They do have a prison, but very few murderers are locked up. But ofcourse you need to travel with common sense. So lock up your stuff where you can and avoid being out in the forest or at the villages alone after dark. In general the people are very friendly and are more likely to ask you to help you then do anything unwanted...
You might think twice before you plan your trip. Highlights of your trip are strongly season related. If you want to combine New Ireland with other provinces, you should have a look at the seasons closely. When it comes to New Ireland, the season calendar below covers most activities.
It is easy to soend a couple of weeks down the highway. you'll get detached from your life back home by the lack of communication and you'll get sucked in to village live by the friendliness of the locals! You'll collect stories and experiences, make new friends and suffer slowly but surely from homesickness... Because, let's be honest. Western life has it good parts. After a week, a cold can of coke sunds like a treasure. The diet down the highway isn't exactly Paris in the Pacific. So once you jump of that PMV in fromt of the supermarket in Kavieng, civilization opens up for you! All these options which looked so limited when you arrived, now look like heaven! Treat yourself on a club sandwich at Malagans Beachresort. Or even better, top off your adventure with a few days of luxury at Nusa Island. Without a doubt the best kitchen in town!
Once you are back, you will meet the other travelers again. Surfers and divers. And they come here for a good reason, getting that unspoiled surf or that one dive they always dreamt of. And they will! Surfing is controlled in the area. There is a limited amount of people in the water allowed. This avoids situations like Bali, where thirty to forthy people are waiting for that surf at once... Diving in the area is in one word: stunning! You kniw how every guidebook always boasts "worldclass diving!" wherever you go. If it's Koh Tao, Thailand or Cozumel in Mexico. Honestly, it's not worldclass! Come to New Guinea and coloured coral will pop your eyes out. Dive to WWII plane wrecks. Every dive is different. This is truly worldclass diving! And the best part: there's most likely just a couple of you out there!
Maybe you go home after this trip. Which is good! This means you can carry your souvenir with you. This is probably the easiest way to get your souvenir home. All you have to do is to get a customs form from the quarantine office. This will cost you around 60 AU$ and the very friendly man is more likely to sell you a room in his future guesthouse then to actually check what is inside your package. The office is across the fresh produce market at the harbour. If you have bought a carving from Ben Sisia or Nusa, make sure you get it fumigated at home. It is very unlikely they will fumigate it at the airport, mostly the machine is out of order. If you are lucky, you get it done in Port Moresby. Apparently if you have a stopover in Australia, you are screwed and better send it home...
But the trouble comes in when you want to sent it home. You still have to get the clearance form. But you probably have to get a box made. Make sure you don't try to get this done the day before you leave. With some serious pressure you will get it done in two days. If you are unlucky and talk to the wrong people, it takes you more. A box is made by one of the home improvement stores in town. They will make you a triplex box for somewhere between 50 and 75 AU$. Be aware that multiplex is very expensive here. To fill up the gaps, you can buy newspapers in front of the biggest supermarket. This saves you a lot of hassle. Inside the supermarket you can try to get old newspaers for free.
Locals love it when you take a picture! They may sometimes refuse to smile, because they are embarassed by their teeth affected from beetle nut. But most of the time, they pose before you can ask! This can fill up days! Ask ine person ans she will drag you to the next to make his/her picture as well. Before you know you are making oictures like an old fashioned schoolphotographer! Once you are home, all these nice people are soon forgotten. But they do know there's something called email! Try send them some pictures. By email or regular mail. It might take ages, but it will be appreciated and the will recall your visit for years. Like you will probably do as well...