Sunday, March 11, 2018

Kokopo!

Part of Paul's role as Senior Manager of Regional Centers is visiting the staff at each center to become familiar with the operations and support the manager. Last week Paul went to Kokopo, on East New Britain Island (part of PNG) and...(drumroll please) I (Laura) GOT TO GO ALONG!!! 

This trip was part work/part fun for Paul and 100% very much needed vacation for me.  

The Kokopo regional center is a hub of translation work. A number of teams rely heavily on the center for a place to stay in transit to and from the village, logistical support, and a place to hold translation workshops. The manager showed Paul the ins and outs of the center. Paul bought ice cream for the staff and we enjoyed getting to know them a bit while we shared a cool treat in the sweltering heat.

I had lots of time to rest and read and eat good food. The most memorable part of the trip was a day of adventure - climbing Mt. Tavurvur, a volcano that destroyed Rabaul in '94 and crawling through pitch black Japanese bunkers.

We arrived at Mt. Tavurvur at 8am in hopes to climb and descend before the day went from hot to super hot. We hired 2 guides and started across the hot, black pumice. My capri pants felt like they were cooking. The landscape was foreign and barren with patches of sugarcane sprouting up here and there. The climb was harder than I expected because the rocks and pebbles shifted with each step. Often one of the guides held my hand to keep me from falling. (I kept the guide from falling twice but we didn't talk about that). We have never sweated so much! In some spots we passed active steam vents blasting hot air at us. The ocean water at the base was literally boiling in some spots. At the top we saw steam rising up and big patches of yellow sulphur. Tavurvur had erupted again in 2014. We asked the guides how much warning they had that it was going to blow and they said "none" : o

After that amazing experience Paul, who has read tons about WWII, and I got to tour war bunkers. The first was Yamamoto's bunker. There was Japanese writing on the wall. Then we stopped at a village that had a sign advertising war tunnels. Paul and I set off into the jungle with a group of villagers. After several minutes I started to wonder just how far this place was! When we made it to the entrance I saw the only way in was to crawl on our hands and knees. I thought no way am I going in there. Paul crawled in and a boy with a dim flash light led the way. I decided to brave it after all and crawled in. The song "The Things We Do for Love" started playing in my mind. After a bit we could stand and we were lead through a network of tunnels.  We were told there are hundreds in the area. 

The Japanese used these tunnels to hide their troops and supplies.  We also went to a village where there had been a hospital in caves carved out of limestone by POW and Papua New Guinean slave labor. It felt mysterious to be in these caverns that held so much history.

After all that, drenched in sweat and covered with dirt, we went to a resort, Ropopo, and jumped in the ocean! It was wonderful to eat out and relax in bamboo lounge chairs. 

The day we left our flight was delayed, delayed again, and again. After 7 hours in the little airport we made it to Port Moresby but had missed our connecting flight to Goroka so the airline put us up in a very nice hotel. We came back very refreshed and I'm in a better mental state after our getaway - so thankful!



Panorama view from the top of the volcano
At the summit
Rabaul after it's destruction in '94 

Our guides

Steam vent

The steep descent

Don't worry it's not a giant cow pie

Some of the water in the bay is actually boiling


Japanese ww2 airplane wreckage

Admiral Yamamoto's Bunker

Japanese Tank

Entrance to one of the hundreds of tunnels

Inside one of the bunkers

Entrance to one of the tunnels

Enjoying a refreshing green coconut 

Entrance to the underground hospital

Bats nest

Paul with a live Japanese shell

The beach at Ropopo restort

Paul feeling relaxed



Japanese torpedo

Anti-aircraft shell

B-17 wreckage


Tangerines

Rambutan Fruit

Kickapoo Joy Juice

Mangosteen 
Galip nuts on banana leaves



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