Thursday, October 11, 2012

Papua New Guinea 3: The Milne Bay Province

A coastal village on Normanby Island, with traditional thatch
houses on stilts, seems barely above sea level
New Guinea, though technically an island, is really more like a mini-continent.  It's varied terrain includes high mountains with permanent glaciers, tropical rain forests, and thousands of miles of coastline.  Much of that coastline is in the southeastern most province of Milne Bay, along its mainland peninsulas, fjords and bays, as wells around the numerous islands of the D'Entrecasteaux and Louisiade archipelagos that extend off to the southeast.  Some islands here are flat, some just tiny atolls.  Others are remnants of more massive structures of limestone or volcanic rock.

A young lady from the island of Panaete leans
against her palm-thatched house.
Here one finds the flavor of the south seas, where relatively recent settlers from Polynesia, Melanesia and Micronesia have made their homes, adding to the ancient cultural diversity of the country.  As elsewhere in remote parts of New Guinea, much of the traditional culture was intact in the early 1970's when I first visited.  Grass skirts were still the norm, but dresses, tee-shirts, and shorts were available from traders.  Houses were on stilts, built of local timbers and thatched with palm fronds, as they have been for thousands of years, and canoes were still being built the traditional way.

As usual, I will let the pictures themselves speak or of the botanical wonders to be found in this fascinating part of the world.
A traditional out-rigger canoe on Panaete Island
Some islands in the D'Entrecasteaux
Archipelago are tiny atolls.

The mainland coast near Tufi in the Milne Bay Province
 includes many fjords.
Villagers on Misima come out to meet the weekly boat.
The large orchid genus Dendrobium includes many species native to New Guinea.
This one, D. bracteosum is my favorite. I photographed it on Misima Island.

A wild Begonia from the forests of Misima

Dendrobium atroviolaceum, also on
Misima,  is another common orchid in
 New Guinea.
A bird's-nest fern, genus Asplenium,
 grows on a tree
stump in the rain forest around Alotau,
on the mainland.

Members of the ginger family genus Riedelia have narrow,
tubular flowers probably pollinated by birds.

Several large individuals of Caryota rumphiana in a clearing on Misima.
A club moss, Lycopodium, spreads its
scaly branches in imitation of a fern
frond on Misima Island.
A small understory palm of genus Hydriastele
 on Misima.
Our local guide is dwarfed by the massive stilt roots of a giant screwpine
(Pandanus) in the mainland rain forest near Alotau.