Final Impressions of Palau

Today was the final day of the trip, our flight home was to start in the evening from Palau’s international airport.

An all day excursion was included, to fill the gap between us leaving the ship after breakfast and the flight in the evening.

We were first heading for Palau’s National Museum for a guided tour – with great insights into local traditions and customs, but also colonial and war-time history. From here it was on to the aquarium for an overview of the different sea habitats around Palau, their significance for the environment and of course related showcases – there was also the option to touch sea cucumbers and sea stars (Patrick?).

After this education experience, it was on to lunch (again with the opportunity, to try the local beer) – and then into the Etpison Museum, with a good overview of local artifacts and an opportunity, to apply for a Schengen visa (the Dutch consulate is in the same building). The tour conluded at Airai Bai – the men’s meeting house at Airai; the tour operator had set up refreshments and snacks, there were demonstrations of local craft and a final opportunity, to stock up on souvenirs. The surrounding area also had some things to explore (like the small harbor).

Temperatures were high and the refreshments did not last too long, so we continued to the airport very early – making it there, before it even opened (the airport receives up to two flights a day, so only opens like 2,5 hours before scheduled departure time). We were eventually let in, were able to check in and start the long journey home.

Overall this has been an amazing and mind-blowing trip – with so many different things to see and experience. The cultural performances may have sound repetitive – but they were not – they were all unique and different – as were the costumes and the people.

I don’t think there is one single highlight of the trip for me – it’s really the complete package of cultural performances, exploration in the villages and on the islands, stops at beaches (most people would not dare dreaming about) and nature at its best – all of this combined with the amenities of cruise ship. A truly epic journey has come to an end – and I can only be thankful, that I was able to be part of it.

Sunset Cocktail at the Beach

I originally had booked a flight around the rock islands; that trip however got cancelled due to an issue with the plane equipment – as such I now had free afternoon, which I used for a bit more relaxation and time in the spa.

In the late afternoon I used the tender shuttle between the ship and the nearby beach resort, to get ashore. Here I made the short walk up to a view point – followed by a beach cocktail (rum punch right out of a coconut) just before sunset time – accompanied by the final cultural performance of the trip – this time showing off Palau’s cultural heritage.

After the performance it was back to the ship – for dinner, last drinks and packing.

Relaxation at Sea

We had left Papua New-Guinea and were now on track for Palau, covering a distance of 775 nautical miles. This translated to two days at sea – great for relaxation and processing of all the experiences and adventures of the previous days in PNG.

In the morning of the 21st we crossed the equator; this included the traditional visit of Neptun and a celebration (complete with a bite of fish, champagne and a Linie).

Later in the morning I had the opportunity, to get to see the technical internals of the ship during a chief-engineer-led guided tour. The tour covered the engines, the desalination plant, sewage facilities, garbage management and the laundry. It took us more than 2.5 hours and was getting us well below the waterline (and into areas, that other cruise companies won’t show).

Partial Eclipse

After lunch I made it back ashore. Here I had a long walk along the beach – with a constant eye on the sun – as a partial solar eclipse was about to happen this afternoon. It surely got darker and twilighty (if that word exists). With clouds coming in, there was no way, to catch the eclipse on a photo – however watching it actually worked well – with polarized sun glasses and using the clouds as added cover.

Coming back from the beach, I had another look at town, before heading back to the zodiac landing spot for a final step on Papua New-Guinean soil. Good-bye PNG, I have enjoyed the days spent here.

Madang Sunset

We made it back to Madang and the ship just before sunset. Below my final impressions of town (of which I had not really seen anything – except for the airport) and the sunset over the bay.

Goroka Impressions

After our near-retreat at the mudmen, we made it back to Goroka town for a late lunch at the Bird of Paradise hotel (including the option, to try SP Lager).

After lunch it was on to the local market and the JK Macarthy Museum. The latter featuring (next to other exhibits) plenty of historic photos from the region and a mournig necklace made from a human hand (no kidding). From the museum it was on to the modern airport (now with proper security – though I still wonder, how the souvenir arrows and the hammer made it through) for the half-hour-flight back to sea level.