With the day to spend seeing what there is of Madang we had looked at a few items on the tourist map and found two “Tourist Attractions”. Once was a nature reserve and the other was a butterfly farm. One of the serious challengers around here is that there are no significant MAPS beyond that of the town, GPS although it can give you a position there is no GPS map of PNG, and the roads don’t have any signs on them at all.
Madang is like a wild west town, more so than Lae, the streets once paved, certainly aren’t now, they are dirt and varying depth pot holes. The navigation method here is to stop and talk to the locals and see if they had any idea what you are looking for.
We had read about a wildlife sanctuary or something like that, where a sulfur stream passed and Pierce Brosnan had played some scenes in the 1997 interpretation of Daniel Defoes , “Robinson Crusoe“. With directions like, before the long bridge is a the village of Balek and you should find it there. We traveled back towards Lae to a big bridge with guard rail on only one side, we reasoned that this must be the bridge. Crossing it brought us no joy, back we went towards Madang, got to four mile and still did not find it so we returned to the bridge, still no joy. On our way back and about to give up we ask some locals selling buai (betel-nut), I asked if they knew of Balek, sure enough we had passed it just bit further back, a U-turn and a couple of kilometers later we pull up in front of a lady selling some fruit and buai. She confirmed indeed we are at Balek, and by parting with a few Kena she would conduct a guided tour of the said place. Parking the ute scared one naked little three year old girl so much she ran all the way back to the village housing screaming. I didn’t think we should have had that effect on her.
We are lead across the road to a park like area with a few trees, lawns, a thatched house and a bridge over an obviously sulfur creek, back dropped on the deep green of a jungle cliff. She took us through the gardens explaining some of the local trees and plants We learnt that the buai is the seed from a very narrow trunk palm tree, she had a number in the this couple of acres of gardens.
Back into the cliff is a path to a sulfur spring with turtles swimming, in the pool, the water is not a hot spring as you might imagine it would be. A pile of rocks marked the fake grave used in the movie “Robinson Crusoe” and she confirmed she had indeed meet Pierce Brosnan when the filming took place.
Back at the village our host described how they took the bark from the Tulip tree to create the string for a bilum. Cut in about eight inch strips, the barks beaten to fibre before teasing and twisting into the thin string like yarn used to make the bilum.
One tourist attraction down, we headed off to find the next armed with instructions from our buai chewing tour guide from Balek, hazy instructions and lake of signs lead us on a road to somewhere. There are not many roads to or from any where here, and this was definitely one of them. A perfect road, lead us past perfect villages, deeper and deeper into the mountains and jungle. Our quest is a butterfly farm, the result, we found nothing.
All hungry we gave up and sat in a huge restaurant overlooking this magnificent scene of lagoons and islands all on our own. There are absolutely no tourists here at all, its amazing really given the beauty of this place.