Difference between revisions of "Wewak"
Revision as of 09:11, 31 October 2011
Wewak is the capital of the East Sepik province in the Sepik region of Papua New Guinea.
From a travel perspective Wewak is mainly important as an access point for visits to the Sepik River. During World War II, it was the site of a large Japanese airbase and the location of formal Japanese surrender to Allied forces on New Guinea.
It should be possible to reach Wewak from Papua (Irian Jaya) in the Indonesian part of the island of New Guinea. From Jayapura by road to Vanimo in Sandaun province takes around 3 hours. Public transport services are available on both sides of the border. There are then road connections to Wewak. During flood season some of the river crossings may be impassable.
Lutheran Shipping and Rabaul Shipping run passenger vessels from Madang to Wewak and Madang to Vanimo via Wewak a few times a week. Schedules can change so be prepared to wait a few days for a ship. Tickets can be purchased at the local Madang offices.
Wewak has a considerable number of relics from WW2 and, in particular, attracts many Japanese visitors.
Wewak is linked by road to three villages on the Sepik River, Angoram, Timbunke, and Pagui.
There are 4 islands near Wewak which can be reached in under one hour by boat; Mushu, Kairu, Yuo, and Karasaw. If you are willing to do what it takes to get to them, they are unforgettably beautiful and worth every ounce of effort. These islands can be reached by getting a ride on one of the John boats that park in the harbor by the Yacht club every afternoon. There are between 5 and 20 boats on any given day all of which are independently owned and operated. You can buy passage on a shuttle boat for 20-40PGK each way, but then you will have no control over when the boat leaves and you might find yourself waiting the better part of the day for the boat to leave. The other option is to charter a boat for 140-600PGK round trip and the boat will leave as soon as you are ready to go. Because all the boats are independently owned and operated the prices and availability vary widely, but if you are at the marina at around lunch time you can usually get to any of the islands for a fair price. Haggling is not culturally appropriate but it is becoming more permissible, if you just ask around and you can usually get a fair price. All 4 islands have beautiful white sand beaches far superior to those available in town. The islands work on the traditional land ownership principle, so all the islands have at least one Papaground who owns the beach, the reef, and the fish around it. If you want to visit any of the islands you will have to pay 10-15PGK per adult for day use, and 20-50PGK per adult per night for overnight stays. All of the islands have guest house bungalows. They are built of traditional palm material and are owned by the respective Papagrounds. If you stay the night at any of the islands your belongings will be kept secure in the guesthouse and they will offer privacy, but don't expect running water, fans, AC... the islands are not connected to any form of power grid so while there beauty is unparalleled, they are rustic. You will want to bring food for your stay, they will cook it for you, but the fee does not include food. I typically bring about three times as much rice, pasta, canned meat and sauce as I could possibly eat and then I give it all to them at the beginning. Often they will end up cooking your food and bringing it to you with fresh fish and fruit ect, but if there is a food shortage on the island you will just end up eating what you brought.
My best experience has been at Yuo island, I stayed there for 4 days in June 2011. It is the smallest of the four and has approximately 150 people living on it. A man named Robert is the Papaground and his jovial personality is infectious. If Santa Clause were a pacific islander he would be Robert. He has 6 children from 2 to 18 and they are all good tempered, fun loving adorable kids. Everyone who has signed his guest-book left a comment about how delightful the family is. When we arrived they had raked all the sand on the beach so it looked like a sandtrap at Augusta. They did an excelent job building the guesthouse with a veranda that has tables and chairs overlooking the beach. There is a water collection system that feeds a 2000 gal tank that has safe drinking water. one of the best things about the guesthouse is the bathroom Robert built out back, it has a concrete slab floor, a shower stall and a flush toilet. The presence of abundant fresh drinking water and the ability to rinse off after you get out of the ocean makes overnight stays much more practical then on the other islands. The reefs around Yuo are the best I have ever seen anywhere in the world by a significant margin. the soft choral is absolutely breathtaking. The islanders eat fish, so there are not a lot of big pelagics swimming around the reefs, or sharks, or turtles, either, but the choral is so overwhelmingly alive, it makes any reef in the Caribbean seem like a dead pile of rocks in comparison. Robbert has registered the reefs around Yuo as sanctuaries so that could explain why they are so nice.Visibility is usually around 40' but if the Sepik river washes across the island the viability will drop off to 15' max. This usually only happens one or two weeks out of the year. There is a very nice reef immediately in front of the guest house, but the best reefs are about a 5 minute boat ride on the west and east tips of the island. The Reefs are so abundantly alive they have to maintain a small channel through the one in front of the guesthouse just to get the boat to the beach. Robert will take you fishing in the mornings if you ask, and if you like fishing, it is recomended. There is nothing quite like puling in a nice tuna hand over hand on a line wrapped around a chunk of driftwood. If you bring a dive light and a spear-gun, they will take you spear fishing at night (they will take you in the day also, if you ask, but you won't likely catch anything) but the sharks come out at night. They are not agressive, but they are present at night. There is very good surfing on all the islands if you know where to go. Robbert is a member of the Wewak surf club and a number of the boys from the island are involved. They only surfed on wooden planks in the past, but they have recently been given some western style boards. Between May and October the surf is dead flat to head height, between November and March it ranges from head height to double or tripple overhead. The break on Yuo looks good at around head height, but during the season it could be fatal, you would be better off trying the break at Karasau which is only about 15 minutes by boat from Yuo and has a Very nice big wave when it is hitting (remember that Cairns is a long way away and you don't want to get surgery in PNG). I really can't say enough good things about my time on Yuo, Robert and his wife bent over backwards to be hospitable, if you want privacy they will be attentive yet respectful of your space. If you want to experience island family living, they will invite you into their home to eat with them, He ferried us to all the other islands and was at our beck and call, and I am pretty sure he spent more money on gas then I paid him for all the boat fees, it was very reasonable. Robert can be contacted for pickup at 72761483, he speaks English well, but like most people from the Sepik, he has a thick accent. He does not hang out on the marina, so if you want a ride from him you will have to call him.