9th March – Alotau, Papua New Guinea

Couldn’t get back to sleep. Neither did mum. Am literally shaking with fatigue and the effort of just being upright. Have drunk some caffeine. Hope it kicks in soon and is enough to keep me going.

We went ashore about ten. The heat and humidity hits you like a wall. It was 30 in the shade by 8am. It’s devastating. It’s like carrying a weight around your neck and legs. We walked to the end of the quay and found a taxi to take us into town. He tried to change the agreed price once we were already moving, but I soon put paid to that idea. Cheeky bugger. It was only a five minute run. But bless his little entrepreneurial heart for trying. I hope it works for him with other cruise passengers, at least sometimes.

Alotau is a very simple town. There are not really any proper roads or pavements, just damaged tarmac and dust. I walked to and through the market, which was made up of two open-sided buildings – essentially roofs on stilts. One had stalls where almost everyone sold cigarette lighters, batteries or doughnuts, and the other was fresh fruit and veg – but mostly betelnuts. These are the local fruit, about the size of a kiwi fruit, and when you chew them, your mouth goes red and you get a small high. Everyone was very relaxed and happy and friendly – mostly, probably, because they were all very slightly stoned. When I asked why all the stalls sold the same thing, the guide simply shrugged and said “Demand”. And everyone was very kind and concerned about mum – we couldn’t leave her on a bench, because everyone kept stopping to try and help her! Luckily they all speak perfect English, however many other languages they speak as well.

There are two horseshoe-shaped streets of shops, with car parking up the middle – rather like Yorkey’s Knob, but not so much a bird in flight as the Golden Arches on stilts. Long, thin versions. Everything is a surprisingly long way apart from everything else, for somewhere so essentially small. They have put flower beds in the middle of the car park – it looks very pretty, for a car park!

I bought a t-shirt in the supermarket, which had air con! And then we took a cab back to the ship. I don’t think I’ve ever been back on board from anywhere in under two hours, but although the people were very nice, there was precious little to see or do, or buy. I completed a questionnaire from their tourism team – they really want to improve the lot for future visitors. Last year they had nine cruise ships come in; this year they are expecting 14, so I imagine that, if we ever come again, it will look very different indeed.

No postcards bought – none available. Likewise no magnets. No wifi seen. Although they have a mobile phone system run by a company called Digicel, who are really hot on advertising.

Had lunch and then went back to bed. utterly shattered. Slept for just shy of two hours.

Didn’t see any sign whatsoever of a solar eclipse. P&O probably got the time wrong.

My knees are killing me. What the heck have I done to them?!

Apparently lunch time yesterday was bang on halfway round. I forgot the actual timescale is sixteen weeks and three days. So now you know.

We left at 5pm on Wednesday. We won’t see land now until next Tuesday, in Manila.

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