Is Port Moresby the worst place in the world to live?

According to The Telegraph in the UK, Port Moresby is the 2nd worst place to live IN THE WORLD!!  Over the past 5 years that we have been here, Port Moresby is often ranked as one of the most unliveable cities in the world, however who makes this shit up?

A couple of things have gotten me a little bit peaved over the past few weeks, firstly, that Port Moresby is ranked the 2nd worst city to live in, and secondly that two tourists came underprepared to do Kokoda, got themselves in the shit, and are bagging the hell out of PNG.

So, it begs the question?

Is Port Moresby the 2nd worst city in the world to live in?

So lets break down what they think makes Port Moresby so bad (according to all these people that most likely have never lived here)..

1. Rape and Murder happen everyday to unsuspecting expats (not true)

2. Carjackings are rife – you can’t leave your compound without someone trying to rob you or your car (not true)

3. You can’t wear jewellery or show too much skin – just in case the locals get a little lusty or try to rob you (not true)

4. You can’t walk anywhere and need to be escorted by security to buy some bread (not true)

5. Everybody you meet is corrupt (not true)

Since we have been here, yes, there have been rapes and murders, yes, there have been carjackings, yes, people have been robbed, yes, some people get escorted to buy a loaf of bread, and yes, some people are corrupt.  And yes – this happens anywhere in the world – not just Port Moresby.

Instead of focusing on the negative parts of a city – why don’t we focus on the positive.

1. The people are amazing!

2. It’s a special treat to be invited to a villiage – people pay lots of money to do this in Vanuatu, here, you need to earn someones respect before – different cost, but so worth it

3. Traditional “sing sings” dances and song happen all year round – always an occasion to treasure

4. You have some of the best fishing at your door step

5. Every weekend you could be: surfing, camping, horse riding, mountain climbing, sailing, fishing (big game, river etc), diving, trekking, bird watching, snorkling, waterskiing, wakeboarding, kitesurfing, swimming, lying in a hammock, sitting by the pool, going to parties, playing golf, shooting guns at the gun club, offroad motorbikes, paintball, lawnbowls, watching local rugby comps, tennis, squash, road cycling, running (or walking), shopping at the market…. sounds like a pacific paradise doesn’t it.

In fact there is so much to list – I think that the actions of some of my friends here speak volumes.

Whilst lots of expat’s rush back to their home country for “breaks” or holidays, they take holidays and stay here in Port Moresby, relax by the pool, go fishing, have a dive, read a book, eat papaya and mango, drink pina colada, get a sun tan…  yes – Port Moresby can be one of those places where your time off can be as relaxing or as exciting as you make it.

If you look beyond the compound walls, in fact – if you stop thinking them as compound’s, but rather gated communities – then you will come to realise that living in Port Moresby isn’t the worst in the world for expatriates – in fact, it’s pretty damn good.

Sadly though, living in Moresby is extremely difficult for our Papua New Guinea friends, high rent, squatter settlements, poverty, lack of villiage food etc all add to a melting pot of different cultures, some still at tribal war with each other creating the “not so nice” side of Port Moresby.  And tribal conflict back in the villiage can add to or create conflict here in the city.  So many people live a traditional way of life, and the impact of the city on this is vast.  Land ownership in the middle of the jungle is defined by tradition, or conquest, or marriage – here, it’s defined by how much money you have…  And if you have no money – they you find land where no-one is living (or looks like no-one has claimed) and you start afresh not knowing that the land is owned by someone in a suit living and working in the city, or a company that is earmarking an area for city expansion…

One of my team recently purchased his first haus, a brand new 3 bedroom unit, fully furnished.  He moved in with his wife and 3 kids before christmas – I’ve been so happy for him…  but the funky thing is, that his brand new haus is cheaper than renting, he was fortunate than he was able to save enough for a deposit and of course our company home ownership scheme really does help.  And to top it off – he’s in his 20’s…  pretty damn awesome.  but pretty damn hard.

This last few weeks have also had the Kokoda Track in the limelight for all the wrong reasons.  Two tourists that set out on the Kokoda (one of the hardest walks in the world) in sneakers, without provisions, nor sleeping bag, nor arranged guide etc etc etc – what the hell were they thinking.  Anyway, they claimed they were assaulted, she was raped and they ran (naked, with no shoes – even though they were clothed in the clothes they left in when they got back) 24km’s through the hardest terrain in the world to get help (almost as fast as the record holder for the fastest running across the Kokoda Track).  Charlie Lynn who is a guide (and former Australian Politician, and Vietnam Vet) debunks the whole story.  And I am siding with Charlie nothing that they have said or done rings true, not from the people of Kokoda, nor even what I know of the Track.  In my opinion, it seems that they realised 1. they were in trouble and underestimated how hard Kokoda is, 2. they realised that they weren’t going to make their flight out of PNG, 3. they could claim being chased by cannibals as PNG is “like that – apparently”, 4. They might make some money selling their story of terror to the british papers, 4. PNG is so remote, no one here would know about the story.
And now he (the male) is calling Charlie out for “protecting his job” – what a load of crap.  Charlie is rightly protecting the people of Kokoda from defamatory accusations.  If what they say is true, then I expect they would have no problem coming back to PNG to stand before the young men accused of this crime and telling PNG and world what really happened.

PNG gets a bad rap at times, yes, some of it is true, and some of it is very scary.  But most of us can smell a story a mile away, and because the two tourists ultimately fabricated a lot of the “story” it puts lots and lots of doubt on the rest of the story.

If you want to come to PNG – be prepared.  If you want to do Kokoda, do it properly.  If you want to bag PNG and it’s people, be prepared to back it up.

4 Years in Port Moresby

It’s been a long time since I had either the time, or the mental capacity to write up a new post on my blog.  I think it’s safe to say that PNG looks good on us sometimes, but it isn’t without it’s challenges.We’ve now been here for the past 4+ years, and on reflection – it’s been a hell of a journey.

When we arrived up here, I had a baby, one kid just started school and the other a few years older.  Next year, the baby starts school (about half a year late due to the way school starts here), our boy is in Year 6 (what is Year 7 in NZ) and the eldest is off to Boarding School…

Boarding School!  holy *@#$…  She’s a teenager!

We came to PNG for a 3 year adventure, it’s turned into something unexpected, but that’s what you should expect in the Land of the Unexpected.  Jacinta still pines for home, but she is making the most of being able to spend time with the kids, and my job just keeps on changing.  I started here managing a small team, and now have over 40 staff and a bunch of different departments to look after.  Each part of your working life here in Moresby has different challenges, and mines no different.  One minute I am dealing with no power (actually that happens every day), but seriously, no power, and a genset that keeps shutting down, likely to continue on for a few weeks as they try and retrofit parts to an aging and obselete main switchboard, the next minute helping someone with a mobile phone who’s only form of power is that which is at work.

Who needs power…

The past 4+ years have been very eventful.  We’ve been apart of some pretty amazing things; being part of a brideprice ceremony; watch a volcano erupt; seeing a country go through 40 years of independence; watching the 15th Pacific Games in Moresby; Swimming in water warmer than the bath; Fishing in amazing waters; eating the most amazing food; having the most amazing travels.

We’ve also seen some horrible things; the gang bashing of a man and boy in East New Britain; the death of 2 little kids as they were thrown from the back of a ute at high speed; our neighbour getting vicously carjacked outside our door; the women that come to work with black eyes and sad hearts; the broken hands; the broken lives; the violence that lives just around the corner; the violence that poverty and hardship create.

But I see a country of resilience, of fight, and of swagger.  A country not afraid to stand up for itself, and a country of hope.  A country that is changing; rapidly; modernising.  A country that is standing up and shouting “look at us – we are here”.  A country that is no longer tolerating domestic abuse; no longer tolerating unlawfulness.  But a country that sometimes slips back into previous times; a country that is trying hard, but needs help.

We’ve been lucky, here.  We’ve faced a few obstacles, but prevailed.  The kids keep laughing at me for breaking fingers and toes, 2 fingers, 1 toe in the past 2 years – not sure how that happens, but it does.  I seem to have a way of tripping over anything that isn’t bolted down.  This year, on top of the malaria I got a few years ago – I got the dreaded Dengue Fever.  What a drama that was; being misdiagnosed with malaria, then misdiagnosed with Hepatitis, before finally being flown down to Cairns.  Dengue is the worst illness, they don’t call it breakbone fever for nothing, it feels like your whole body is snapping in half.

Thankfully, we haven’t contracted TB.  But we are trying to help those that have.  PNG has some of the highest rates of TB in the known world, and we are raising funds for Kikori Hospital in their fight against this devestating illness.

I think living here, we (and certainly the kids) have lost our materialism, but enjoy the good things, a nice meal, travel, hearing the rain, being on the water, getting some sun.  We still collect lots, but we give away as much as we get.  Our’s isn’t a life where we sell a cup for a couple of dollars, ours is giving it a new home.  I noticed the other day when we were at the Ela Beach Craft Markets, we didn’t bargain once.  The vendors named a price, if we liked it, and liked the price – then we bought it.  If we didn’t, we didn’t haggle them down – we just moved on.  I think everyone knew :)  Some of the market vendors are people that see us, and wave – not because we are a prospective sale, but because they have seen us over and over again.  The street sellers all know us by name, and people come up to us in the street to say hi (then you recognise them as the guard at work, or the girl at the chemist).

Lots of things are happening in PNG, there is lots of investment, and the city is completely changed from what it was 4 years ago – we are even getting paintball facilities!!  It’s still relatively cheap to eat out, but very expensive to buy groceries.  Our living costs have almost doubled in the past 4 years – but that might be due to the boy getting bigger ;)

We now have unlimited internet – although it’s very slow.  But if you want highspeed, you can get it – for a price.  There are 2 movie theatres, showing movies before they are released anywhere else (in 3D too).  Flights to Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, Cairns, Brisbane, Sydney, Solomons, Vanuatu, Fiji – lets hope someone does New Zealand soon!  But also a huge amount of internet tourism places with cruise ships coming in and of course some of the best diving in the world.

Yes – PNG is changing.  But like 4 years ago, you can still get carjacked, you need to keep your wits about you at all times, and if you do that – you can have the most wonderful experiences ever.

The hardest part of PNG, is saying goodbye.  We meet so many people from this blog – some of them (looking at you Olga!) didn’t even know it was me writing this blog.  hahaha

And we lose so many of them…  It’s hard, saying goodbye.  But we will always remember, the parties, the good times, the sad times, the frustration and the anxiety.  Living here gives you all that and more – but we all dread the end, the go pinis bbq’s, the lack of another place to go.  And as we live here for longer, the new expats that arrive seem to be too scared to say hello, some of them don’t fit in, sometimes we don’t fit in as well.

But still we create friends for life.


Places and Compounds to know around Port Moresby

OK – so I haven’t got quite to “Part 2” yet, but I did whip this little map up the other day and forgot to post it…

This is a “general view” of the town area in Port Moresby. So, if you are an Aussie High Comm person coming up and you will be living at Kone, then check the map :) . Likewise, all your shopping might be at the Waterfront ..

Hope this helps with some prospective expats to PNG, and if you want some more detail, please give me a holler.

Port Moresby Compound Locations

Locations of Compounds in Port Moresby – town area

KiwiExpat beginners guide to Port Moresby 2015 edition – part 1

  1. Port Moresby’s International Airport is called Jackson’s, and so is the domestic Airport. This is abbreviated to POM, which is also what we call Port Moresby to other people from Port Moresby. Eg: “When are you going back to Pom?“
  2. Port Moresby is also called Moresby or Mosbi, as well as Pom. Often the names get interchanged whilst talking (just to confuse you). Eg: “Hey, how’s life in Port Moresby?”, “Oh man, Moresby a bit crazy at the moment”, “No shit?”, “Yeah – when you coming back to Pom?”, “Ahhh – dunno bro, all my Mosbi wantoks want me to come back – but not sure when”….
  3. Port Moresby is spread out along an old main route called the Hubert Murray Highway. This is the old way old of “Town” (the modern way and most used is via the Poreporena Freeway (Spring Garden Road)).
  4. The CBD location beside Paga Hill is called Town, and the old Hubert Murray route is used for naming locations along this route
    1. Town
    2. 2 Mile (Badili Area)
    3. 3 Mile – Although this is actually called Murray Barracks
    4. 4 Mile (Boroko) – but normally refers to the 4 Mile PMV (Bus) Stop
    5. 5 Mile – 5 Mile roundabout (has a Mobil Service Station) – beside Jack Pidik Park
    6. 6 Mile – T intersection, left takes you to Jackson’s Airport – right takes you down the Magi Highway
    7. 7 mile – Jacksons’s Airport
    8. 8 mile – ATS settlement, Malolo Estate
    9. 9 mile – 9 mile settlement, right hand turn off to Sogeri
    10. 14 mile – Pacific Adventist University (PAU), Adventure Park, Orchid Gardens
    11. 16 mile – Hugo Canning factory (Ox and Palm)
    12. 17 mile – Bluff Inn
    13. Sogeri
    14. Turn right for Crystal Rapids
    15. Veer left for Koitaki
  5. The main suburbs/area’s are:
    1. Town
    2. Ela Beach/Ela Makana
    3. Touaguba
    4. Konedobu (Kone)
    5. Hanuabada
    6. Hohola
    7. Koki
    8. Badili
    9. Gabutu
    10. Korobosea
    11. Gordons
    12. Waigani
    13. Ensisi
    14. Erima
    15. Gerehu
  6. Suburbs/area’s you may not want to visit without a local are:
    1. June Valley
    2. Morata
    3. Sabama
    4. Erima
    5. Gerehu past stage 3
    6. Gordon’s Market
    7. Koki Market area
  7. Where can you get a Coffee? There are lots of places, however my favorites are:
    1. My Place :) (we only drink PNG coffee – yum!)
    2. Other people’s places – especially when they like PNG coffee too ;)
    3. Duffy’s
    4. Edge Café
    5. Fusion Restaurant
    6. Airways Hotel
    7. Brumby’s at Vision City (when the machine is working)
    8. Royal Papua Yacht Club
    9. Espresso Café – Deliotte Tower (only cause I work upstairs)
    10. Boncafe – Deliotte Tower (Only cause I work upstairs, they open at 7:30am, and we get to see their pet rats that run around behind them…)
  8. So, you are now hungry – here’s my favourite eateries
    1. Fusion Restaurant – Wonton Noodle Soup
    2. Duffy’s – for their beef pie’s
    3. The Edge Café – The steak sandwich or Egg’s Benedict
    4. The Imperial – Salty Fish Rice
    5. Asia Aroma’s – Salt & Pepper Squid
    6. Stone Grill or Tapa’s at The Yachty – RPYC
    7. Friday night Fish n Chips at Sail’s Café – RPYC
    8. Sail’s Café – Egg’s Benedict
    9. Ten Japanese Restaurant – It’s all good, but try the special buffet lunch
    10. The Aviat – Burger and Chips. But standard lunch menu is a good pub lunch
    11. Koitaki – for local beef
    12. Bluff Inn – for a burger and chips
    13. Airways – Buffet Lunch
    14. Ela Beach Hotel – Pizza
    15. Foodstation – Pizza and Fish n Chips
    16. Ang’s – Best duck in town
    17. Sunset Lodge Lea Lea – BYO food to cook on the wood fired BBQ
    18. Big Rooster – for Fried Chicken (which I don’t eat BTW) and the best chips in PNG
    19. Tasty Bite – for steaks and Mexican… kidding Indian ;)
  9. And if you really have to eat at home, then you need some groceries
    1. Waterfront Supermarket (is 10 to 15% more expensive, but it’s nice, so we go there :) )
    2. Boroko Foodworld at Gordons – still the best damn sausages anywhere… and I mean anywhere!! Was the place to go a few years ago until the new supermarkets opened
    3. RH Hypermart in Vision City – I really like their Ham, and quite often are a lot cheaper than anywhere else, they also have a Brumby’s bakery onsite
    4. SVS Harbourcity – used to be our old supermarket, now it just looks old… pretty grotty place, but you can find things here that you can’t anywhere else. Might be because they have less clientele now
    5. Waigani Central Stop and Shop (or Stab and Grab for a bit of fun) – has some of the best range of cheese around.
    6. RH Hypermart opposite Brian Bell – grotty grotty grotty, hold your fecken wallets…. Actually not a bad place ;) you can get items here that no one else stocks
    7. SVS 2 Mile – has possibly the best stock of spices around
    8. SVS Koki – used to be (a long time ago) part of the Anderson’s Chain. Been there, not worth going back
    9. The Shed at PAU Markets – my favourite place for fresh fruit and vege, only open Sunday morning at 14 mile, make sure you spread some cash around the outside market as well – some of the locals grow the best pumpkin you have had in your life!   Even my kids eat it – and kids never eat pumpkin, they are normally forcefed…
    10. Malaro Markets – no wallets, old clothes, go with a local the first time :) best market in Pom. Although you can get fresh fish at Koki Market, or on the side of the road – this is the best place to come.
    11. Side of the road – some of the best fruit and vege is found on the side of the road by a bunch of street sellers, people like Anna Banana and Peter bring fruit down from Sogeri and sell it at strategic places around the city (like the school when it’s pickup time). You can haggle a little with them (please don’t be too harsh), and if you buy banana’s, make sure they are green – they are the bestest!
    12. Sogeri – if you drive up to Sogeri in Pineapple season, buy some! If you have never had “real” pineapple (or banana’s for that matter) before – then you are in for a treat.


Part 2 to come…..

Jackson’s Airport Port Moresby

I’m sitting in Brisbane International airport with a 4 hour delay till the plane leaves for New Zealand, and. I was thinking about the changes happening at dear wee airport – POM.

Right now Port Moresby International Airport (Jackson’s) is going through a major refurbishment. But this means reduced services, no cafe’s, limited duty free, less seating, and NO AIR CON! I know…. Basically, they have a bunch of high wall aircon’s around the place trying to cool down a couple of hundred people. In outbound customs there is 1 AC… And lots of big fans that will chop off kids hands if they accidentally poke their fingers in there.

So, what are the benefits of all this change? Well, for one – outbound customs have a proper dedicated express lane (where you can use those express passes that you have collected). There will be new services and shops, and generally they will try and bring the airport up to modern standards.

No longer do you have to go through a scanning machine at the entry to the building (thankfully), and security after customs, although only one machine, is quite fast with guys that seem to know what they are doing…

We still have lots of confusion around though so here is my cheat sheet:

1. Grab lots of customs cards, fill them out at home before you go to the airport – there is no pens, no anywhere currently to fill this out.
2. Go early! Then, go have coffee at airways. Get an express pass so that you can clear customs quickly
3. Join a frequent flyer program! For the record Virgin Australia have cheaper flights, and better program for families. Both Jacinta and myself are Platinum or Gold with Virgin due to family pooling of status credits.
4. Your bag gets checked for liquids just before you board – be prepared!
5. When checking in, make sure they put your bag tag on the bag
6. Listen carefully, the screens are small and the boarding calls can be missed. 45 minutes from flight departure should have you listening to the calls – especially as sometimes there are 5 flights very close together
7. Did I mention getting an express pass? No one ever takes these off you, so try to beg borrow steal – or earn one, then use it just to get through outbound customs. The guy at premium checkin will give you one each :) (that’s 5 for us)
8. Don’t wear jeans! It’s hot in there…
9. Flying at the pointy end is better than the back ;)

Domestic next time :)