Category Archives: South Pacific

Tunnung and Kung Islands

We left the Tsoi islands and travelled 5 hours up to Tunnung island, this is where Clems place was. Described as last part of civilisation, first stop paradise by its owner and he was right. As we approached we realised that our charts weren’t very accurate including a whole island missing, also they seemed to be about a mile off course.

We were relieved when a man in a canoe appeared and rowed towards us, we asked if we had arrived at the right island and he jumped aboard and gave us directions to the anchorage. There were two reefs that came out from the shore making the entrance into the bay tricky. His name was Paul and he spoke very good English, he lived on the island with his wife and three children working at the guest house. He told us about how quiet it was there, not busy, no hassle, everything good and again how quiet it was there. I think he liked the quiet aspect of the island.

These guys soon came to join us –

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The next day we went ashore and four kids became our guides. We walked part way around the island until we found Clems place, he was standing in his main building looking a little surprised to see us.

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He currently had no guests but was waiting for the weekend as 8 surfers from Sydney were arriving, the island was mostly surrounded by reef and when the conditions were right produced good surf right outside Clems place.

Tunnung island clems place

We told him about how we had visited some other islands and given out glasses, he then told us of a worry he had with one of his eyes and an eye test workshop was set up for the next morning at his place. The word soon spread around the island inhabitants.

Tunnung island clems place

We saw 20 or so people and handed out about 14 pairs of glasses, some needed catoract operations or had a problem with pterygium (surfers eye) which seemed to be common in these island areas. Pterygium is a condition where a growth appears across the white of the eye which can lead to problems with vision if left untreated, it is normally caused by sun, wind, sand, etc. The only real thing to prevent it is good quality sun glasses, something they simply don’t have. ┬áSadly even when you tell them they need to go and visit the hospital you know they never will, the cost of the transport and waiting times at the hospital simply put them off.

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The next day we moved the boat to the neighbouring island of Kung, we were met by a lady in a canoe who already knew what we did and we told her we would in in 10 minutes. We took the dingy ashore and were escorted to the transit house, a place where any visitors to the island could come and stay for a small fee. Another eye test workshop was under way with another 20 or so seen that day.

We returned again the next morning and saw another 15 or so. There were two people i remember the most from that day. We went to the house of a lady on the way back to the boat as she wasn’t very mobile, unfortunately she was both short sighted and long sighted. We struggled to find her some matching glasses but we found a pair of huge glasses that looked like they fell out of the 1970’s, fortunately they actually looked quite good on her. You just know sometimes that you’ve found a good pair just by the expression on their faces, she looked up and could see the end of her garden, her neighbours house and all around – she was delighted !!

We also found her some reading glasses which worked just as well, she could now see close up too. She clutched her two new pairs of glasses and wouldn’t let them go, like they were her most valuable possessions, every so often trying her distance ones back on and smiling to everybody !!

The other person I remember was a man who kept coming up and asking me the same questions –

‘ So you are travelling on the boat ?’

‘You have come to my island to help?’

‘You are giving away glasses for free?’

‘You are not getting paid for this ?’

He would walk away and reappear 30 minutes later and ask similar questions. He simply couldn’t understand that somebody had come to his island to help him, he said he felt cut off from his own country at times. It was like he was having trouble comprehending what was happening. He kept saying ‘thank you’ and wandering off to think about it some more.

Tsoi Islands PNG

We left Kavieng after reprovisioning and headed out towards the Tsoi islands. We first stopped at Tsoilaunung island, the water was clear, blue and warm. A girl and her brother had come out in their canoe and were hanging about near to the rear of the boat. Being polite they just sat there until we started talking to them and then they rowed closer asking us if we wanted drinking coconuts. “1 Kina” the lad said with a cheeky smile (25 pence). I bought two and he seemed quite happy with his business transaction.

Tsoi islands

Next a lady appeared with two children asking whether we had any biscuits for the children, we got talking and said we would come in later to see her village. There were only 4 houses and everybody was related, we had a quick guided tour and bought another couple of coconuts.

One of their local houses –

Tsoi islands

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Open plan kitchen –

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The local kids always enjoy swimming –

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Upon meeting one guy he said his eyesight was very poor so Jimmy my skipper said we would come back with some glasses and see if we could find him a pair to help him read. We went back after lunch and soon everybody seemed to need glasses and were all pushing for an impromptu eye test. Normally you don’t need reading glasses until you are 40+ but even the youngsters wanted some !! We helped who we could and the older folk are always the most thankful as they clearly have the worst eyes so it makes much more of a difference to them.

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We moved the boat further and went ashore to see Tsoi Boto and met a lady on the beach called Estha, she showed us her house and her sons house and then walked with us to the other side of the island. She told us how her brother owned one of the guesthouses on the next island so we walked further and crossed the small passage in local dug out canoe.

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Spania and his wife (the local pastor) had built the guesthouse about 3 years ago, mostly doctors and nurses seemed to come 2/3 times a year and base themselves there whilst they made visits to the other islands.

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View from the guesthouse –

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We went for a walk to see the church and local school, also they had a nice new house next to the church which was looking a liitle tired. We sat and chatted to them about life on the island, Spania use to be a school teacher in different parts of PNG but had now retired. He was concerned that not all children went to school as it was not compulsary, they might go for a month or so but then get bored and just play in the ocean and go fishing. Despite being a small island there was a private school which cost 100 kina a year to join (25 pounds) and had their own school uniform, his grandaughter went there. They had been experiencing a drought for the last 3/4 months with virtually no rain whatsoever, the crops had all dried up (cassava, yams, potatoes) so it just seemed as though they were surviving on the sea to supply them with food.

Despite all this hardship everybody seemed happy enough and just got on with their lives hoping things would get better when the rains came.