On the road in…Papua New Guinea!

This was a long awaited dive trip to Papua New Guinea. I’d booked a couple of weeks at Tufi Dive Resort over the Christmas-New Year break. My workplace closes down entirely for 2 weeks, so we all tend to take off on holidays for the shutdown.

Why Tufi? Nothing in particular I suppose. The trip reports I’d read seemed to be more or less positive. And it offered the opportunity for some cultural experience – one of my primary reasons for wanting to visit PNG in general. I have no doubt there’s better diving in PNG if you are on a liveaboard, but I left booking this trip until quite late in the game, and there was no availability on the boats by the time I started to look. Turned out ok.

Getting to Tufi required landing in Port Moresby, and then getting a connecting domestic flight to Tufi. I didn’t see much of Port Moresby on the way to Tufi as I had a tight connection and pretty much just went from the international to domestic terminal and got a bottle of water.

On the way home, I took the advice of the travel agent and numerous friends who’d previously travelled to PNG, and headed to the Airways Hotel for the 7 hour layover between my domestic flight from Tufi to Port Moresby and my international flight back to Cairns. Easy enough, and they’d reliably informed me that if you bought a meal at the hotel, you could use the pool facilities for nothing. That’s changed – apparently if you want to use the lounge chairs, towels, or the pool itself, there’s a casual usage charge of 50 kina (about $28 Australian dollars – which is obscene). I paid it out of sheer boredom. Just my luck that it started raining about an hour or so after I got there. In the end I just moved into the hotel’s coffee shop and sat around drinking the local coffee (which was surprisingly good) until it was time to go back to the airport. I ate lunch there, which was just a small fruit salad, as everything on the menu was pizzas, burgers, and sandwiches. They had cakes in the fridge as well, but obviously they were off limits for me due to the dairy. So ultimately, the layover at the hotel was a little more expensive than anticipated, but I suspect it was still better than hanging around the airport for 7 hours.

Tufi itself was very hit and miss with regards to the food. They were informed well in advance of my dietary requirements. I’m not sure if someone didn’t get the message in the kitchen, but the first couple of days I ended up being served stuff smothered in butter. And getting pasta which contained egg and wheat. After discussions with management, they got the no dairy thing. Continued to get gluten throughout my stay, so it meant occasionally getting food I couldn’t eat. And on top of that, the servings I got were tiny. Like seriously, I got about half of the food of everyone else did, even if I had been eating the pasta. And when you’re doing 3 dives a day, you do actually need to refuel. As an example, say everyone else got steamed vegetables, mashed potato (made with milk and butter), and a large piece of steak for dinner, all I’d get was the small serving of steamed vegetables. I got nothing substituted for the food I couldn’t eat that they were serving everyone else for the meal. What I got also consisted of almost zero protein or carbs, just a few forkfuls of vegetables (literally some days, that is not an exaggeration) – I honestly considered myself lucky if I got a small amount of white rice, which is horrid enough on my stomach. I was basically in a bad mood almost the entire trip because I was constantly hungry, and not getting any real protein and very limited carbs. Not impressed. I wasn’t the only one complaining about the food either, so that says a lot. To be fair, the food itself was actually pretty good, there just wasn’t enough of it.

IMG_5391_smlLooks good, right? Smothered in butter. I was just about to put it in my mouth when I smelled it. The frustration begins…

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The sauce was ok, but I couldn’t eat the pasta. Could I get anything else as a substitute? The offered to get me ramen noodles. Seriously?

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This is what eventuated – plates with about 3 forks worth of vegetables, and nothing else, while everyone else was getting plates full of fish, chicken, red meat, and things containing dairy.

Breakfast most days consisted of fresh fruit, a little bit of dried fruit, and some nuts. Until they stopped putting out the dried fruit and very few nuts because they’d run out, so all I got was a couple of slices of apple or pineapple. For a tropical resort in PNG, there seemed to be a shortage of fresh fruit, which seemed a little odd. They actually resorted to putting out tinned fruit for breakfast at times. I honestly don’t get it – they grow it here, literally in the resort grounds in some cases (there’s close to a dozen mango trees, most of which were dropping fruit at the time), how hard is it for the resort to get us some? Lunch was steamed or boiled vegetables, randomly served with or without rice. This was the worst aspect, I never got enough food at lunch, and I don’t normally eat that much to start with. Dinners varied slightly, but was basically just a simple vegetable soup as a starter, and vegetables with a tomato sauce and pasta (that I also couldn’t eat). Normally people end up putting on weight during dive holidays because of the good food. I spent a not insignificant amount of time hungry, and actually lost weight. The resort bar sold snacks, but I’m sure nobody will be surprised to learn they consisted of things like chocolate and potato chips (that were full of gluten and milk solids in the seasonings), so I couldn’t even buy those to make up for it. They did have some salted peanuts for sale, which I did resort to in the end, because I needed more to eat. But that made me slightly ill due to the iron content (partly why I’m vegan in the first place, I need a low iron diet). For the amount of money I paid for this trip and the resort (Papua New Guinea is not a cheap travel destination, I can’t emphasize that enough), I was kind of disappointed at the quality of the food.

IMG_5381The small bowl of fruit salad that I got for dessert – every night.

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On a couple of occasions (literally), I got an ok lunch.

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The one good feed I got on the entire trip was on buffet night.

The plus side was that the diving was mindblowing.

IMG_5677Diving in paradise. Just a shame about the food…You can’t win them all!

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