Volcano Land blog, week 1

Written By miftah nugraha on Senin, 05 Agustus 2013 | 19.55

Sulphurous gasses billow from Garabuna volcano in Papua New Guinea. Picture: ANDREW HUGHES

A NARROW isthmus joins two equally small outcrops of tropically draped rock to form Wulai Island, Papua New Guinea.

From my tent doors I can see out both sides to the ocean just a few metres away. The south-easterly trade wind is blowing in a storm, and we're off and paddling for the seventh expeditionclass.com program, Volcano Land.

The week began with a very soft landing at Walindi Resort, just outside Kimbe, West New Britain. A renowned scuba diving location, I flew in to skim above the water - not below it.

Cheyne Benjamin, a friend who filmed part of the 2010 Tassie Tiger Hunt in remote PNG, has tentatively put down the camera and taken on the family business at Walindi. His Australian-born parents, Cecilie and Max, came to New Britain before independence as agricultural field officers and have been here since.

I had good reason to linger in the waterfront bungalow for a few extra nights. Apart from buying supplies, there is an active volcano, Garbuna, right behind the resort.

A local landowner guide took us steeply through gardens that quickly gave way to pure rainforest. The dense canopy hid a wild assortment of bird life. Two that we spotted among the screeching were the whooshing thornbill and a deftly camouflaged male (green) eclectus parrot.

The whiff of sulphur preceded a dead band of trees and then we were standing before a barren moonscape of hissing vents and bubbling thermal springs. Garbuna exploded unexpectedly in October 2005 and shows potential to be a growing feature of the local landscape.

With our first volcano inspected I've now hit the water. After two days of blighted headwinds I'm sporting some new blisters and have random sun burns where the I missed with the zinc and cream.

Students have been piling into the online adventure portal, especially the interactive forum. Over the next week I'm aiming to paddle to Ulawun, a towering strato volcano. Along the way we'll drop in at villages and maybe a few more deserted islands too.

• Expedition Class is a program of the Bookend Trust. This project is supported by the Tasmanian Department of Education, Pennicott Foundation, UTAS SET, Mercury NIE, IMAS, Sea to Summit and friends. Follow Andrew's daily reports at www.expeditionclass.com

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