Wow.........what a trip!! The Infinity is a 120 foot ketch owned by Clemens Oestreich, his wife Areti, and their children Tara and Ruben. I boarded the boat in Rabaul, Papua New Guinea, along with Bonnie. Tanja, Erica, Mike, Michael, and Conor were already on board. I was fortunate enought to stay with them through Tagbilaron, the Philippines.
First stop was Duke of York Island. Coconuts everywhere, light seagoing canoes with outriggers, and very friendly people were the norm. We stayed about a week, did some diving, ate lots of coconuts, attended a village church, organized a canoe race for the local youngsters, and in general, just had a great time.
Next stop was Wewak, 5 days passage and near the entrance to the Sepik River. We took on provisions, located a guide(Martin) and a security person(Tony)for our journey and headed for the Sepik River, leaving late in the afternoon so that we would enter the river at daybreak.
First stop, Angora station, a safe place to anchor and spend the night. The next day we were at the village Tambanum, one of the larger villages known for their masks. We were quite fortunate to see a Singsing here. And meet Simon, the head dancer. Two days stay and we moved upriver.
Next was Korogo, which became our base location to explore the rest of the lower Sepik. Clemens and I took a day trip to Yamanumbu, where a road comes into the river, and Ambunti, the furthest point we were able to go. At Ambunti, it was market day, so Clemens and I decided eat lunch be buying foods we were unfamiliar with. We paid for it that night back on the boat with short but severe stomach pains. And to complicate matters further, a dead tree about 100 feet in length came floating down the river that night and hung on the anchor chain. It took us about 2 hours to get it off the chain.
The Haus Tambaran at Korogo is one of the largest on the river. These "spirit houses" with huge supporting poles and rafters carved as totems are awesome to behold. And it was the coolest, most comfortable place in the village to sit and talk. Women and children aren't allowed inside, even today, unless you are a visitor.
The Chambri Lakes region required a canoe ride through some narrow jungle like canals to enter. But we were rewarded at the village of Lukluk in their Haus Tambaran. We were welcomed by a drum rendition, and were able to see locals in full traditional singsing dress for a ceremony that was going on that day.
A short visit the next day to Palimbei Village, which ironically had the best carvings of all the villages, and we were on our way down the river. Since we had run out of PNG currency by then, the village elder said we could buy what we wished on credit and he would accompany us back down the river to Wewak. I think he just wanted to ride on the boat too, but we really loaded up on carvings and penis gourds here.
Leaving the river a couple of days later, we hit gale winds and 15-25 foot waves on the beam. It was a rough night. Back at Wewak the next morning, it took a few days to get the boat back in order. Plus we had to buy provisions for the 2-3 week journey to the Philippines.
"Infinity" on the high seas
Hermit Island, a coral atoll about 100 miles north of Wewak was our final destination in PNG. It was so nice we stayed there over a week visiting with the locals, eating coconuts, diving and watching sharks, playing soccer, and working on the boat.
The passage to the Philippines was about 1500 miles, taking 12 days. Going north the first full day, there was no wind. The second night we picked up the trades, crossed the equator a day later, and headed uneventfully for the Philippines making 160+ miles each day. Fishing was really good. We landed a 8.5 foot sailfish and caught many dorado. But we lost two huge yellow fin tunas and something else we never even saw but broke the 80 lb test line. There were the nightly squalls though. They could always be counted on for 45 minutes of hectic activity each night as we headed the Infinity down wind at 11-13 knots to reduce pressure on the sails. After 10 days, we finally bent the plate holding the forestays during a night squall and had to drop the full jib and use the storm jib, arriving in Surigao as the first port of entry into the Philippines.
At Surigao, it was definitely party time, having been away from any significant population(or bar) for quite some time. We stayed about a week. Mike and I found the Tavern Inn, a hotel/restaurant/bar, and it became our nightly entertainment. Partying with some local Philippino's, we had a great time drinking Tanduay rum, listening to the acoustic trio playing music by Bread, and just sitting around talking.
Our last anchorage was in Tagbilaron on Bohol. Near Panglao Island, Conor and I spent 5 days at Alona Beach diving. This was definitely the best diving on this trip. And the food in the restaurants on the beach was really great. The highlights of the diving were a large amount of very colorful fish, scorpion fish, and the sea snakes.
Then it was back to the boat. And finally, I returned to the US, traveling 43 straight hours by ferry, taxi, and plane to get back home.