Cairns to Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea on Qantas Link, overnight in PNG
Cab dropped me off at Cairns Airport, and I never thought to specify which terminal. Walked up to check-in, and of course I was at the domestic terminal, which meant walking about 800 meters in the heat to the international terminal with my bags. One positive, most of the walkway was covered with a canopy, and it was breezy, so at least it wasn’t outrageously hot. To add insult to injury, check-in only opened two hours in advance. I’d assumed there would be a lounge (since I’d gotten kicked out of my hotel early) but no such luck until check-in opened. Killed a bit of time chatting with some french backpackers, checked in, and was on my way.
Shot of just how quiet the international terminal was. It was dead:
The “Reef Lounge” that Qantas used was rather depressing, but at least had free beverages. The snacks were pretty miserable, consisting of some rather sad-looking sandwiches and a bit of snack mix. I gave it a pass.
Boarding was right on time, through a real gate, but walked out to the plane:
Qantas flight 197 operated by QantasLink
Cairns, Australia (CNS) to Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea (POM)
Depart 14:25, Arrive 16:10, Flight Time 1:45
DeHavilland Dash-8 Q400, Registration VH-LQK, Manufactured 2012, Seat 15D
Take off was right on time, and it was a light load today with less than half the seats taken. Great view of the Great Barrier Reef on departure:
They even offered a rather substantial snack on the 90 minute flight, complete with complementary beverages. I never eat airline “sandwiches” but this one was actually rather tasty:
Soon, we were on approach to Port Moresby:
Immigration was a big non-event. My understanding is they’re rather more challenging to Aussies for reciprocity reasons, but they asked me maybe two questions, printed out and stuck a visa in my passport, and that was it. Before arriving it appeared there might be a visa fee, but none was asked and it was a piece of cake. Just like that I was in my 161st country visited!
The hotel had e-mailed me in advance, and the driver was in the arrivals area waiting. He was waiting for a couple other people, and soon we were off to the hotel. It’s worth noting the transfer was completely complimentary, and rather pleasant. I was staying at the Grand Papua Hotel, which was excellent in every way.
Checked into the hotel, and was advised by the front desk that it was emphatically not safe to walk around the city alone. They offered to set up a driver to show me a bit of the city for two hours, and I took them up on it. Unfortunately, my phone battery died after a short bit so I only got a few pics. A chaotic bus terminal:
We also drove by the botanical gardens, which was closing right as we arrived. They allowed me a quick 15 minute peek free of charge which was very nice since it was closing time, but unfortunately that was it. It was fascinating just driving around and seeing the chaos of Moresby. It reminded me of a large bustling African city, similar to Luanda or Kinshasa in that it was complete and utter chaos…but on some level it seemed to work.
After my brief city tour of two hours or so, it was back to the hotel to freshen up a bit.
View from my hotel room balcony:
A few shots of the room. I was seriously impressed considering it was Papua New Guinea:
Full bar, complete with crystal:
Another view from my room’s balcony:
Hotel swimming pool:
One more view from the balcony:
Sunset from the executive lounge:
Few words on the executive lounge. They had a one hour happy hour, with free-flowing drinks. It seemed to be the expat hotspot, and was packed with quite a number of Australians who appeared to work in the mining sector. It was the type of place that exists for one reason: to keep western expats happy and comfortable during their work trips to an otherwise rather unpleasant city. It did its job well though, and have to give it credit for that. It was also the first executive lounge I’ve seen anywhere in the world where the snacks were served by waiters wandering around the room carrying the hors d’oeuvres on platters. Well done!
I’d been advised it wasn’t really worth trekking outside the hotel for dinner, so decided to eat in the hotel restaurant as it seemed just about everyone else was doing. The buffet looked rather dismal (especially for $40) so I decided to order a la carte. A rather decent “club sandwich” and a glass of wine:
Passed out early after a long day of travel, and woke up to some rather entertaining news that one of PNG’s states was apparently “in chaos.” Oh no!
Enjoyed a nice breakfast of fruit and coffee in the executive lounge, before taking the hotel shuttle back to the airport. It ran on a regular schedule, and was right on time as promised. The service from the hotel was absolutely outstanding, and I’d certainly recommend it to anyone visiting PNG!
On the way to the airport, this vintage plane was on display right outside:
Now it was time to check-in for a long day of travel to Melbourne!
I’m planning to do the Kokoda Trek when I visit PNG. I’ve heard such crappy things about Port Moresby that I’ll try to skip it.
I took that same flight on Qantas two years ago from POM-CNS and also found it to be unusually amazing service for a 90-minute flight. I had a full lunch box and several rounds of complimentary wine and it was in….gasp….coach. If only all short hoppers were as pleasant as this flight.
Too bad you had such a short stay in Papua New Guinea. It unfortunately has such a bad reputation (and even worse reputation among the Aussies). The capital city is indeed not the safest I’d agree, but there are some really spectacular and largely un-touristed outer islands that are really amazing places to visit (if you’re ever back). Some amazing diving (several WWII wreck sites) and simple resorts with over-the-water bungalows in Kavieng that are exponentially more safe, relaxing and provide an adventurous backpacker an amazing experience.
Papua is very expensive for any tourism, but an amazing culture–what other country has over 850 (not a typo!) languages….and some are as different as German is from Cantonese. Just fascinating. But despite the potential language barrier…they were incredibly kind (at least on the outer islands).
TrAAveller – Yeah, I was told for PNG it was 1 day or 1 week+. Since I can’t afford a week at this point I went the other way, but I definitely want to return for 1-2 weeks in the future to do some diving!
Thanks for your report on PNG. I’m heading there later this year and you’re report has gotten me very excited about my trip and I’ll be able to refer to your tips and recommendations.
Not only is PNG immigration more challenging to Aussies, Australians now need a visa in advance and if you manage to sneak on board a flight without one, you will be deported on the next international flight run by your airline – even if it isn’t going to Australia!