Down in the ‘Ville

The ‘Ville is my name for Bougainville, a 200-island archipelago in the South Pacific.  Geographically part of the Solomon Islands, Bougainville is a currently an Autonomous Region of the country of Papua New Guinea.

I say currently because next year, June 15th, Bougainville will conduct a referendum in which its 300,000 inhabitants will vote whether or not they wish to continue to be part of Papua New Guinea, or become independent.  My guess is the ‘Ville will soon become the newest nation on earth.

The independence referendum is one of the two reasons I came to the ‘Ville three years ago in the fall of 2015.  The other is that Bougainville is acknowledged by world experts to possess enormous deposits of gold, copper and silver.  These resources are not a matter of speculation.  From 1972-1989, Bougainville was home to the largest and most lucrative gold and copper mine in the world.

When I have a conversation with anyone about Bougainville, it doesn’t take long before they ask “How do you get there?”

To get to the end of the world isn’t quick or easy.

As the albatross flies, it would be most efficient for me to take off from New York’s JFK airport (I live nearby, in Greenwich, Connecticut), head across the country toward San Diego and on across the Pacific to Hawaii, then veer southwest down to the South Pacific and land on Bougainville.

Unfortunately, no albatross has availability, so I’m stuck flying commercial.  This means:  1) taking many flights; 2) taking flights which at best go hundreds of miles out of the way; 3) hanging around lots of airports; and 4) being forced to fly the dreaded Air Nuigini, probably one of the worst airlines in the world.  For the trip I’m just completing now, I left my home last Saturday, September 8 at 3:00 pm in the afternoon, and I just landed in Port Moresby, the capital of Papua New Guinea, where it is now 3:00 pm in the afternoon—a total elapsed time of approximately 22 hours in planes, and 5 more in airports, or a total of 27 hours to get here.  And I’m not even to Bougainville yet!  I’m staying overnight in Port Moresby (or POM, if you want to sound like a local), and flying out to the ‘Ville tomorrow morning. Mercifully, the trip’s almost over; it’s only a two hour flight to the ‘Ville.  But, oh yeah: once I land in Bougainville, I must take a PMV (that’s local patois for public motor vehicle) for 5 hours down a gravel road, fording approximately a dozen streams, to get to my home in Arawa, mid-way down Bougainville Island.

Next time I’ll tell you why it’s worth it to come here.

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