Writing in last weekend's
"We didn't see a single other tourist all week and the only other non-locals we came across were missionaries," she said. "There aren't many places you can say that about these days."
The heat stripped away anything extraneous leaving just what was essential which on the first day of the five-day island journey meant paddling from Kavieng to Kabotteron, the first village campsite.
Snorkelling just offshore and looking through water as clear as glass anemone fish, parrot fish, hard and soft corals and three brown-skinned boys came into view.
A 10-year-old boy, David, showed the visitors how the village lads use their handmade spearguns. David demonstrated to the visitors how fish spearing was done, standing barefoot on a sea-smoothed coral head and spotting his prey.
He dived deep and the watchers heard a clink as David's spear hit a rock, pinning a pretty reef fish to the sea floor.
When he resurfaced David bit it around the gills ("to kill it") before tossing it to one of the other village boys to be placed in one of the canoes.
The Age writer and her companions were met at Kavieng airport by their Australian guide, a 67-year-old former Army SAS commando with a decade of experience as a Kokoda guide.
New Irelanders Wotlom and Levi, who grew up paddling their home waters in dugout canoes, were also among the guides.
Southerden reported a few rough edges on the trip. The paddlers were dependent on villages for lunches and dinners and a few times arrived at spots only to find the 'coconut telegraph' out of order: the villagers hadn't been expecting them.
That was part of the adventure of travelling in PNG they agreed and it was easy for a few people dispatched in canoes to catch the fish for the meals. The fish was supplemented with canned peas and instant noodles, a PNG staple.
The allure of
Read Louise's full story here