Baluan Island, Manus – A Difficult, Mysterious and Beautiful Part 1
About 38km Southeast of Manus and up to a maximum 3hrs in total travelling time by motorised dingy from the Loniu Bridge lies the mysterious volcanic island of Baluan.A place of historic importance to Manus and to Papua New Guinea.Three hours is the estimated maximum time to get there.
I arrived there at around 5.10pm Thursday 17th February, 4hrs later than I had planned.
Earlier that day at 8.30am, I had gone into Lorengau to find anyone from the Island I could go with. I knew noone. I was directed to the ‘Baluan Office,’ a meeting place under a lone tree just opposite the main Lorengau market bus stop and next to the Pitoko store.
I asked some of the men gathered there if this is where the Baluan people met. Yes, they said, this is it. One bloke in particular was very helpful. His name was Karaman Taniu and he told meI would go with him.Great!
The ‘pilot’ of one of the boats was there as well. We would be going with him and the fee was K30 per head one way, which I paid upfront.
I thought that we would leave in the morning, maybe before lunch, but we had to wait for passengers to make up the numbers. After a few people gathered with us, we all jumped on a PMV which took us on a ten minute drive to the Loniu bridge which was the dropoff-pickup point for the boats that travelled from all over the West Coast of Manus.
It was 12.40 when we departed for the Loniu Bridge and headed out to Baluan. The waters of the Loniu passage are stunning with deep blue green hues that interlock to form a pulsating mesh of life underneath us. These waters are also dangerous with shallow coral that could damage the boat.
With some assistance from passengers, the pilot took us safely out of Loniu passage and we hit the deep blue water, the Baluan and Lou Islands in the far distance.
Baluan and Lou Island are part of a group of volcanic islands that remain on the surface of a sunken Caldera system. What this means that they are volcanic islands, and that all though these islands are quite large, the Caldera they are part off is actually under the sea.
So in effect, to get to these two islands, we go over a large underwater Caldera of a volcano. Pretty cool stuff.
The pilot really took his time getting us there. A sat on a white tank taking pictures and telling stories with the passengers.
There were eight of us on the boat, including the pilot. They were all from Baluan. Okay now this is the interesting bit.
Four of the passengers were from Moukland, a settlement village on Buluan. Mouk are ‘Titans’ (pronounced ‘Teetans’). The Titans are the traditional seafarers of Manus and they live all over Manus. These Teetans at some point in the last century settled on one of the large rock islands 500 meters of the coast of the main Baluan Island.
In the 1950’s, a Mouk leader spoke with the Buluan leaders who agreed and gave a portion of the Southern point of the main island for them to build a village here.
The Mouk people did so, abandoning the rock island for the new village.
The two ladies were from Baluan. One lady was from a distant part of Manus. She was married to the Buluan people. The other lady was a Baluan. In her forties, light skin, fair and fine features, she was the classic example of what her people looked like.
After a while, a hopped of the tank, sat the bow of the boat and fell asleep, with the Manus sun giving me a beautiful ‘tan.’
I woke up as we passed the Lou Island, a beautiful volcanic island with majestic cliffs that rise out of the sea, but I shall share that in another post.
Then we came to the Tuluan Island, just between Lou and Baluan. Tuluan was formed in the last major volcanic activity here in the 1950’s or thereabout, when hot lava come out of the ocean from the volcano underneath us somewhere and was cooled by the air. There is also I nice small rock island next to it with a single coconut tree.
The sea is blue and they told me there is a lot of activity.
After we passed Tuluan, we saw a few boats in the distance and the large Buluan Island, dark and blue infront of us. It was around 4.30pm.Just when I was think we were going to get there with some daylight, the boat runs out of fuel. We drifted for a while before waving a passing boat that belonged to the Provincial Administration.
After teasing the pilot for running out of fuel, they gave us about a liter and we slowly made our way to the Moukland village settlement on Baluan, passing under the Mouk Island.
We hopped off soon after at Karaman’s house, dropping of our bags and heading straight up the Volcanic slopes with Silkara, a Baluan man who lived at the crater summit.
I had a problem that I did not foresee and only learnt about when I was on the way here. Boats do not operate here on Friday, Saturday and it’s a very slime maybe on Sundays. It’s the local custom here becausemost of the Baluan and Lou Islanders are Seventh Day Adventist members. They worship beginning at noon on Fridays through to Saturday, so no boats will run on these two days. And this affects Sunday as well. Despite everything I wanted to do here, I could not spend more thanthree days waiting for a boat here, and hence I had to leave here earlier then planned.
I’m going to end this post here, and move onto part II. This is because of the length of the posts. Some pictures are here and some more in Part II – Baluan Island: Five Reasons to Go
In the next post you can read about Baluan Island, the Mysterious Mapos, the Malsu Volcano, the Paliau Movement and some other interesting details from my visit there.
Enjoy the pics