Or: how we eventually found a hotel in Wewak (and no, neither of us is pregnant).
It has never taken me two days to find a hotel before. We turned up in Wewak with our trusty Lonely Planet in hand, hoping to find not only a hotel at short notice, but also a tour guide to take us up the Sepik river (of which more later). It was a relatively tall order, but one of the best known Sepik guides actually runs his own hotel, so we walked confidently past all the hotel taxis at the airport and strolled the short distance to the Surfside Hotel. Which was a series of portakabins sheltering under a three story building site (OK…), and which had nobody at reception (less OK…). So we waited, and waited, and tried the hotel next door (ugh), and waited, and it got dark. And you really don’t want to be caught out after dark. And here begins an epic story to rival that of the holy parents themselves. Laying it all out longhand would turn into a long list of and-then-we-did-this. So, a few selected and compressed highlights:
- Our initial rescue by a pair of scruffy good Samaritans with a Land Cruiser (one of whom turned out to work at Deloitte PNG, of all places) and driven to the best hotel in the country “where the white people stay”(!). The Inn Wewak Boutique Hotel is actually reasonable value at US$200+ per night but was deemed a little too expensive so we resolved to try again the next morning
- Discovering that the hotel we had targeted as a cheaper alternative was – how shall I put this? – a brothel full of drunks. Complete with complementary condoms in the rooms. Nice! And great value at US$175 a night
- Not being let past security at our next choice of hotel – we clearly looked undesirable (perhaps they thought I was a drunk, and Lucy was, erm, also a drunk)
- Eventually finding Francis – our saviour and the owner of the Eden Blooms Transit Inn. Deaf as a post, deeply eccentric (i.e. he had a fully equipped kitchen, missing only an oven or stove of any kind) but good to us. There was no hot water, and you had to be careful not to fall through the floor in places, but it was cheap at the price ($US60 a night). We didn’t have the heart to tell him that in the UK a transit house was a place where ex-convicts were rehabilitated, and that this was perhaps impacting the tourist trade just a little…
- Shocking the staff at the posh hotel so much by our exploits that when we returned a few days later – stumbling out of the jungle, hungry and unshaven with armfuls of native carvings and desperately in need of a shower that didn’t come out of the river – they automatically gave us a 20% pity discount. But that is another story.
Our eventual hotel. The sign says “One person (given a mattress on the floor) – 60 Kina”. Class!