Alotau was quite a contrast from the Conflict Islands! It sits on the northern side of Milne Bay, which is the gateway to some of the most remote island communities on the planet. It was in this area that the Japanese had their first land defeat in WWII.
Alotau is a poor village, really, with dirt sidewalks and a few businesses. Most of the businesses were stores selling basic goods, such as groceries, clothing, and cell phone top-ups, as well as the ever-present “Beer Store.” Often, likely because nearly all customers were locals, one couldn’t really tell what most stores sold from the exterior. The most common signs were just “wholesale and retail.” There was no attempt at aesthetics.
Everything for sale in the markets and stores is just laid out for you to….seek and find. Most stores we entered, even quite small ones, had a security guard checking everyone as they left and several more guards spread throughout the store. Of course, as tourists from a cruise ship, they barely glanced at us. Cruise ships bring a lot of people – and money – to communities like these and it was clear the people were aware of it. People were very friendly, conscious of the clear difference between tourists and locals, waving from their vehicles, with children running up to us just to say hello, without expecting money.
Photos from the ship make the area look beautiful. The natural beauty of the ocean and landscape is the lure here. Snorkeling and diving are very popular sports in the area.
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