Matupit Island & St Francis Xavier ‘Kuragaga’ Cathedral

In the shadow of Tarvurvur volcano, Matupit Island was badly damaged by the eruptions in 1994, after which much of the population moving to Kokopo. One benefit of the eruption though was the falling ash connected the island with the mainland, improving access. For a small community of 2,000-3,000 people they have an impressive church.

We joined the locals for a traditionally lunch cooked using hot stones and leaves.

While it cooked a dance was performed, including the painful to watch (and no doubt part take in) whip dance. As with almost all the dances seen in PNG there was no explanation offered or available despite the obvious symbolic meaning involved. I have huge respect for them keeping and sharing their culture, but it was a shame that we could only experience it on a superficial visual level.

The kids dance was probably unintentionally hilarious due to face pulling, and this small boy who seemed to take no pleasure in beating the older children with a branch.

After lunch we headed across the bay to see where the eggs of megapodes (chicken like birds) are laid two metres underground in volcanic soil, providing the right temperature for incubation. Unless they’re dug up for protein by the locals it takes the newly hatched birds two days to dig themselves out.

On the way to Matupit we stopped at St Francis Xavier ‘Kuragaga’ Cathedral, one of the few surviving buildings of the 1994 eruptions, which was unlike any other church I’ve been in. Instead of windows there were these wonderful metal frames, perfect for the tropical climate. It was built in 1965 after the original 1920s cathedral was destroyed during WW2.

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