"We were up in the fiord area of New Guinea, near Tufi, and it was a spectacularly beautiful area.
"Deep channel entrances and fringing fiords are framed by jagged mountains coming straight up from the sea. We were taken by local villagers on traditional outrigger canoes to an area upriver from their village. If you can imagine being paddled up a remote river where there is no sign of human habitation and then seeing a procession of women and children throwing petals into the water - it was very special and quite moving.
"They did a sago demonstration for us: the sago comes from a palm and they pulp it down and wrap it in vine leaves, to store. It's a starch that forms a traditional component of their diet.
"True North only does a few trips into these areas each year and a number of local villages rotate their participation, so the experience was very authentic. It really feels like you're getting a very intimate insight into their traditional customs and you have a lot of opportunity to learn about their cultural background.
"Following the demonstration, we were dropped off at another village for a sing-sing [ceremonial occasion] with drums and dancing. The experience of being in the outrigger and seeing the colours of the traditional dress was just fantastic.
"The feathered headdresses are handed down through the generations and if a feather falls out, someone will carefully pick it up and tuck it away to hand it back to the person who lost it. It was fascinating; the headdresses are works of art.
"I felt there was tremendous pride on the part of the people we met - I didn't feel that we were intruding or resented in any way. I really like the New Guinea people and I think there's a special bond with Australia over the war experiences."
Value for money
"The water- and shore-based activities are all included on True North. It is great value.
"The first time we were talked into doing one of their cruises, we thought, 'Gee, it had better be good' because it's at the top end for price, but the wow factor and the experiences we've had on their trips are priceless.
"And the fact that there were less than 30 people on the excursion, including the crew who came with us, made it really easy to see what was going on and to move around and take photos."
WHO Linda Berry, from Melbourne, on her fourth cruise with North Star Cruises.
WHAT Outrigger canoe trip to remote villages in Papua New Guinea.
WHERE Near Tufi, in the Northern Province of PNG.
THE SHIP Linda and her husband, Jim Fox, cruised on True North (northstarcruises.com.au).
As told to Jane E. Fraser
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