Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea (PNG) was one of the last inhabited places on Earth to be explored by other nations—and it's still the land of the unexpected. Travelers to this wild and beautiful island nation are in store for plenty of surprises.
There is the unspoiled nature of the landscape: isolated beaches, volcanic mountains, primal rivers and dense jungles. PNG's indigenous cultures, too, have retained much of their original character. With an incredible 700 separate languages still spoken, the country has tribal cultures as diverse as its flora and fauna.
In a number of regions, you'll still see fierce warriors carrying bows and quivers of arrows around.
The first settlers arrived on the main island (the second largest in the world, after Greenland) from Southeast Asia. European explorers, who spotted the coastline in the 1400s, didn't exploit the island—it was pretty much left alone until the 1800s. But then the Dutch, Germans and British split the island into colonies. Australia (100 mi south) inherited administration of the British colony, called Papua, and the German colony after World War I. During World War II, the northern half of the island was invaded by Japan, but eventually came under Allied military administration. Papua joined administratively with New Guinea following the war, and the territory was placed under international trusteeship. It regained independence in 1975. (The Dutch half of the island was seized by Indonesia in 1963 and is now the troubled province of Irian Jaya.)
More than a million U.S. military personnel served in and around PNG during World War II. It was also there that General Douglas MacArthur earned the nickname "Dugout Doug," because he never visited the frontline troops. There are about 500 wrecks from World War II that lie beneath the waters of PNG.
Sugarcane originated on the island of New Guinea. Arabs brought the plant to Spain, and the conquistadors carried it to the New World.
About 700 languages have been identified in the country, and of these, only 350-450 are related. Most are extremely complex grammatically.
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