Q: How can I protect my undeveloped film while traveling by plane?
Before 9/11, if you checked bags containing undeveloped rolls of film, there was only a slight possibility your luggage would be sent through an explosives-detection machine, thus exposing it to powerful radiation that might "fog" or distort your film.
Now there's no question your checked bags will be zappedas of January 2003, every U.S. airport is required to give all checked luggage the power scan. So always pack your film in your carry-on bags, andif your film is 800 ASA or fasteralways ask security personnel for a hand check (they are now required to perform one if asked) instead of passing it through the x-ray. (Pack your film sans canisters in clear Ziploc bags for easy inspection.)
Most film slower than 800 ASA, including the film in disposable cameras, can be x-rayedbut multidestination fliers beware: According to the International Imaging Industry Association (www.i3a.org), after about five trips on the conveyor belt even slower undeveloped film starts turning snapshots into abstract art.
Photographer David McLain, whose travels last year took him across four continents, had a ploy for getting around this problem: "I said my film was 800-speed or higher whenever I was asked, and they always took my word." But that was pre-9/11, and before a guard in Amsterdam actually bothered to eyeball the speed marked on his film (100)then sent it through the scanner to spite him. "Now I never lie. I just ask for a hand check."
Q: I'm going to Papua New Guinea. Any advice on independent travel there?
"I just went from village to village, staying at the one I ended up in after a day's hike," says Contributing Editor Kira Salak, who recounts the three months she spent trekking the Pacific island nation in her book, Four Corners, (Counterpoint Press).
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"Most tribes were very welcoming." She arranged for guides through Ralf Stüttgen (+675 856 2395), a former missionary who operates a guest house in Wewak, where he's given travel advice to anthropologists, linguists, and backpackers for the past 20 years. Stüttgen will put you in touch with the area's best guides, whose services run about [U.S.] $26 a day.
He and Salak both recommend a canoe trip up the Sepik River, where food (like catfish and the PNG mainstay, sago-palm pith) and shelter (village guest houses) are abundant. A gifta few PNG kina or, in more remote villages, practical items such as pens, lighters, and fishhooksis the standard tenkyu for a tribe's hospitality.
Yes, that's "thank you" in pidgin, the lingua franca you should be familiar with before you go (try Lonely Planet's Pidgin Phrasebook). For organized tours, contact Ecotourism Melanesia (www.eco-melanesia.8k.com).