The Other LIH

Having a home on Kaua’i but living in California, I’m in the strange position of almost being forced to vacation there. No, I’m not complaining. But it is enlightening to see the island through the eyes of a visitor again, refreshing even. And that includes going through the whole process, and expense, of booking a trip to from San Francisco to Lihue. In searching all the different travel websites, I ran across an interesting tidbit.

When searching for flights, I usually memorize the airport codes of where I want to go, so SFO to LIH. One of the travel websites I use is, and it gives me the choice of going to Lihue or Lihir Island, Papua New Guinea (LNV).


While I admire the global awareness of the algorithm, it seems pointless to offer a location that 99.9999% of the travelers don’t want, and for which they can’t sell me a ticket anyways—SFO to LNV returns no results in the end. But being curious about other islands, I had to see where this was:


And Wikipedia shines through again, with some good information about the place, as well as the local culture. The indigenous name of the island is Niolam, it’s also volcanic in origin, about half the size of Kaua’i, and half as high. Interestingly, it is home to “one of the last remaining cargo cults on earth,” and even if you think you know what a cargo cult is, I encourage you to read that link about them because it gives you one of those rare insights into the human mind.

Lihir Island also produces geothermal energy, so it’s volcano is still active unlike Kaua’i. Also unlike Kaua’i, it has one of the world’s richest gold mines, which I find odd for a volcanic island (but I’m no geologist). More interestingly, the Wikipedia article asserts that all the land still belongs to matriarchal clans. I hope that means they don’t have the development issues and real-estate speculation that we do on Kaua’i.

Even though this was a bit of a chance encouter, the islands seem more similar than not, and maybe could learn something from each other. Kaua’i certainly could strive for more renewable energy, and I’m sure there are a lot of Hawaiian activists who wish the land was still in the hands of Hawaiian families.

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