Britain’s Prince Charles and wife Camilla begin a tour of Papua New Guinea, Australia and New Zealand on Saturday with traditional sing-sings and Maori nose-rubbing welcomes awaiting them.
The November 3-16 trip is the latest to the Commonwealth by senior royals to mark Queen Elizabeth II’s diamond jubilee, a landmark that saw millions of patriotic Britons attend various events during four days of festivities in June.
Looking to build on a surge in enthusiasm for the royal family, Charles will make a nostalgic return to impoverished Papua New Guinea. He first visited in 1966 while studying at Geelong Grammar School in Australia.
Charles has since twice revisited the Pacific nation. But it will be a first visit for Camilla, who has reportedly been on a private holiday at a holistic health retreat in India ahead of their arrival.
The royal couple may have trouble landing, with disgruntled landowners vowing to disrupt their arrival in the capital.
The locals claim they are still owed some 4.5 million kina ($2.2 million) in outstanding compensation for the land on which Port Moresby’s airport is built and have threatened to blockade the terminal.
“If it means shutting down the airport on the arrival of Prince Charles, then we can do it and face the consequences,” their spokesman Kila Joe Gabutu said, although Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has played down the threat.
“The royal visit gives us an opportunity to showcase Papua New Guinea to the rest of the world,” he said. “It’s a significant event which the people of Papua New Guinea are looking forward to.”
During the PNG leg, Charles and Camilla are also due to visit the village of Boera, where locals are restoring coastal mangroves.
On the agenda will be traditional sing-sings, in which tribes or villages gather to show off their distinct culture, dance and music, dressing in elaborate costumes and war paint.
Charles has not visited Australia since 2005, although his mother was Down Under last year when thousands turned out to greet her, and Camilla will be making her first visit.
They will tour the outback town of Longreach and the cities of Melbourne, Adelaide, Hobart, Sydney and Canberra.
Support for the royals in the former British colony remains strong, although debate flares periodically about whether ties to the monarchy should be cut and the nation become a republic.
The Australian Republican Movement said Charles and his wife were welcome but the country’s link to the monarchy was outdated.
“We welcome distinguished visitors from the UK, as we would welcome distinguished visitors from other countries with which we have close cultural links,” said its national director David Morris.
“But we should have the confidence to do so as a fully independent nation.”
The royal couple wrap up their Southern Hemisphere trip in New Zealand, where Charles will celebrate his 64th birthday on November 14.
Their main functions are in Auckland and Wellington and will include a traditional Maori welcome that involves the hongi, or pressing of noses, and inspecting costumes from the upcoming Peter Jackson film “The Hobbit”.