An Australian volunteer who was doing whatever volunteers do in PNG.
I was there for 2 years until Dec 2005 .. I hope I made the most of it.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Village Escape

The usual weekend was operating as .. well .. usual, until that is yesterday. I got an invite from Nick, a fellow AVIer in town to join him for a trip out to a fishing village that he knew, on the coast, north of Lae. Always up for an adventure I immediately jumped at his offer.

It was not without trepidation though. You see Nick has a trail bike, one of those annoying bikes I used to curse growing up when the Fosters from the next farm tore around their paddocks making a hell of a noise. I had only been on the back of his bike once before and that was on a trip from town back to the Uni. The whole time I remember thinking "if we come off at this speed, most of my skin is going to be left behind on the bitumen".

But come yesterday morning I jumped on anyway and was waved off by the neighbours kids as we tore up my street. It seemed there was something about kids and motorbikes that drew attention to us. I spent most of my time on the back acting like a member of the Royal family waving to everyone waving at us. My hand didn't leave the grip for long though and it flashed back to keep tight.

My fears that I had had on the previous trip though were almost non existent on this sojourn. I got into the swing of things and enjoyed cruising along new roads with new scenery, crossing shallow river crossing, over rickety wooden bridges and through road works that were miraculously being done on a Sunday.

At times Nick let it rip and we passed trucks and cars chock-a-block with people, as though they were at a standstill. It was exhilarating to leave those villages-in-a-ute, full of wholesale smiling waving people, and their dust and let them have ours.

I had no idea how fast we travelled along these dirt/gravel roads at, as the speedo was not working, but Nick quietly informed me on the way back that we were doing over 100k's. In hindsight I wonder why I was not terrified. I am sure gravel hurts just as much as bitumen.

Out at the village, which ended up being about half an hours ride, I met Nick's befriended mate John. I also met his wife, his wife's sister, their cousins, his brothers-in-law, his sister-in-laws husbands and all their kids. A normal village really. Nick gave the wife some lamb flaps (I really have to talk about these in detail but I will do it later) for some lunch later. We had a brief chat, a catch up, talked about who I was and what I do and then we went for a swim.

The reason Nick comes out here in the first place is because the village is right on the water and you can swim and not be surrounded by multitudes of villagers. The beach itself is the typical flat surf variety that you get around here, with little sand and old dead coral underfoot in the water. Still it was great to paddle around and enjoy it. As I have said before, this town would be great if it had a decent beach.

After the was was long sol wara (swim) we went and had a look at some vanilla beans that were being dried by one of the village guys. Vanilla is one of the big boom agri businesses in PNG. A couple of years ago, the price per kilo had gone up to astronomical heights of K800-K900 a kilo, and there were guys in the Sepik (who had been farming the stuff for years) making a fortune. Now the rest of country has caught on to the craze and the price has dropped down to current levels of around K180 a kilo. The guy at the village had around a kilo drying on black plastic.

Later again, they got me to try buai (betel nut), the ubiquitous habit of PNGers. My impression, not worth the effort. You create voluminous red spit with the result being that you feel a bit light-headed, you get a mild shake and then you have a sweat. It was all over in about 10 minutes. I gave it another go later with little effect and ended up with lots of pulpy red stuff that I had clean out of my mouth.

Can't say I will rush back to try again. It seems these pacific habits just don't suit me i.e. Kava. Though, as they say, when in Rome ... Besides it is a great way to break down barriers with people if you try their customs, especially if they offer you some.

We storied some more for a few hours and then I got my camera out and shot quite a few shots around the village and the village kids. We had our kai kai (lunch), consisting of the lamb flaps, kumu and cooked bananas. Everyone joined in the feed, even the dogs, though Nick did cause a major fight between them when he threw a lamb flap bone to the wrong dog.

Around mid afternoon we headed back the same way we came, tearing up the dirt and gravel road, waving to kids and passer-bys. It was a brilliant day - confirmed by the fact that my shoulders became quite pink - and if I am offered again to go, I will again jump at the chance.

Village haus with parked bike

View over the Huon gulf

Fishing village life in its simplest