Stepping into the communities of Papua New Guinea.
Day 2 notes from the field.
I slowly dozed off to sleep last night while the ship was still in the tumbling waters of the Coral Sea, and early this morning I woke to the rhythmic humming noise of the ship’s engine — as we sailed upstream on quiet river waters.
It’s now 9am on Sunday 27 July and we are in the heart of the Gulf of Papua.
A quick peep on the deck greeted us with lush green vegetation on both sides of the river and overcast grey skies. The Pie river was at most places half a kilometer long and scattered with debris on both sides from the last few weeks of flooding.
We anchored off the coastal village Baimuru and readied ourselves for the trip ashore just as the locals finished their Sunday prayers. Jacqui rigged her protection for the film-gear, Mat put on his mud boots and a 2-min zodiac ride later we were up the wooden steps and straight into the town’s market.
“Daraema!” (good afternoon!), greeted a local family in Koriki language as soon as we set foot.
Sago, mud crabs, betel nuts, star fruits, bananas, bread and fried fish were lined up onto wooden tables. Entire families were waiting behind their wares but no one was pushy, only very friendly and welcoming.
A local lady, Ana, who spoke pretty good English, said most sellers paddle from nearby settlements sometimes up to two hours to get to Baimuru. A quick scan of the prices around the tables suggests you could buy ingredients for a local meal of sago (carbohydrates), mud crabs (proteins) and bananas (vitamins) for just under 3 Kina (S$1.5). With a strict fruit ration on-board the ship, we decided to support the local economy.
Apart from the locals’ generosity, the only other thing that we were quickly enveloped in was mud.
Many of the veterans on the ship had warned us, but nothing quite prepared us for the sticky mud in which you would step your boots into, alas only to have your foot come out. It took some skill and couple of slips to understand the character of the mud and know when to give in to the ankle-deep, brown goo and when to fight gravity against it. I was sure the locals were having fun watching us, but it was fun for us too — there’s just something about mud that reminds of you of when you were 5 years old.
The short trip ashore was an overall success. We had initiated contact with the local health workers and leaders who will be assisting us with the health clinics over the next couple of days here, and we’d been welcomed by the community.
The evening was wrapped up with a wonderful interview with Hannah Peart, the chief medical coordinator from YWAM. She’ll soon be introducing us to many interesting stories from the 8 years that she’s spent in this quiet, innocent and pristine part of the world.
More details about YWAM — MSA (Youth With A Mission — Medical Ship Australia): http://ywamships.org.au/
Find more about the Gulf of Papua:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gulf_of_Papua
Story by Ashwin Subramaniam — Co-Founder & Projects Director, Gone Adventurin’
Photo Credit — Mathew Lynn