Thursday, June 14, 2007

Twin Lakes or a Tale of Two Lakes.

Lake Two. Kutubu.

Lake Kutubu is situated in the Southern Highlands of PNG, linguistically it is an interesting location for PNG. On one half of the lake, one enters true Highland country where the people still proclaim to be Niuginians, and on the southern end, they may call themselves Papuans, and indeed, many of the older members of the community will still speak in Motu rather than the Highland influenced Pidgin.

The opportunity to spend a day with the local people of Lake Kutubu was fantastic and I saw things that will remain with me. The group of us boarded a small boat and we then spent the day cruising on the tranquil water. Our first stop was the Village of the "Captain of our boat" and we stopped to refuel. All of the children of the village came to the water's edge to look and giggle. We took photos which only encouraged more giggling. It was only as our vessel chugged away that the children would call out "Bye" at the top of their lungs and wave until we could no longer see them.

Our next point of call was a small village with a massive Longhaus. The Longhaus was were the men of the village lived and talked stuff to do with being men. All the women and children lived in smaller huts away from the Longhaus. The women of our party were not allowed access to the inside of the Longhaus, but us men all wandered in and proceeded to talk stuff to do with being men.

The interesting thing with this village was that only the young boys of the village came down to greet us, we did not see any women or young girls for the introduction to their village. As we (the Men) wandered around the Longhaus, the young boys whom met us journeyed into the Longhaus also. It was apparent that the young boys were not normally allowed inside such a building as they thoroughly enjoyed being inside with their new white friends.

But wait... I discovered some Bixa orellana which is a plant in which the Native South American women would paint themselves in the red seeds. It also provides Margarine with it's anatto food colouring. The village people showed me how to decorate their noses and faces with the dye from the seeds. Now, my camera, my clothes and backpack are stained red...

After viewing the Longhaus, we wandered down to the village green where games of football would be held, but on this occasion, all the women of the village came to greet us after their Sunday Church services.

It was a shame to leave such a warm reception but we had a lake to lap. The next stop was a limestone outcrop in which the bones of the long departed were laid in the sunshine to bleach. Allegedly some of the remains had been there since World War Two, or so our friendly guide told us. The osuary that lay in front of us was moving testimony to those who certainly lived in a different time to ours.

Our next village stop on the edge of the lake was also time for lunch, so the local women of the village had been busy cooking river prawns, Sago, Sago Palm bugs, Pumikin kourou, Kaukau and smoked fish. Within Lake Kutubu, there are some 11 species of fish that are found no where else on the planet. One of them tasted ok.

And I was a big fan of the Sago Palm Bug. I ate more than my fair share.

After a sumptuous PNG style banquet we wandered around the local Orchid and Butterfly gardens of which the Orchids were gorgeously maintained and spectatcular.

And then we watched a bit of village Basketball, boarded our boat and headed off home.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Twin Lakes or a Tale of Two Waters.

Lake One. Lake Sentani.

Our small baby Toyota wagon pulled off of the smooth two-lane road and parked amongst the mud and mosquitos. The driver told us that this was Lake Sentani, so we left the car and stood in the mud and admired the view.

Lake Sentani is 45 minutes drive from Jayapura, the Capital of Papua (formerly known as Irian Jaya and Hollandia). The road to the Lake is smooth, well sealed, and complete with sign posts, armco barriers and line marking. These things are a rarity just east of the border.

The small group of us took photos of the view and appreciated the stop. We then asked the driver what was next on the agenda, and he said we should wait for the boat.

Well, the boat arrived and aboard we hopped. The small outboard motor buzzed away and was only disturbed by the dial tones of the driver's mobile phone. How a mobile had range in the middle of a great lake 45 minutes from a major Capital centre was a mystery for those of us who had made the journey west into Papua.

The small timber boat chugged around the lake and we passed by stilt villages where the locals waved with excitement and went about their daily routine. We passed fish farmers, large 'Dutch' churches and larger smiles from the kids whom would cry "Foy".

At one Island we stopped and disembarked. There on the Island, the women of the Village showed us some traditional bark paintings which were beautiful in design. Needless to say, we handed over some rupiah in exchange for some of their artwork. The people of the village lived in and amongst the graves of the Dutch settlers whom sent their missionaries some years ago.

After the lake, we visited the Town of Sentani which is a bustling small community of shops, cafes (re: take aways) and traffic all trying to view the concrete bridge which collapsed during the last heavy rain. It was impressive to see the damage that the rising river had caused to some of modern bridge construction... Still, the scooters and Kiangs drove happily over the temporary wooden bridge.

Hati hati.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

When Road Rage goes horribly, horribly wrong.

This Post contains alleged violence.

The other day whilst running errands, I returned to my jobsite and further up the road, I could make out what looked like a commotion... In hindsight, the commonsense thing I should have done was to do a U-turn and seek an alternative route. But I thought I'd be alright...

Two cars in front of me was a Police truck so I thought, these guys will sort things out. It appeared that things had been sorted just prior to the Police arrival.

It was at a section of road which has some serious tyre deflating pot holes and the action of choice when approaching these potholes is to either leave the road completely and drive on the 'shoulder' or drive around the other way using the better bitumen on the opposite side of the road. It appears a PMV (mini-bus, legally would seat 18, but 30 can fit) had opted to take on the opposing traffic. There was some glass and a bumper bar on the road so it seems that there may have been contact between vehicles. The PMV was stationary in the middle of the road as I approached cautiously as the traffic was starting to slow-up and get congested as other vehicles tried to squeeze between the increasing crowd and the stationary PMV.

By this stage, I was driving at a crawl and the Police truck has pulled over to the shoulder. People immediately attacked the Police Truck with aggressive gestures and finger pointing and yelling.

I inched past, whispering to myself "...dont look so obvious dont look so obvious..." and there by the side of the road was perhaps one of the motorist or maybe even a pedestrian who was laying down on the ground in the Jesus Christ Pose. Looking very relaxed and at peace.

I had enough time to see if his fingers were twitching, or if his chest rose and fell with breath or even if his closed eyes were shut tight or just closed. There was no movement. At all. Now, I am not a good judge of liquids but I would guess there was 2 or 3 litres of claret pooled around his shoulders and what appeared to be the back of his head.

Once a gap appeared at the front of my vehicle, I ensured that I made my way out of there quite quickly. I am sure that there was little that I could have done to help the situation. There were more than enough onlookers and Police in attendance.

The thing I have noticed is that Road Rage is virtually non-existent here, especially when compared to places I have lived before. Perhaps this is how the people up here display their unhappiness when it comes to judgements of error on the road?