Tuesday, July 31, 2012

It's Gumi Time

On Sunday we left the pikininnies with some friends and drove down to Leron, about an hour back towards Lae and where a lot of the beef operation is run from. Once at Leron we met up with some of Glenn's 'kaubois' (cowboys, see how pidgin works? Easy!) who had some big tyre tubes, or 'gumis', at the ready for us. We loaded four big ones onto a ute and drove up, up, up into the mountains following the Leron River.

We arrived at a little village, 'Siri Siri' and were greeted by loads of intrigued pikininnies all scampering out of their huts and where they were playing to these crazy white people with their giant gumis. We met the headmaster of the school, gave them a football to kick around and all the kids some lollies. We told them what our plan was - to jump in our gumi's and float down the river. They said that they get white people coming to visit but never white people to gumi down the river! The villagers usually put a net over their gumi, put their produce on top and float it down to the market.

We really had no idea how long it would take, when we asked we got a variety from 20 mins to 4 hours?! Thought we'd better get going, some villagers grabbed our giant gumis and lead the way down to the river along a steep little track, all with the pikininnies behind us yelling and laughing about the crazy white people. We were like the Pied Piper!

When we reached the river we were instructed to lie on our stomachs rather than sit in the gumis - weight forward and paddle paddle paddle! The water was quite fast moving and a few rapids, although not deep water at all. 

And we were off!

Some of the kids swam in the fast moving water with us for awhile, then older teenagers jumped on board each of our gumis to balance them out and guide us down the river. Because the gumis were so big it was much easier with two people on them anyway. Matt's gumi was so huge we had two helpers. My helper was Sebi, he knew the river and the way the water was moving like a sixth sense. I tried to help but I think I was more of a hindrance! He'd tell me to 'swim, swim, swim' then 'stop, stop, stop' when I clearly wasn't doing it right.

The landscape going down the river was beautiful. Towering mountains with misty clouds, covered in jungle or gardens full of local produce where someone was growing something or other to sell in the market downstream. The riverbed was all rock, and wide to accommodate the big wet. I wouldn't like to think of the rapids when the Leron River really gets full! Looking at these photos I was surprised how calm some parts looked, but I guess we weren't taking photos in the rough bits!

We eventually reached calmer water and the river widened a bit more, we paddled passed a few villagers with pikininnies running out or have a wash in the river and waving to us. I'm sure they thought the white people had gone mad on their gumis down the river on a Sunday afternoon.

Waiting for us at the bridge was our car and some more amused local kids. We fed the boys up on biscuits and pineapples, gave them some money, sugar and little gumi's for their troubles and they would have had the 3 hour walk back up the mountain to deal with (or catch a PMV for 5 kina). 

Great day. Exhausted. Fun.

We fly back to Cairns on Friday, oh too soon... 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Paradise Found - Salamoua!

We have just returned from a weekend away to paradise, and no I'm not exaggerating. Don't believe me? Here, check this out...

Yeah, I know. It's a tough life. Originally we planned to head up to Goroka for the long weekend (Remembrance Day was a public holiday here on Monday) but the security company wouldn't let us up there until after the elections so that was a bit of a bummer....until Glenn and Ange's friends who have a house at Salamoua said to tag along with them. We didn't need to be asked twice!

Salamoua is about an hours boat ride from Lae, only accessible by boat and is a tiny narrow spit with houses on each side and jetties where you pull your boat up. As you do. It was once upon a time a bustling town pre-war and was almost made the capital instead of Lae. The King family's house was the goods store, Salamoua is full of history about the war and is now a sleepy little village with some ex-pat's houses. Life at Salamoua is fairly traditional compared to life in the big smoke of Lae.  Some local kids came around selling bilums and shells.

The weekend pretty much consisted of lots of yummy food, fresh fruit from the markets, Ange's delicious eggs benedict (with English muffins made from scratch) and dinner down under the cabana by the water. The kids swam like fish and played with the King boys, Henry and Tommy. Uncle Matt was in baby stalker heaven attached to Penelope most of the time. 

On Sunday morning we went for a walk up to the top of the hill overlooking the Salamoua spit, a very steep and slippery climb after 100+ mm's of rain the night before. Definitely the most unfit person alive - okay maybe an exaggeration but still, pretty unfit for a seemingly healthy 25 year old. There were some war graves, Japanese guns and trenches in the midst of the jungle, all very interesting. Also found a few bird eating spiders, only a bit bigger than my palm. 

On Monday afternoon we reluctantly boarded the King's boat back to Lae then drove the two and half hours back to Ramu. Big day, tired kids (and grown ups) after an exciting weekend playing in the sand, collecting coconuts, fishing and paddling the waters of beautiful Salamoua.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Return to Ramu

Well we made it safe and sound back to Papua New Guinea after a 4.30am start in Cairns, two flights, a two hour wait in the stuffy Port Moresby airport and a two hour drive to Ramu from Lae. But we're here! And I must say, the 'culture shock' is so much less than two years ago when we first came here - I now don't question why the Papua New Guineans at the airport appear so non-chalent, almost aggressive or rude, I now don't hesitate in attempting my stumbling pidgin, and this time I wasn't shocked or amazed on our flight over the jungle to Lae or the drive to Ramu through the valley and past all the little villages with their thatch roofed huts and endless pikininnies wandering the roads. 

Our friends, Glenn and Ange, who we are visiting had their driver pick us up at the Lae airport. We arrived at Glenn's office at about 3pm yesterday, swung past the feedlot on the way home to check out some sorghum harvest and arrived to some excited little girls and a Chinese feast of food which Ange and her friends had been preparing literally all day. It was aaaamaaaazing. Words can't do the soup justice, the chicken nor the dumplings. Oh my. 

Lulu, Sassy and Pepe had decorated our bedroom beautifully for our 'honeymoon suite', Lu and I enjoyed some chit-chat over some breakfast this morning after Glenn and Matt headed to work and the sleeping beauties were in bed. Today I've been teaching Ange to crochet, she's so much better than I was when I began! Helps having someone actually sitting next to you I think rather than YouTube videos and following diagrams. Ange made some food for the inpatients down at the local hospital so we took that down to them, there were 6 patients and 2 mama's having babies/just had a baby. This is the hospital which we raised money for last year to get the power put back on. Sorry I didn't take my camera but might get some photos another time. We also went to the market and stocked up on some fruit and veg, I chose the potatoes, naturally. On returning home Ange's poor little red rocket blew a tyre (luckily just outside the gate of their house). It was like a gunshot and scared the holy molies out of us! Poor red rocket. After lunch we got to some papier mache with the girls, as you do. 

Loving being back in PNG, and glad to report I can still 'savve' (understand) pidgin well but am going to have to regain confidence in speaking it with any fluency - I just tell people I do 'lik-lik' (a little bit). Off to Lae tomorrow for a shopping trip, Matt at work with Glenn no doubt loving it. All is well.