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!
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...