Cool lawns and chill pads

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Oceania » Papua New Guinea » Oro
July 25th 2009
Published: October 1st 2017
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Geo: -9.14193, 149.297

Got up fairly early – went and sat out on the veranda, enjoying the clear morning with view of distant volcanic peaks. Had a brief chat with an Australian man who is living in Port Moresby as part of a capacity-building program with PNG Customs office. He's up with a group for diving (something to do on the weekends, he says, as his family is still in Sydney). We chatted about life in PNG: he says he's had only minor problems in Moresby: someone trying to get into his car, gunshots heard outside his office building. But he's cautious, taking multiple people in the car when he goes out at night, living in an ex-pat apartment complex with guards and Rottweilers. He also asked if we were taking anti-malarial. I said Yes, and he said, Good, as almost all the local people he knows have recurring malaria. He doesn't take anything in Moresby but takes a cycle when he comes into the villages.

After breakfast, we repacked our bags so that we could carry our clothes for the trek in our small backpacks, then transferred to one of the dive boats for the ride out to Orotoaba village. (Tufi Dive has nicely agreed to keep our bags and valuables while we're gone.) It was very bumpy and wet leaving the fjord. We got totally soaked. Once we were out of the harbor, we had more quartering seas and it was drier. It was beautiful going along the coast, seeing the tall cliffs, tropical blue water, and white sands. We caught a glimpse of one of the guest houses where we'll stay in a couple of days.

At Jebu beach, we were put ashore, and met by someone who's name sounds like "Laksan" – our host for the next two days. The guys from Tufi Dive spent a few minutes seeing if they could buy some lobsters – usually, they have no trouble securing them, but the rough seas this time of year limits the lobsters – then said good-by and left us.

We followed Laksan up a narrow track that first passed through a small village then went through high grasslands up to the top of the hill at the end of the fjord. It took about 45 minutes – very warm and humid at times but not too bad. I was still wet enough from the boat ride not to mind the sweat. We passed a group of three women, the eldest of whom was heavily tattooed.

As we approached the village, the children began to gather. We saw an entrance gate, set up with arbour and cloth curtain. Behind, hidden, was a group of dancers waiting to welcome us. After a few drum beats and a chant of welcome, we were ushered through the gate and saw the dancers, with bright headdresses full of colourful feathers, bead and shell necklaces and breastplates, grass skirts (though two wore plastic hula skirts like we had when I was a child), and leaf/grass anklets. They chanted and escorted us to a resting platform (our “chill-pad” as the kids have dubbed it.)

We discarded our bags and were presented with coconut water while the dance group performed about five different songs of welcome. I loved the drums: carved from rosewood, then covered by a drumhead of lizard skin. On the skin are three or four drops of honey – the different number changes the sound of the drum.

After the singing, the adults left – though the children stayed behind. An older woman put out a display of tapa cloth and bead necklaces: we bought one of each. Then Keegan entertained the children by his drawings. He tore out the sheets and gave them to the children, which delighted them to no end.

Overcast and breezy: lovely.

Our accommodations are fine: a sleeping house (two rooms, mattress with mosquito netting), mess room, shower room, and loo. All very nicely maintained and should be quite comfortable.

We were served a tasty lunch of rice, pig, spam, instant noodles with curry, fried squash, fried yams – with tea and Milo. After, we went back to our resting platform, to enjoy the breeze … and the carpenter bees. Kyla had an infected bug bite, so we went through both First Aid kids trying to decide which remedy might work the best. (We knew Grandpa would opt for the iodine. But he's insane.)

Then we went for a great walk – up through the village itself (which is slight uphill from our guest house) – a charming collection of houses, resting platforms, cooking rooms, and latrines. All the buildings (which sit in two rows, with a lawn in between) are built of rough hewn wood and thatch, with small drains around the uphill perimeter. We loved the use of an old diving tank, suspended, for a church bell. Only incongruous item: a powered lawn mower. (I thought that's what the wallabies were for.) But the spreading lawns are very picturesque – and surprising. May be why it almost feels like a fake village on a resort in Hawaii. Sigh – so hard having been raised within close proximity to Disneyland. All realities are, for me, meta-realities.

After seeing the village, we walked down a steep path to the garden area. First, we passed a family where the wife was working in the garden (first topless woman we've seen) while the husband sat under a pergola – in the shade – playing with the children. We saw gardens of taro, manioc, tapioca, cocoa, pineapple (sadly, not ready until December), plus banana trees, papaya, and other plants not recognized. Everywhere, hibiscus and orchids bloom. Beautiful.

Then, through the high grasses (no snakes, right?) and over a couple of small stream crossings, to a round bathing pool. Keegan was the only one in bathing trunks, so he went in; the rest of us just washed our arms and legs and faces.

Returning through a loop to the village, we walked back down to our resting platform. The village children tried to come over, seeing Keegan had returned, but were shooed away by the adults. So we had a very relaxing afternoon reading and talking about lots of stuff, from the Iliad to “South Park” to the Sino-Japanese War in Manchuria.

We also wonder about one woman in the village, who has not moved the entire time we've been here. She began sleeping in the middle of the trail, and she later sat up in the same spot. We walked around her when we followed our guide up to and back from the villages. Very odd. I'll try not to be sad about it.

Spent the evening (after an early dinner) in our sleeping hut, at the table, first playing Hoopla, then reading. It did occur to us that Hoopla would be a difficult game for our hosts – especially if they had to guess “locker room” or “food court” or “Rose Bowl” or “Yellowstone”. (And have a new phrase for the family: “You'll never get this. It's Locker Room!”😉

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