Nov 2nd-8th: South Pacific Sunsets

Trip Start Oct 10, 2010
Trip End Dec 16, 2010

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Flag of Papua New Guinea  , Morobe,
Monday, November 8, 2010

I set out for a little place called Tami Island on the far eastern coast of Papua New Guinea that my Lonely Planet guide described as "Every bit the South Sea cliche you could hope for"; so naturally I wanted to check it out! I received this e-mail as I was on my way: "The best thing to do is go to Voco Point and ask around for a speedboat (20' dinghy with a 40hp engine and 75 if you're really lucky) headed toward Finschhafen and get off at Malasiga. This isn't always a sure thing though. Sometimes I've waited all day (or days) and wasn't able to get a ride so I'd have to go back and sleep at a guesthouse and check again the next morning." Great...

Well, my PMV ride down to Lae from Ukarumpa went very well and I then started to make my way to Voco Point. On the way, I met a local girl who helped me to get there which turned out to be a big blessing because Voco Point turned out to be a bit of a shady place. Low and behold- (I arrived at 1245 with no idea as to what I'd find) a boat was leaving at 1 for Malasiga! Amazing- and 75hp no less- what an awesome turn of events- especially traveling in PNG!

I sat down in the little boat (on the floor of course) with other locals and we sped out over the waves of the South Pacific Ocean with the misty mountains of Papua New Guinea in view to the north as we went. I was expecting Malasiga to be a rather dingy little place- but it was absolutely beautiful! The little village of grass thatched houses was situated on a peninsula jutting out into the ocean with beautiful blue waters, palm trees, vibrant flowers and crushed coral as ground. I had no idea where to go so I was led over a bridge made of palm tree trunks (yes, a walking bridge which was more easy to fall off of than to walk across) to a house with a missionary couple named Kim and Annie. They were ever so surprised to see me- as Kim was the one who sent the e-mail earlier that day. They helped me find a place to sleep since transport out to the island (10 miles of the coast) was going to be more difficult than I thought. (Malasiga and Tami Island are settled by the same people fyi.) I slept in the house of a young local man named Langa on the floor- I helped buy food which they cooked and I sort of became part of the community and made a lot of friends. Langa also owned a guitar which I played with some of the other young men; they even taught me a worship song in Tok Pisin!
Kim and Annie also graced me with a cold drink or some English speaking relief if I needed it and I was very thankful for them. They are another great missionary couple. If you're prayerful- keep them in your prayers and know there are many hardships facing the Tami people I haven't written about forthrightly. If you want to know, just ask.

I spent two nights in Malasiga getting to know the people, a little of their language, and Kim and Annie too before getting a boat out to Tami Island. The people out on Tami heard of my arrival and greeted me with a splash of nice cold water on my face which is the local custom and they were all wearing pretty hibiscus flowers in their hair. I slept in the little guesthouse there for the equivalent of 6 dollars a night and stayed for two nights. The island (which is really a group of four islands) were absolutely beautiful- white sand beaches, swaying palm trees, clear blue turquoise waters, beautiful reefs for snorkeling, and more friendly Tami people. I spent a lot of time just relaxing, swimming, snorkeling, and exploring the nearby islands with a dugout canoe. One big problem, and really the only one as far as travel goes, was the lack of food- unlike most places in PNG the Tami people struggle to get enough food year round for a variety of reasons. I basically lived off of biscuits, coconuts and fresh fish on the island. (And no I am not complaining about fresh fish- most of my fishing buddies back home will be very jealous that I enjoyed such delicacies as tuna and shark the day they were caught and we roasted them on an open fire!)

One afternoon I took the canoe over to Wanam Island (the one I stayed on was called Kalil and both had a village of Tami people on them). As a neared the island I could see a band of about 50 children squealing and staring at this white thing paddling toward them in one of their dugout canoes. As it turned out, I pulled my canoe ashore right in front of the school and it was recess time- and not only that- but the village was all the way on the other side of the island- only the school was here! haha. All the children just stared at this rare visitor once I stepped ashore so I bid them "Bungmong Lameh" <---glottal stop! which means "good morning" in their heart language. A teacher was gracious in giving me two boys to guide me to the village as I had interrupted the flow of the school day and we hiked up the coral atoll and along the rocky coral coast a rather long ways until we finally made it to the village- which was gorgeous as I expected it to be just as the other Tami villages. After a nice little walk around and admiring some men as they carved their wood on the beach we hiked back to the school and I set off in my canoe back to the other island for some snorkeling- which was absolutely beautiful with colorful fish of all sorts, big sea stars, and pristine coral. (And the water is nice and warm here year round too!)

The islands were nice also because there were no other travelers around- just me and the locals! I asked how many other travelers had stopped in that year and they said 20! 20?! Wow. This is a little paradise just waiting to be put on the checklist of avid travelers. Of course, there was no electricity or restaurants on the island- just pure village life and gorgeous surroundings. I enjoyed many South Pacific sunrises and sunsets- and the stars- oh the stars... I would wade out in the water at night (but watch out for the eels!) and just admire them and how they would sparkle so brightly on the water at my feet as well. On the last night I made a little fire on the shore beneath a palm tree and just admired the sky, the tranquil beauty, and the sound of the waves...

I got transport back to Malasiga after two nights to spend more time with my new friends there. They were excited for my return and before I left, my bilum (big local string bag) was filled to the brim with gifts of seashells, shell bead jewelry, carved coconuts, and the famous carved bowls which the Tami people are renowned for carving worldwide out of Qwila wood, a bead band that goes on my left bicep which I am supposed to move over to my right when I'm married, and even a cassette tape with songs some local guys recorded. They are truly wonderful people... I wound up staying for two nights instead of one like I had intended because there was no boat transport back to Lae but it was just as well because I was enjoying my time with my new friends. The sister of Langa was pregnant at the time and she said she was going to name her baby after me if it was a boy, and my sister Theresa if it was a girl. Awesome, huh sis? I'm hoping it's a girl ;)
I was also able to go to the children's Sunday school which was filled with beautiful music and rhythms- I wish American culture was naturally musical! That was another nice thing about the Tami people- their sense of culture and language were still very much in tact as compared with many other tribal groups in PNG which have completely succumbed to modern life.
I also enjoyed other new tastes including tapio bread, seashells, (just dive down, get them, and cook them on the fire), and breadfruit seeds. The laulau berries which are a favorite of mine were especially good there too.

Anyway, I could go on and on about my wonderful time there. I am back at my base in Ukarumpa now preparing to hike out into some mountain villages on Wednesday- it will be an interesting adventure which is taking place because of the following events: my new friend Ryan here at Ukarumpa and his wife Crystal started working with the Saut people about a year ago but they have faced setback after setback. The most recent two have resulted in emergency evacuation- 1st their young daughter became very ill and the 2nd time a man who seems
to be part of a Cargo Cult came into their home and threatened to killthem all, chop them up, and burn their house down. They haven't been back since- and this happened a few months ago. Ryan, myself and two other men in their mid and late twenties will be checking the situation
now and see if it is safe for Ryan and his family to move back in and continue in the work they feel God has called them to. It will also be great to see village life in the mountains- we'll be crossing rushing streams and hiking through virgin rainforest- I'm excited!

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