PNG report #8

July 15

Because we didn’t make the trip to Tari, we had a couple of days that were previously unplanned. So….. a walkabout up the nearest mountain was planned!

Sr. Josephus headed up our group. Bennett and Warren were our escorts. And Margaret (of the red/white clay) came along with her 6 year old grandson Dominic.

We did a round trip – starting out on the town side and finishing on the village side. At first the walk was quite easy; the road did go down a bit as we had to cross the river. And then the road went up….and up…..and up. Really not too bad, but when coupled with the high elevation that Miri and I weren’t used to yet, it made a difference! A short cut almost did Miri in, but a rest and a water break got her going again, especially since we were just about as high as we needed to be at that point.

The road had previously been the major route from Mendi to Tari – I can’t imagine many vehicles traveled it. Foot travel must’ve been the only method – ruts, rocks, and mud holes through swampy areas abounded. At one point Miri lost her shoe in the muck. I think she was more embarrassed than anything. She also had absolutely no tread on her shoes which caused some slipping and sliding along the way. The guys were concerned and made sure she didn’t fall. I think they would’ve carried her if she would’ve let them.

The mountainside was filled with huts, villages, gardens and kids. Just when you thought there couldn’t possibly be anyone around, a small person would pop up and smile. Or a hut would lift up from the forested floor. Or a pig would snort its way into our view. (Pigs are signs of wealth. All the pigs were tethered and taken to the mountain to eat during the day, then taken back to their owners’ homes in the evening. Ditches were dug around garden areas to both keep the pigs out and to drain the water off.)

We made it to just-about-the-top of Mt. Tibili (sp?), a spiny ridge along the river with a great view of Mendi and surrounds. The actual top was steeper and more precarious than either Miri or I preferred. A clamoring of local kids escorted us there and then back to their nearby village.

Lunch (peanut butter sandwiches) was eaten in the middle of a swift mountain stream. The rocks in the middle of the stream were ideal resting. One was used by all the locals to sharpen their knives. Along the route there were all sorts of flowering plants – including some lovely orchids. Several were pulled up by our guides to replant later in the nuns’ backyard.

The way back down wasn’t bad at all – until the very end. We had to re-cross the Mendi River – which in itself wasn’t bad as there was a steel constructed foot bridge that all the local school kids were using by the time we got there. The steps cut into the red clay on the other side going up from the river were brutal, though. And the two-log bridge back into the mission area was a little nerve-wracking. I’ve done log walks before, but not since my balance nerve was damaged. Margaret made sure I got across it without a problem.

I took pictures all during the trip and had showed them to the kids as I took them. Our guides didn’t express any interest at all until we were resting in the backyard with glasses of water. And then they were just as eager as the kids to see themselves in the little camera!

After a shower, a clothes washing and a nap, I was able to help solve a minor computer problem for one of the Swiss nuns who had an office behind our house. Then, the national nuns pulled me back over to their house to watch them prepare a highlands version of the mumu for a group of health workshop participants. This time the rocks went into a hole dug in the ground and lined with banana leaves. Pieces of pork and layers of cooking bananas, cabbage, kaukau, taro and corn on the cob were layered on the rocks and the whole shebang was again covered with banana leaves and then large plastic bags and tarp to hold the heat in. I later got to taste the corn and bananas before heading to dinner at our house. I don’t think I could make a choice as to which mumu was the better one.

The electric was out again till about 9pm. Bilum making by candlelight with the national nuns was an interesting event! They got me started on one using a zipper and Monica started a long tie-handle one for me, too. All the nuns seemed more interested that I be doing bilums than what I felt was necessary, but far be if from me to disappoint them! 🙂

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