The Boat: Part Two


The lost boys left before us and as they sailed off into the distance I could see one of the crew manning a hand pump to regulate the excess water level caused by the leak. I felt sorry for the crew member who had been allocated the monotonous job of keeping the boat afloat.

As we followed behind I began to look for some where more comfortable to sleep. I climbed onto the roof of the vessel and found a spot to stretch out in the sun to dry myself among the other passengers who also inhabited the space. The sun burnt my salt laden skin but I didn't let this minor discomfort impose on the relative calm and drifted to sleep. I was awoken some hours later by the rain and as I was not willing to confront the cramped confines of the deck I tried to turn the rain into a comfort. Eventually I succumbed to the reality of the discomfort and climbed back down. The sea's volatility again began to flare up after we hit a current. Scott and I stood on the deck holding the railing and watched the swell crash against the reef, we had already been on the boat for two days and were still no where near Rossel island. The reality of the journey began to set in.

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We anchored in a small village that night, it was pitch black and we could only see torches and fires burning on the bay where the village was supposedly situated. The crew on the boat told us a story about a cult that had been massacred on the island in the 1940's and how the messianic leader met his demise at the hands of the military in a cave on the mountain. We climbed around the boat looking for a comfortable place to sleep and eventually settled on the bow. The captain provided us with some sleeping mats and we went to sleep in our damp clothing, by this point we found ourselves too exhausted to be bothered by the bustling sounds that occupied the deck.

We both awoke early in the morning to see the impressive bush houses made from jungle materials that dotted the bay and also caught a glimpse of a traditional sailing canoe. The lost boys left shortly after we awoke and we followed soon after. We enjoyed calm waters during this period of the trip and sat atop the boat and looked at the expansive varieties of island. Once we reached Tagula island, Iggy the local we were traveling with received a call from a member of the provincial government who were apparently curious as to why we were going to Rossel island. The governor had sent two men to intercept us at Tagula in order to interrogate us.We waited in Tagula for an hour to be questioned until Iggy received another call from a police contact who advised him that the men sent to question us did not have the credentials to do so. Iggy advised the captain who decided to continue towards Rossel island.


We were on our third day, had dealt with overcrowding, rough seas, a lack of sleep and now learned that we had also unintentionally pissed off the provincial government. It began to appear as though Rossel island did not want us and we sat there and tried to dissect the seemingly irrational paranoia of the provincial government. Iggy believed that the government officials did not want us to be exposed to the lack of development on the island, as the government may have assumed we were covert diplomats with a hidden agenda. However I didn't believe this, as lack of development was an issue that plagued the entire nation. We also discussed the theory that they thought we were smuggling drugs via Rossel to Australia; all the assumptions we made seemed nonsensical. The passengers on the ship also seemed perplexed by the government's reaction to us and we discussed these theories till we anchored.


We anchored in a bay on an island called Nimoa and were quite excited  to go ashore. The village on the island had a canteen and this meant potentially getting some tailor made cigarettes. We overloaded the dinghy with those that wanted to go ashore, the captain included. Once we reached shore two curious children took one look at us, turned tail and ran screaming. The appearance of two tall strange disheveled white men was obviously too much for them to handle. We wandered into the village which was clouded in heavy smoke as preparations were being made for the governor's visit later that week. The preparations consisted of burning off all the unwanted foliage and trash. As we continued to walk we could see curious silhouettes following us it was clear dim dim's were not a common sight here.

We got to the canteen to find they had no tailor made cigarettes and were only stocked with stale twisties and beef biscuits. We bought some supplies and followed the captain to the Catholic parish to discuss renting a room for the night. The priest sat at the head of the table as we discussed the rate over some instant coffee and biscuits, he advised us we could use his house for the night. The prospect of a real bed and a shower was exciting and by this point we were willing to overpay for such luxury. We wandered to his modest quarters and dropped off our bags, the walls were plastered with the image of Christ and there were two beds, both with mosquito nets which we quickly made use of.


We awoke early the next morning as we were advised our boat would be leaving at 6:00 AM.  However we failed to again take into account the national creed "land of the unexpected ". This meant we were sitting around on the bay for several hours waiting for a dinghy to take us aboard and ended up aimlessly stumbling around the village talking to people and being given free beef biscuits by people who sympathized with our situation. People told us stories of the recent cyclone that swept through and had destroyed the parish generator and a school. The Catholic parish's effigy of Christ also bore the destructive signs of the violent winds that the village had faced.

It was also on Nimoa that we heard more stories of Rossel island. I was told of a legend about a giant snake that was chased from the Sudest island to Rossel island along the way the snake cut a path through the reef leaving the aptly named "snake passage" in its wake. We also kept being told that it was "primitive" but when we pressed people for further details they seemed unable to elaborate.


Eventually we boarded our ship roughly three hours behind schedule and continued our trip to Rossel Island .