The Boat: Part Four


Pum village, our final destination on Rossel island, was too far to travel as the reefs were dangerous to navigate at night. So we were advised by the captain that he was going to attempt to organise a night in a village on shore. As the vessel anchored, fishing canoes emerged from the shore to swarm the boat and excited locals came out to greet the passengers and crew. It was the first boat they had seen in months and many were looking to see if family members were on board. They clambered onto the exterior of the boat many of them were looking for tobacco as there had been a severe smoke drought on Rossel.


As dusk broke the locals sent for a dinghy to take us ashore and it was dark by the time we began loading into the dinghy. As we paddled to shore I watched the oars cut a bright, light trail through the clear phosphorescent waters. We were led to a meeting house where a meal had been prepared for us. Here we sat, ate, smoked and chewed betelnut, and discussed the journey with the village leaders.

I awoke early the next morning to explore the village before we departed. Every house had been constructed with bush materials and sea walls had been erected with rock. Some buildings bore the destructive scars of the cyclone we had been told about. I met one of the village leaders who had lost his house in the cyclone and he invited me onto the porch of his newly constructed bush hut for tea. We discussed the government's response to the cyclone (or lack of) and it was essentially the same story I heard in Nimoa and saw in Sudest.


We boarded the vessel again roughly an hour later to run the final leg of the trip to Pum village. I felt a strong sense of relief in knowing I was to be getting of the boat in a matter of hours, and I was looking forward to a period of relaxation in one of the most remote islands in the world .


In retrospect the above was a naive expectation as we were about to experience a crash course in Papuan interpersonal communication and a bizarre breed of esoteric madness.