The Boat: Part Three


We were supposedly a one day journey away from Rossel Island, however we had now heard this same claim for four days. We had no way of verifying the sincerity of claims made by the crew and passengers (most of the time they would say what they thought we wanted to hear, rather then what we needed to hear). I had given up feeling frustrated long ago as this reaction seemed futile in the given circumstances. I instead opted for enjoying the unpredictability of the journey and the fact I had seemingly lost my mind helped.

Our captain advised us that we were not going to be passing through the snake passage instead we would be going through a wider passage. This was due to the lost boys vessel being ill-equipped for this passage. We were told by the crew that after leaving the Sudest island reef passage the water's volatility can increase. I sometimes got the feeling that some of the crew were trying scare us, however the cabin fever created a nice buffer for any potential fear.


Before we hit this passage several passengers disembarked in a small bay on Sudest island. The cyclone that had swept through had taken a heavy toll on the village. Damage to the huts was clearly visible and some huts had been abandoned entirely. Over two months on from the disaster and with minimal food rations and government support, many of the victims felt the lack of government action was not acceptable. It seemed the further from the mainland the worse the destruction and rebuild efforts were.


The passengers disembarked while betelnut was purchased and traded with the village. We continued on through the passage into strong currents; the boat began to rock and bounce as the ocean's volatility again picked up. I sat on the roof with other passengers and found myself enjoying the unpredictable motion of the boat. The boat would bounce over and cut through the waves and I felt a strange sense of calm, this was likely due to the nonchalance of the surrounding passengers. With this calm the interpretation of my own fear was no longer measured by the safety regulations that I had been taught to meet, it was now governed by the fact I was alive and not dead at the present moment. I had been infected with a contagious nonchalance. This was the calloused sense of fear that most of the population of PNG had already acquired.


We had lost clear sight of land for an hour when one of the crew saw the reef passage into Rossel island (Rossel island is surrounded by a massive reef, with only four passages in). Of course the passage was invisible to any foreigner and frankly due to the difficulty in getting reliable information.  I had lost track of all the passages we were suppose to be going through. Another three hours passed until we got our first look at Rossel island and by this point the waters had calmed.


Up until now most of the islands we had seen bore the distinct signs of human impact, bush had been cleared and roads could be seen. Rossel was only blanketed in a seemingly impenetrable thick jungle. I pushed thoughts of malaria and dengue fever to the darkest recess of my psyche. It felt as though we received our second wind upon seeing Rossel and were excited to get ashore and off the boat.