Thiefs and rotten eggs

Going to a PNG village is something truly special. An experience that you will remember for the rest of your life. You’ll come out of it both exuberated and exhausted. But going to a PNG village in a boat is a bit different than over land. Now you are not only visiting their home, but they want to visit your home too. The whole village will want come to visit your home, if they can. The PNG hospitality is absolutely amazing, but now I also get to be the one who offers hospitality, and it is not an easy task.

In the first village we came through, we were swamped by at least 50 people who swam or paddled out to our boat to have a look (read Welcome to PNG!…) . In our second village we didn’t invite people aboard, and as a result we were visited by Police or pirates?. On our sail to our third village in PNG we made a plan. This time we will be quick to launch our own tender and go to shore to meet the chief. That way we would divert the flow of people who will want to visit our boat and we will be under the protection of the chief which will hopefully create some more order to the impending chaos.

After a much quicker sail than anticipated, we arrive at the next island and end up anchoring in a reef passage. The wind was too strong to be manouvering around since we only had one rudder working (read Logs at night). We are quickly swarmed with canoes with both young and old, all wanting to welcome us and come aboard. We quickly launch our dingy, saying we want to visit the chief. The crew goes to shore but I decide to stay on the boat as we just anchored in a pretty tight spot.

As we hoped, the throng of canoes followed our tender to shore and our visit to the chief. It started raining too, which helped, and I decide to hide inside. But I hear someone is still outside and I poke my head out. One guy and three kids are loitering around our boat. I kindly ask them to please go home. I go back inside but still they are around the boat and whispering amongst themselves. In the end I speak up more strongly and tell them to go. They paddle off, smiling and waving. I assumed they just wanted to see the boat, but it turned out that their intentions were more sinister than that.

A little later I hear an outboard motor circling our boat. I ignore it and stay inside my cabin. But soon it is back and they are calling my name: «Eivind, Eivind, are you sleeping?» I get out and see them coming alongside. With them they are carrying some of our stuff. Two diving masks, a pair of swimming fins, two T shirts and a cooking oil. They proudly declared that they had gone to the neighboring village and found some people who had been stealing from our boat and that they had gone to return our things to us. Those kids had been stealing anything they were able to lay their hands on!…

Flabbergasted, I invite them onboard. Soon some of the young men are jumping around on deck, so happy and proud to be on our boat and being our saviors from the nasty thiefs. It was time for me to assume the role of the host as I was thankful for their help. Not sure what to do I offer them tea and coffee, which they eagerly accept. They also insist we get out of the reef passage, so with their help we move further into the bay.

As soon as we have people on board, more want to come. Soon we have canoes and fiberglass boats coming alongside to have a look. Not knowing exactly what to do, I keep talking to my friends who helped me against the thiefs and they seem to understand my distress and helps by controlling the crowds. Boat loads of people would come out to visit the boat. The new boat would bring new people and bring old ones back. I was happy to let them see the boat and keep talking to my new friends.

One of the last boat load of people contained the village counsel. He is the government representative of the village and came to inform me that there is a 700 kina fine (183 USD) per hour for anchoring on the reef and a 2000 kina fine (523 USD) to drag anchor. I understand that he wants to protect the reef but try to reason with him that we didn’t anchor on the reef, but on flat ground in the passage. He kept pressing his point and it became very uncomfortable. Everyone on the boat was very embarrassed by his behavior and stared down in the deck.

Finally he arrived at his intentions for coming. He didn’t want me to file a report about the thiefs from this island as it would ruin their reputation. I could understand that, but at the moment he was being more annoying than the thiefs. I show him understanding and we arrive nowhere. Finally he leaves and my friends on the boat reassures me that I have nothing to worry about. The people in the village finds him annoying too. Turns out he changed his mind about filing charges, something that we have to pay for in a couple of days…

Now we are only a few people left on the boat and it starts to become dark. Naomi, Paul and Sammy are finally coming back from the village and they had had a great time! They brought freshly smoked tuna with potatoes, banana and pumpkin for me, which tasted heavenly! A group of us sits on deck well into the night. Naomi has the sense to excuse herself after a long day of sailing and village visiting, while we boys stay up as long as we can.

Being in Papua New Guinea is so different from anywhere else I have been. Everywhere we go people welcome you as if you are their own family. Doesn’t matter if you come unannounced, they will embrace you. It is truly a special experience. But on the other hand it is very difficult to rest and to spend time with each other. When we move from village to village, it gets tiring when we get no break. This third village we visited in Papua New Guinea was a better experience than the previous two, looking away from the thiefs and the village counsel. It is sad that the few rotten eggs that exist ruin the omelet. Next morning we left at dawn and was happy to have some peace and quiet.

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