Toina (centre) and her family
Once again, we were more or less required to eat breakfast as part of the agreement of our stay, but once again it was tasty – steak, egg, tomato, so no complaints. Bill had told us we would be picked up around breakfast-time, so we sat, expectantly, packs at the ready, immediately we had eaten. And there we still were at 11, with no sign + no word from Bill. It was odd – he had seemed so certain, + Paul said he was generally very reliable, but there was nothing we could do but sit + wait. Obviously, we were both tense + disappointed, Paul + June were having some sort of row, + Greg seemed disgruntled about something, so we weren’t a very happy crew. Eventually we gave up on our ride, tho’ not on our intention to set off on the trail today. So, along with the others, we took a lift to Boroko with Paul, + then said farewell, + looked for a PMV to take us out to Sogeri.
Contrary to what Paul had told us, the best information we could receive said that the rural PMVs left from Gordon’s market, 2 or 3 miles away. However, a young black feller called Zake offered to guide us, so we took him up on that. His English was limited, but he was quite interesting. Down from the Highlands, like many of his countrymen, + like so many of them, unable to find work. He offered to take Val’s bag, she refused, on the grounds that she’d have to get used to it herself, showed us to the place (a long hot walk, but the packs + shoulders bearing up well), + made sure we got on the right bus. For which we paid him 60t, to’ I’ve no idea whether that was fair reward or not, or indeed whether it was appreciated.
The PMV was a conventional minibus rather than a truck, + the ride out to Sogeri was steep + winding, tho’ uneventful. The turn-off to the start of the trail is a couple of kms before Sogeri, + the driver had been going to let us off there, but these things always seem to have 2 or 3 people working on them, + one of the people sitting in the back remonstrated with him, + then told us to sit tight, as we would go to Sogeri first to drop off the other passengers, then take us up the side road on the return journey. I was almost (but not quite) regretful, as Sogeri seemed very pretty, + I would have liked to look round. On the other hand, a ride’s a ride, + we did have to be moving.
The road winding up to the trail was considerably less well-used, bumpy + long – much further than we’d anticipated. Chock full of incidents too. First the back door flew open as we hit a particularly nasty bump, + that had to be re-fastened. Then we rounded a corner to confront a large Brahmin bull, standing square + stock-still in the middle of the road, + one of the assistants had to dismount + hurl rocks at it to urge it to depart. Then, running low on diesel, they almost decided they would have to stop, let us off, + turn back, before consulting with a local who told them that the start wasn’t much further – none of them had ever been out this way, you see. However, it had now begun to rain, and the steep clay road became immediately treacherous – we skidded dangerously close to the cliff-edge at one point – so Val + I convinced them they had done all they possibly could for us, so we stopped at the next point they could conveniently turn round. They’d been very helpful indeed, it would have taken us most of the afternoon to walk as far, + it cost us just K2 each – a bargain, I’d say.
We were dropped outside a house, a farmhouse, + as the rain was coming down fairly heavily, we sheltered under their shed, along with half a dozen employees + a brand new tractor, all of us waiting for the rain to stop. Quite a few giggles + private jokes, but eventually another guy turned up, one who spoke English well. He introduced himself, his name was Willy, + he was the manager of the rubber plantation. He told us the rain had set in for the day – it was only a little after 1 – but that the owner of the house would be happy for us to spend the night with him. Since, in view of the rain, we had only intended to walk a km or so to the next village, + then pitch tent, we were happy to agree. He took us in + introduced us, then the 3 of us sat on the back veranda, drank Milo, + chatted. The house had been built by an Australian, so was of Western design, tho’ virtually empty of furniture. The veranda was lovely – we could sit + watch the rain + clouds, changing the view moment by moment. And Willy was interesting too. We chatted about many things – the rubber crop, politics, the Trail – until eventually he had to leave to return to his own house.
The view from their veranda
He left us in the charge of Toina, one of the daughters of the house, a big + rather sheepish girl of 17 or so. She had struck me as being a bit slow + simple, but it was all shyness. She was in fact quite intelligent, + her English was good, + improving as she used it. There was much excitement when the other kids came home from school, especially when we brought out the photos from home, the penny whistle, + the juggling balls. These last 2 were especially successful, since they sang along to the whistle, + proved far more adept than I at juggling, even tho’ they didn’t know the word for it. We ate quite late, as Toina’s father had made a special trip to fetch a tin of corned beef for us. Unfortunately, tho;’ we ate alone – meat, rice, sweet potato – when we would have preferred to have eaten with the others. We were watched for a little while by the kids. Toina was also very apologetic about everything – the food, the bathroom, the hospitality they could offer – when really there was no need. We were overwhelmed. And went to bed. On real beds, in a real bedroom, early.
Our first experience of the public transport system, which, though haphazard to our eyes, was flexible enough to see us right. And we were fortunate to happen upon the hospitality of the local people at the beginning of the trail, most especially Toina and her family, who really were very kind.