November 5th 1983

posted in: The way back | 1

Woke up aboard the Nagada – again – steaming along merrily.  However, as the morning went on, early estimates as to time of arrival were put back + back – the trip was becoming a bore.  So I lost myself in a book, Charlotte Bronte’s “Jane Eyre”.  Rather to my own surprise, I was fascinated, + instead of taking it slow, slow + easy, I raced thro’ chapter after chapter.  Tho’ it did help to take my mind off my stomach – by now I was becoming very hungry.  However, Val also provided assistance there – she took the water from the 2nd coconut we’d been given, + used that to cook a big bag of porridge (the oats reclaimed from the muesli.)  That helped me a good deal, + filled a mighty hole.  Val passed a little time too by chatting up the captain, + thereby getting a look at the navigation room, as well as a quick turn at the wheel – course 315 degrees, plus or minus 5 degrees.

Finally arrived at Lae at about 2.30, + after the usual hassles about mooring the thing in the right place, then filing off down the gangplank one by one to give in our tickets, there we were.  Right next door to the wharf was the Lae Yacht Club, + we’d been mildly amazed to see the large number of whites sitting there (they also looked a little surprised to see us.)  As we were so close, Val popped in to check out the food there (I felt slightly embarrassed as I was padding around in my socks) but she soon popped out again to drag me in – we were having a drink bought for us.  Our host was an enormous + amazingly fit + well-built guy called Peter, head of stevedoring with a local shipping co. – he was both ebullient + friendly in a very Australian sort of way.  We bought ourselves a hamburger + some chips, + more beer appeared, + then more.  We were still, at this stage, fairly determined to catch a PMV out of Lae, so we approached Peter, to which he suggested moving onto another club, so, as much in order not to offend, we agreed.  But just for the one mind you.

The next place was pretty much exactly the same as the last, the same sort of boozy crowd, the same sort of boozy jokes.  We were, however, introduced to a couple of ex-poms, so chatted with them.  They were both the worse for wear for drink – one slightly, one extremely (it seems to be very much an occupational hazard out here.)  It was Ray, the drunker one, who invited us back to his place to kip on the floor, + as it was by now fairly late in the afternoon, we succumbed + agreed.  Peter seemed delighted that we had found shelter for the night (tho’ I think we may have ended up kipping at his place had we not), but as we transferred our bags from his car to Ray’s truck, he thrust K10 into Ray’s hand, + told him to buy me some shoes – I was still, as I had been all afternoon, padding around in my socks.

Ray took us back + introduced us to his wife Pauline.  She was in no state to receive guests, having just got out of bed + having a stinking cold,  but she was nonetheless very nice indeed, + made us feel quite at home.  I wasn’t nearly so sure about Ray – he dragged me out on a couple of occasions, first to the Yacht Club (again!). where he swapped his pick-up with a colleague for a luxury saloon car – his mate apparently needed the pick-up to pill his boat of the water – + then to the Bowling Club (another drinking establishment almost exactly the same as the others we’d visited.)  This trip was specifically to enquire about fixing a lift for us to Goroka, but they guy wasn’t about, so we had a beer (I didn’t enjoy it, having had too many already) + came back.

It seemed we weren’t the only ones invited to dinner this evening – 3 of Ray’s mates also came round.  They were basically typical Oz types (even tho’ one was a Kiwi, + one had been born in Poland), + good-natured enough, but boozy,+ most objectionable of all, overtly racist.  Which I thought was particularly bad in view of the fact that there were 3 young kids present.  But the evening passed pleasantly enough – the booze flowed, + Ray, in particular, became drunker + drunker; the meal, a curry, was presented (quite delicious); + the video flickered on throughout the evening.

One interesting footnote – Pauline told Val that during the flood disaster a year or 2 previously, it was the ex-pat community who had supervised the distribution of clothes + blankets.  The blankets, it seemed, had mostly found their way into the shops, while the clothes had been pillaged of anything half-decent by the women appointed to look after them.  Pauline said this in a tone of disapprobation… + then announced that she had done the same thing.  And would have done more, had she been able to find the clothes to fit her.  After all, she said, what good would decent clothes be to the native women?

Straight back in to the ex-pat community; we are more or less adopted wherever we go, and though it makes for comfortable living and plenty of beer, we would have liked to escape it rather more than we did. All the more so when we encounter the sort of attitude described in the final paragraph, even from someone as relatively enlightened as Pauline.

(And still no photos, sorry.)

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