November 10th 1983

posted in: The way back | 0

We breakfasted lightly, then drove down with Maggie to town.  She told us a little about the first arrival of white people in PNG – a lot of the events in the film First Contact took place very close to Maggie’s place.  She told us that even when she was a small girl, + she’s now only 30, white people were rarities, + she would go a long way to have a look at them.

In town, we decided to supplement our meal before leaving by having some fresh bread + cheese, + we sat down on a step outside the Tal air office to consume it – a true feast.  And who should come along as we were sitting there but Greg.  He was on his own now, having split up form the others at Lae, but he certainly hadn’t done badly for himself since then, by the brief account he gave us of his experiences.  I wasn’t surprised – he was the sort to talk himself into invitations.  And while we have not done too badly by the expat community, Greg has been taken in by the nationals – 5 days staying with a family on an island off Madang, days here + there with other individuals + groups.  I felt quite envious, I must confess, tho’ I’m sure it’s the idea that appeals far more than the reality would do.  Even Greg had had his troubles, having been severely bitten by an insect during a stay in a hut, but he’d had his compensations too, having received, as well as hospitality, a number of fine presents.  We chatted for a while, comparing notes on our finish to the Trail – in both cases it was much as we’d expected.  Then I gave him the letter I’d written   to him + the others the night before – a saving on postage, at any rate – + we said farewell once more.

We then trotted round to catch the PMV to Goroka, + luckily once again we had a new + comfortable minibus.  A pleasant incident, just after we’d set out on the journey, when the lady in the seat in front turned round + gave Val a bead-shell necklace, + we reciprocated by giving her in turn a bracelet, a piece we’d bought for the purpose of present at a garage sale in Sydney.  She also showed us some photographs she had of various relatives, + I wish we could have shown her the photos we have since I’m sure she would have enjoyed them, but unfortunately they were among the things we had left behind with Eddy.

It was a long + fairly tedious ride, but we arrived at Goroka at about 4, + then Val minded the bags while I set out to find some accommodation.  Our guide book mentioned 2 places, but the first, the Salvation Army flats, were full (I rang them, fortunately), so we were more or less forced to take the second – the Lutheran guest house.  They had no room for us, so it meant dormitory arrangements, but, like I said, Hobson’s choice.  After I’d fetched Val, she tried to persuade the young lady in charge to allow us to camp in their grounds, but that was turned down, so we were left with our K11 a night each beds.  Fortunately for us, they weren’t offering an evening meal tonight.  This meant we were able to use the kitchen facilities – + very adequate they were too.  We immediately rushed down to the shops to purchase the necessary provisions – we decided upon chops, taters, + cabbage, + a splendid meal it was too.  It also seemed we were fortunate not to be out camping, since while we were eating our meal, it began to teem down, heavier than anything we’d experienced.  In those conditions, one appreciates a solid roof above one’s head, even if it does cost K22.  But to be fair, the guest-house was very pleasant + comfortable, with comfortable rooms, hot showers, a lounge + kitchen, this latter equipped as it was for catering to the establishment, being wonderfully well-provisioned with basic foodstuffs as well as pots + pans etc.  We were allowed to help ourselves to tea, coffee, juice, + during the evening, Jenny, the warden, offered us a piece of banana cake she had made.  We chatted a little with Jenny + a couple of the other residents – most of the guests were attending a church conference, + they seemed rather insular – until, at around 10, there was a power cut.  This was a regular occurrence, it seemed, + would last until the early hours of the morning, so we lit candles + went to bed.  I slept like a log.

Goroka market

Meeting with Greg did rather confirm the downside of going native, in terms of insect bites etc. Nor did I think that either of us had the temperament to cope with the lack of ability to communicate effectively.

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