November 15th 1983

posted in: The way back | 0

After a very long + most unpleasant night, it was good to see daylight + feel fresh air once more.  We were still underway, to my surprise – obviously I had misheard or misunderstood the sailing time.  Finally pulled into Wewak at about 10 am.  The original plan had been for me to go off to town leaving Val on the boat, but when I discovered town was a fair bus ride away, we pulled our bags back together again, + departed together.  A bit of a plod from the wharf out to the main road.  On the way we met an American Peace Corps working + living + working on a health education project in a village on the Sepik.  She wanted us to come + visit her + her husband – infuriatingly, of course, we had to refuse.  Nice to be invited all the same.

Stocked up with kerosene at a village store, also re-fuelling ourselves with un-needed but much-wanted bottle of coke.  Then caught the PMV into town – Wewak is the first PNG town that we’ve encountered that seems to have a publicly-run PMV system, as opposed to a loose collection of free agents, + very efficient it seems too.  Not that there are so many roads to cover.  We were dropped in what stood for the town centre – like every other PNG town, Wewak has no proper centre – + I performed 2 vital functions – located some accommodation for the night, + discovered a dentist.  I forgot to mention yesterday – while biting into a piece of toast at breakfast, I felt an unpleasant + unnatural crunch.  The tooth that Ralph had tried to fix had splintered in my mouth, + for the next hour or so chunks of amalgam dropped out.  It obviously required fixing, + this was effectively my last chance, since we had already been warned that the medical care in Indonesia was not worth having.  The dentist in Wewak, I discovered, was English, so I left Val sitting at the bus stop minding the bags while I jumped on a PMV + shot out to the hospital.

I saw an expat walking down the hospital driveway, so I asked him where I could find the dentist.  As I’d half-suspected, this was the very man, but he was just off for his lunch-break.  The surgery opened again at 1, he told me, + tho’ he was very busy he would try to fit me in.  I decided to catch the bus back to town, since it wasn’t expensive, + I had realised, in any case, that we needed to go to the bank (again!)  So, upon my return, I relieved Val with the bags, while she trotted off to perform chores.  She returned eventually, + I set off once again for the hospital.  It was indeed quite a wait – I had to pop into the chair 3 times – once for an examination + X-ray, once for an injection, then the extraction.  Yes, the final solution decided upon was whipping it out – another one bites the dust.  Which wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t right next to the one I lost in Mexico.  The guy was worried about patching it up, since it would be so long before we got home again, + an abcess could develop.  So out it had to come – that was the professional advice, so I could hardly disagree.

It was quite an experience.  The dentist had one hand against my face, while he tugged + pulled with the other, while his assistant stood behind me holding my head steady.  And it still took one heck of a lot of pulling, tho’ fortunately it wasn’t too painful.  Nor was the cost of the operation – a mere K7.  I still got a receipt, since we may as well attempt to claim the money back against our travel insurance.

I arrived back in town, bloody mouth + all, at about 4, + as I had expected, Val had gone.    I’d arranged with our host for the night, Ralf Stuttgens, to pick us up ay either 2.30 or 5, depending on whether we had finished everything we had to do, + Val had taken the earlier run.  The timing was good tho’, since it gave me enough time to call in at Air Niugini + pay for our flight from Wewak to Vanimo, + then grab a few provisions.  There were 2 more Europeans waiting at the PO when I got there to wait for Ralf – they had been unsuccessfully trying to post a huge parcel home, { I surmised correctly that they too were going out to Ralf’s guest-house.  They were German, + had just spent 4 weeks in Irian Jaya – apparently, when entering it from the other side, from the rest of Indonesia, there are nothing like the same amount of controls. It seems.  Not for the first time in our travels, I felt envious of the experiences of other travellers.

Ralf was prompt, + seemed nice enough – he drove us straight out to his place, pausing only for a few minutes at a local market, where I bought a couple of doughnut-like cakes.  Ralf’s place was very strange – he is married to a national lady, + has 2 boys (one black, one coffee) who are very noisy + boisterous, + completely lacking in control – just the sort of kids I cannot abide.  Presumably their temperament derived from their mother, who was remarkably moody – at one moment she was all smiles, the next she was screaming violent abuse.  At her family rather than us, true, but uncomfortable all the same.  Particularly in that all of us were sharing the same building – a living-room/kitchen, with just a few beds as well, a bathroom + 2 bedrooms, one for the family, one for guests.  Val + I had elected to cook our own dinner, rather than pay the K3 each for the meal provided.  I was pleased we had done so – a delicious omelette, while they had what looked to my eyes a rather unappetising meat + rice dish.  Tho’ I suppose I shall soon have to get used to such things with Indonesia imminently approaching.  A quiet evening – they have a video, but were watching an appalling British gangster film.  Just as well – it allowed me to get on with this.

More dental work – my 3rd visit to such a facility in the time we have been away; Ralph had been a friend of my cousin Mike in Sydney, who had been distinctly unimpressed by the quality of the first piece of work, in Mexico. But needs must… Otherwise, a rather low-key end top our time in PNG. The walk had definitely been the highlight of the trip; for much of the rest of thetime, we found ourselves to be slightly uncomfortable watchers from the sidelines. PNG was not at all equipped for tourism when we were tyhere, with very little in the way of accommodation, eating-places, etc, so it was just as well for us that we were able to cash in on our relative rarity, and to be looked after by the expat community. But contrary to reports, we never felt ourselves to be in danger… but6 then maybe that’s must our innocence stroke pure good luck.


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