Day 12: Remote tribes in Lake Murray – Papua New Guinea

We were told to be at breakfast at 7 am. At breakfast we were told we would leave at 8:30. Since I finished breakfast at 7:30 I came back to the room to do a few nonsense things.

Please note if you’re a lodge manager always provide the departure time when telling someone to wake up and prepare for it.

Regardless, I woke up at 5 am. I unpack my daypack which contained everything I will need for the remainder of the trip and put that content to the side. Then repack it for today’s trip so that I can empty my pockets and better carry suntan lotion which I need to apply every 2 hours despite the clouds so that Stacey doesn’t get mad at me.

Yesterday my butt hurt by the end of the day, so I was very happy to see that there were chairs set up in the boat between the hard benches today. This is most likely due to the fact that we have correctly had two tour groups instead of one.

It’s a cloudy day out today which is good because I think burned my face a little bit yesterday.

First, we meet the Tufi tribe. This is the Ushikov village, one of 8 Kuni villages. It is the original village when it got bought some people left and established other villages.

As we get off the boat, there is already a horde of people on the grass staying at us. Many children are holding bows and arrows and some of them are holding machetes, Even as young as three years old.

Our guide, who is a member of this tribe, Tells us that they only see white people once or twice a year. We are 4 white people.

But there’s no reason to be nervous this is just their day-to-day. So we say a quick hello and start walking through the first stop. At the first stop in our guide is getting more information, a rectangle of people surround us and stare at us with gawking eyes. More and more people arrive to watch us.

I’m trying hard not to interact too much, I know that it can build a lot of excitement along the locals and these locals are already excited enough. I really want to interact enough so that they know that I\’m not a danger and that I\’m a good person. so I start by acting like a tourist I take their pictures, but then I interact with a few of the young kids. Once the kids feel that I’m safe they start smiling and then the adults start smiling.

In the village, the men’s role is to hunt. The woman’s role is to fish, cook, get vegetables, etc.

Unlike all of the other locations I’ve been in Papua New Guinea, these tribes don’t have an agenda when we first appear. Our guide is one of them, he walks us through the medium-sized village and shows us these things. Regular things, normal things, things like sago being cooked over a fire, things like a woman weaving a basket, the men\’s hut, and a hut under construction.

Throughout all of this, every adult wants to shake my hand, they want to talk to me for 20 seconds. Every child is a little nervous around me so when I break the ice with them they become giggling balls of laughter and someone\’s I can get them to shake my hand to.

It’s around this time that I get pulled aside by my guide. For a moment I thought I was in trouble, but he tells me that the tribe elder wants my contact information. I tell him that I’ll give it to him on the boat and that he can give it to him. But in reality, I\’m surprised and I truly wonder how and why this person would want to get in contact with me.

The last thing that he shows us is the school which is simply a set of benches with desks facing a blackboard. The school is open, and wind can come through the walls very easily, but there is a ceiling to protect us from rain.

We, the white tourists, go into the school. At this point, nearly the entire village is following us everybody has met us. We go into the school, but none of the locals do. They all stay on the outside looking into the open-air school walls. After a minute of our group’s strange nervous feeling of being separated from the locals, I call on the locals to come into the school and sit down by waving them in!

They excitedly start filling into benches and desks looking at us at the front of the classroom. We have a little fun with them but eventually have to leave, they are so excited and interested in us.

It’s a bit odd really, thinking about this gets me thinking about what movie stars do. For movie stars, it’s like this just about everywhere. Me, I only got this kind of treatment on this strange adventure to Papua New Guinea.

We exit the school and head to the boat. Again the entire village follows us each person that I made a small connection with gives me the nod of approval.

We get on the boat and I say goodbye in their Tufi language, of course. They say it back to me. They stand on the shoreline and watch my boat pull away. In fact, I wave a few times and they wave back. They are still there on the shoreline when I am 500 yards away and moving faster and faster away from them.

Tufi tribe words:

Anaganoosh boamah = good morning

Hagoosh boamah = good afternoon

Sombee = peace

Ya woah = bye

E.K. Konda = thank you

Then we went to different islands and had lunch on the beach facing the water. This was the first time that I wasn’t sweating at lunchtime in a long time. and perhaps because of that, I appreciated the view all that much more. the beach itself is very small but there are iron deposits everywhere, it made me curious about when these Papuans might move to the iron age from the stone age.

Next stop: Mooten – a village where the Kuni and Kari live together, side by side

I see that this village will not be on top of us throughout the visit, so I mostly keep to myself and enjoy that I can roam around without 500 villagers interested in my every move.

This village is set up to teach us things. First, we visit an old woman that has black splotches on her, I learn that Black splotches are makeup and not just dirt… But probably still mud. Other tribes of different colors so I\’m probably just biased to black implying dirty.

She shows us how she weaves a bag and she shows us something that women wear on their head when they are mourning their husband’s death.

Next, we see a child with a big leaf that had many tips. Each tip is tired in a little knot. The knots represent how many days their parents will be away. Each day when they wake up, they pull off a knot from the leaf and wait. When there are no knots left, the parent should be back home that day. It’s cute, and acts like a calendar.

Next, we see a little boy with a bow and arrow and a headdress that has many feathers on it and a grass skirt. Each feather is from a bird, plus cassowary feathers for decoration. This boy had yellow makeup on him.

A second boy is lined up with a bow and arrow with a slightly different outfit and white makeup. No headdress, but now he’s wearing something across his chest.

Next, we see a young girl weaving a bracelet using her toe to hold the material.

Then there’s a girl that has nearly weaved an entire basket.

Then we see a mother teaching her older daughter how to make headdresses. The process is interesting sling with the materials that they use. For some reason, the mother gets interested in me and wanted to gift me her crocodile tooth necklace. I cannot refuse, so I take it.

Then the older woman starts hitting a branch with a piece of wood, she is getting the outside of the branch to fall off in an odd stringy pattern. Ah! This is how they make the skirts! After it\’s done, the material is ready to be worked with, but it is also wet. They get rid of the outer branch material and make a smoother skirt. Neato!

Next, a woman shows us how she makes a tough basket for carrying heavy things, even a baby.

Finally, there is a woman weaving a basket with a many feathered headdress.

Next, we see an older man dressed for battle. He is well-decorated and has something weaved on his arm to help block his opponent’s attacks. He had tons of feathers, a grass skirt dyed with multiple colors, and something that doesn’t quite go through his nose – although we are told that it used to go through his nose. He holds a spear, and has a necklace on that contains the dangly objects that act as medals. The only thing that seems out of place is the baseball cap underneath!

Next up, we visit a bunch of girls pushing strings back and forth. It reminds me of a game that girls played when I was a kid. They hold the string out with two hands and their fingers interlaced with the strings, then the girl across from them issues their fingers to make a new pattern and takes the string onto their fingers. It\’s fun to watch, the kids are clearly having fun.

One girl gets up just before we leave and drapes a necklace over my head as a gift. Ok, this is weird! Why was I gifted two things from this village?! Why was nobody else gifted anything? It’s pretty cool, I admit. I feel special.

Then we take a walk through the town with a bunch of village people following us. The town is interesting. We are told that we should walk to the shoreline when BLAM, these boys surprise us! They were hiding in the bush that was camouflaging them! They have bows and arrows and spears, so I\’m lucky we went considered enemies.

We continue to visit areas of the town when I see my first car off the trip. It looks dirty, and small but cute. I don’t touch it.

We are shown where they keep the animals that they will slaughter for food. They have a small crocodile that they are feeding, when it gets big they will eat it. There is a cassowary and a pig.

The kids sing a goodbye song for us, it’s cute. When we head to the boat, there’s still a bunch of people following us so I show them their faces in my camera, and they love it.

When we get on the boat, it looks like the entire village is there to send us off.

Tari words:

Tamaydia = good afternoon in tari

Perenge heaty = thank you in tari

On the boat ride back out sinks in that this is the last real activity of my trip which is kind of sad. But i am so looking forward to getting fully clean, going for a swim at the airways hotel without fending off bugs, and getting home.

This had been an interesting adventure into the tribal cultures, on the boat I reflect on my time here while we are speeding through beautiful clouds and landscapes. For the first time in a while, I feel relaxed, I put my get up and enjoy the view. Like all things, this won\’t last. We are headed towards a big rain cloud.

The boat is stopped so they can tell us that we are going to get wet and we need to protect our faces. I happily brought a plastic raincoat that I can throw away when I’m done using it! I put it on, but in my sitting position with the wind from the boat, I find a way to keep it on me.

The boat roars and we take off! It\’s pouring! This is awesome! I stay mostly dry under the plastic, editor for one moment when I realize that the good is active as a funnel for the rain. I put my hand on the plastic near my chin from the inside to direct the water out of the coat instead of inside and it works. I only get wet in two spots, the first leak from the hood and a bit on my bum. Then the rain stops moments before we arrive at the lodge.

I shower and pack up for my journey home. My underneath bag is lighter than when I left! It\’s only 7.2 kilos. Wtf?!

I go to dinner which is the same sauce and sides that I\’ve eaten for the last three days and I dream of french bread with cheese. It\’s nice to look forward to regular stuff back home.

Tomorrow I fly the charter plane to mount Hagan, then fly to Port Moresby only to sleep and wake up and fly to Hong Kong, then to only sleep and wake up and fly home to New York City!

Wooooo! Vacation rules!!!

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