Thursday, 31 March 2005

2. tracks from the bridge

This bridge was probably a bit of self-protection for the locals, a way of stopping certain people from getting onto their land. So there we were – teetering on the edge of the abyss…

We got out and moved away from the car and the bridge. Oh, sorry – that was me. Men gathered on the bridge at the front of the car and pushed, and the driver accelerated in reverse and after a few tense moments where nothing happened but wheels spun and whined, the pmv lurched backwards and all four wheels were on land. The planks were spread out on the bridge’s frame once again – and with most people out watching – the pmv made another attempt and made it across, breaking a few logs along the way, but it was over and we were through. We scampered across ourselves, re-boarded and continued the ride.

Further up, an hour and a half or two hours later, we were breaking as we turned a corner and the engine stopped. People got out and pushed the car – one forwards, but everyone else backwards – until it jumpstarted. This happened a couple of times. Unfortunately, when we were nearly up at the end of the track (our destination), this magic trick failed: the car rolled further and further backwards and … nothing ticked over. People opened the bonnet and were talking about the battery; no one mentioned fuel, but the fuel tank’s indicator had been going deeper into empty for the last 40 mins...

Luckily there was another pmv heading up; we got out of our defunct one and into the back tray of this one. Standing up behind the cabin in the back of a ute, gripping onto a rail as it drove along heavily pitted, muddy, slippery roads, the whole vehicle ducking and weaving and dipping and jumping – in amongst PNG mountains – I was having an EXCELLENT time! I loved it.

It started to pour with rain, and our ride came to a stop outside the local shop. It was pelting down, so we huddled under the eaves for a while. We met one of Martin’s relatives, Thomas, who could be our guide up Mt Wilhelm (75 kina together; yes); found out Betty’s guesthouse was just up the road (95 kina each per night; no); Martin said we could stay at his place (free; yes).

When the rain had stopped we continued walking up the track for another 20 mins. Past the local high school on the right, the airstrip on the left (small track in a small field; add the shop and that’s the village). At the end of the road was Martin’s place. We kept climbing, up through his gardens, then up some dirt steps.

‘Here,’ Martin said, pointing to the right at a level rectangular plot with spring onions and greens growing in it, ‘was where we killed 20 pigs to appease the local leaders’ – for Martin and his relatives had big plans for Mt Wilhelm tours, and had initially run into some problems when other locals learned of their ambitions. Now, however, with the big feast, rough edges were smoother. ‘After that when my wife came up here she planed these onions there’, he said, and laughed (his laugh went “t-he-he”. At first it startled me – he’s quite a big man and that’s a little laugh; but soon I just had to laugh every time he did. T-he-he. Ahahahaha.)

then we got to the house.

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