Sunday, November 15, 2009

eye spy ... an adventure

Long long ago last millennium I took a wee adventure with my partner and a mate of ours to Papua New Guinea. We walked the Kokoda Track unguided (see pic of me crossing over water on a 'bridge' aka log above) and when we got to the end we headed to a place called Oro Bay.

We waited for almost a week for a dinghy to be heading to a place called Ako village.

Here is the dinghy that we spent the best part of a day travelling in to our destination. Two dinghies actually left that day but the other one was attacked by raskols - it turned out that we had been 'protected' due to the friendship that we had made in Oro Bay with the, unknown to us, raskol leader. En route we stopped in at many villages - I unintentionally completely freaked out a small child who had never seen a white person before. Poor child was terrified.

This is Ako Village. The place where my grandfather had been posted during World War 2 as a spotter for New Guinea Air Warning Wireless Company. The village people aren't used to visitors and they didn't know that we were coming. Since World War 2 they had only been visited by foreigners on one other occasion - in the 1970s an American couple's yacht had broken down nearby. They were very gracious hosts and one of the village elders remembered my grandfather fondly.

We hung out in the village for about a week - chewing betel nut, swimming (in what I later learnt were croc infested waters) and exploring the surrounds on outrigger canoes.
Paddling through this canopy of mangroves was one of the most enchanting experiences of my entire life. The natural beauty and eerie serenity are not done justice by the photo.

The village people were exceptionally kind to us - and particularly to me. They even killed a giant sea turtle to cook a banquet in my honor. I'm a vegetarian and couldn't bring myself to eat sea turtle but no offence was made. I have found myself in this situation a number of times - I pretend to eat the meat while really hiding it under my vegetable greens. Ensuring that my plate is close to my partner's, who is not vegetarian, he takes the meat from my plate.

On our final day in the village an interesting revelation was made to us by the villagers. It turned out that the entire village believed me to be the reincarnation of one of their own - a young girl named Nimyarna (not sure how it would be spelt so this is my phonetic representation) who had not been christened and as such had not been buried in the church graveyard. Instead she had been buried at the location of my grandfather's old hut high on the hill at the back of the village. This put me in an extremely intense position, as the villagers believed I was angry at them for not burying me at the cemetery with the remainder of the family - what was I to say? I'm undecided about issues such as reincarnation - I suppose my beliefs could best be described as 'anything is possible'. I responded to the revelation by telling "my family" that I could not remember being Nimyarna and that I had not visited the village out of anger. I shared that as a child I had had a poster on my wall at home that looked remarkably similar to Ako (freakishly similar to the third picture in this post) and that whenever I had gazed at the poster I had felt comforted and happy.

On my departure from the village I was ceremoniously given this medallion:
The shells form the pattern that is the family seal. A huge honour to be presented with something so special. I was also given this piece of patterned fabric made from bark:

A special thank you to Louise for this week's theme - and more importantly for inspiring me to scan a few of the photos (from pre-digital photo days) and record a small element of what was a huge adventure.

To spy more adventures head on over to Cindy's.


  1. What a fantastic adventure. Such a beautiful place and having a personal connection must make the memories even more special. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Wow!!! I grew up in Vanuatu, your photos and stories bring back such vidid and wonderful memories!

  3. What an amazing and beautiful story, full of adventure and intrigue. There is a book there me thinks! Thanks for sharing.

  4. I've heard bits and pieces of your adventures out in the big world, but it is great reading this story all in one go. You're a great writer and really captures the readers interest in your account, you really should write a book... another WIP haha.

  5. Wow - adventure is right!
    That's an incredible adventure Sally, amazing, I am truly speechless, what an experience.

  6. Holy Moly Sally. That wins the adventure cake. So pleased you now have it in a blog post.

  7. That is a seriously awesome adventure, thank-you so much for sharing it.

  8. what an amazing trek..and what treasured memories to have!

  9. what fantastic memories you have been able to keep close to you! We're off to Sabah in a few weeks, if I see anything remotely similar to the beach in your photo i wil be excstatic. lovely photos!

  10. What an amazing story - I can't thank you enough for sharing that!

  11. Just discovered your great blog. What an amazing experience you've shared here. That medallion is just beautiful, and to have been presented with it under those circumstances just makes it even more special.

  12. Found your blog and photos during a search for New Guinea Air Warning Wireless, of which my grandfather was a member.
    Best wishes to a descendant of a Spotter!

    Grant Pearson
    enderwigginau on FB


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