By JOSEPH KA’AU
IN AUGUST 2019 a challenge was given through an article in the Weekender to anyone who had no other place to go to in the country to dare visit Baimuru.
There are no supermarkets there. No restaurants there. No roads, no cars. It would not be easy to find a cold bottle of Coca-Cola on a hot day. Even the luxury of a phone call does not exist.
Historically, visits by tourists or adventurers to this part of the country are very scarce. Apart from the newspaper article, all they had was word of mouth.
There is plenty of mud and mosquitoes, occasional crocodiles, fish, prawns and crabs, mangroves and many other unknowns and challenges.
But all of these did not deter two 21-year-old Australian girls, Nekisha Jamieson and Lote Braun taking, head on, these challenges, to travel to Baimuru in Gulf, for their vacation in early December last year.
The duo who are students at the National Arts School in Sydney, Australia, were on school holidays and decided to accompany Nekisha’s father, Mathew, a regular visitor to PNG, on one of his trips.
Mathew had to visit a friend from Baimuru where the fishing is good and the girls just wanted to enjoy their holidays in another place.
Advice given was, for expatriates, the best way to get to Baimuru would be to travel by plane to Kikori and then by dingy the rest of the way. Could be done in one day. And for one person you would pay almost K2,000. Another option would be to hire a vehicle, take a six-hour bumpy drive to Kerema and then another four hours dingy ride in open sea to get to Baimuru. Would also cost K2,000 for the two.
The third option would be to do what normal travellers between Baimuru and Port Moresby do. And that is to travel on a bumpy PMV ride to Kerema and then the dingy ride to Baimuru at a cost of K250 per person.
Even when advice was sought as to what the Australians would prefer in terms of food and accommodation, the reply was unanimous.
“We will eat whatever food everybody in Baimuru eats and sleep where ever they sleep as well.”
As normal ordinary fair dinkum Australian citizens, the third option was preferred. In the company of Mathew and a handful of Kaimare tribespeople, the trip to Baimuru was undertaken.
The journey started at midnight Dec 14 and ended the following afternoon at Kapuna, where there is a hospital and a community health worker (CHW) training college.
The next day, after a breakfast of sago, ripe bananas, pawpaw with some coffee, Mathew a keen bushman and an entomologist took to the bush with host Morea Joseph to check the animal traps Morea had set and to see the insects around Kapuna as well.
Later they took a walk to neighbouring Ara’ava village where they saw sago being made. In the afternoon the visitors were shown around the training college and the Kapuna Hospital.
“Kapuna is special. It is serene, the environment is beautiful and the facilities at the hospital are different,” the girls said.
All the staff houses in Kapuna are different and unique. The houses are surrounded by pineapples, pawpaws, bananas, guavas and other fruits. It was pineapples, pawpaws and ripe bananas with every meal.
They had travelled almost a day to get to Kapuna. Eight hours on the bumpy Hiritano Highway, four hours of calm open sea and the last hour through inhabited pristine, delta surroundings.
“What a pleasant relief to experience Kapuna,” the visitors exclaimed.
On the third day, a planned trip upstream to Baimuru station was aborted.
But Nekisha and Lote were kept busy imparting some of their artistic skills to the children at Kapuna. They hope to return to Kapuna to brighten up the new wards with their paintings during their next school break.
The final day was at Mariki on the coast. Mathew wasted no time in organising a fishing trip in an attempt to reel in his first barramundi in PNG. The girls took to the mangroves and the mud to catch some crabs.
The barramundi did not fall for the lure.
But a catch consisting of a salmon, a sting ray, a catfish an eel and a grunter was able to supplement the evening meal. Mathew was credited for catching the eel
The crabs did not find their way to the evening meals. They were cooked and eaten in the bush.
The next day Mariki and Baimuru were farewelled. Maybe not for the last time. But if so, then indeed Nekisha, Lote and Mathew will have many fond memories and plenty of photographs to remind them of their trip to Baimuru.
Yes, if you have exhausted your holidaying destinations, why not try Baimuru, where the crabs, the fish, the prawns and the sago are available all year round. The mud will greet you wherever you walk.
You add Kapuna to these and you will surely have an experience of a life time.
- Joseph Ka’au is a freelance writer.
Lufas meet in Baimuru
IT is not often that you travel from the country you have resided in all your life, to another and find a wantok in a place where that wantok is not expected to be.
But for 21 year old Lote Braun this was the case. She was born and raised by her mother in Australia. Her father Peti Lafanama is from Lufa in the Eastern Highland province. Her mother Susan Braun is an Australian.
In December last year, Lote travelled to PNG for the first time with a friend Nekisha Jamieson and met her father and relatives in Port Moresby . But instead of travelling to Goroka, she went to Baimuru in the Gulf province.
Maybe because Baimuru is an unheard of tourist destination or maybe because they just wanted to see another place.
Lufa is in the highlands and Baimuru is in the delta region of the Gulf province. In Lufa, you do not see the sea or many rivers. The area is surrounded by mountains and staple food is kaukau.
Baimuru has too many rivers and islands, no mountains, plenty of mud, mosquitos and the staple diet in sago. You have sago for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Yes, but with fish, crabs, prawns and other proteins as well. A
AfteAfter arriving and spending a night at Kapuna, Lote and her friends took a morning walk to the neighbouring village of Ara’ ava. Their first encounter along the way was with a young women making sago. Pleasantries were exchanged in the local Koriki dialect.
Nothing unusual, very normal to be making sago in the morning in any Baimuru village or for anyone to exchange pleasantaries in similar situations elsewhere.
But Miriam, the young women making sago was not from the Gulf province. She was from Lufa up in the Eastern Highlands province.
It is very unusual to find a Lufa person making sago in Baimuru or to find a Baimuru person making kaukau gardens in Lufa.
For Lote, it was a pleasant surprise. Her first encounter with a women making sago in Papua New Guinea was with a women from Lufa. Her own wantok. In a place where she was least expected to be and doing what she was least expected to be doing.
Indeed the land of the unexpected.