By MALUM NALU
When I was a child growing up in Lae in the 1970s, part of the fun was travelling to visit family members in Bukawa, what is now known as Labuta LLG of Nawaeb.
Swimming in any one of the many rivers, in the ocean, and lots of food, especially taro, bananas, pork, fish, or game from the forests, are among my fond memories.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the rivers starting roaring faster down the mountains, eventually washing away all the bridges and parts of the Lae-Bukawa Road.
Bukawa was cut off from the outside world.
The Lae-Bukawa Road became a forgotten goat track where only foolhardy drivers, with a sense of adventure and a good 4WD vehicle, dared to cross.
People reverted to walking or travelling from Lae to Bukawa by sea.
In 2014, the Japanese government, through Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica), started work on the long forgotten Lae-Bukawa Road, with Department of Works.
People are now able to drive from Lae to the main Bukawa village by road, albeit, with caution and with a good 4WD.
The Government’s ambition is to join Lae and Finschhafen by road, via Bukawa.
Just last month, Finance Minister James Marape was at Situm, where the Lae-Bukawa
Road begins, and reassured the people of the much-mooted Lae-Finschhafen Road.
The day after that, I travelled to Buingim village in Bukawa with Colin Taimbari of the Tourism Promotion Authority, and Defol Jabbar of Morobe Tourism Bureau.
It’s only a short one-hour trip by 75-horsepower dinghy along breathtakingly coastline.
Along the way, we stopped at the popular roadside market at Gayucpu, for some kulau (fresh coconut), fruit and taro and bananas to take back to Port Moresby.
It’s a popular market along the busy Lae-Finschhafen sea highway.
We then continued on to the idyllic seaside village of Buingim, where the villagers were about to have the first sea trial of their kasali (traditional sailing canoe).
It was a momentous occasion and we were feted like royalty.
Yes, we had lots of taro, bananas and fresh fish and other seafood straight out from the ocean.
Buingim is one of the friendliest villages you’ll find anywhere in Morobe, or Papua New Guinea for that matter, and we felt truly at home.
Jabbar, of Morobe Tourism Bureau, is working towards Buingim becoming a stopping point for cruise liners.
The villagers dance all afternoon along the beach to celebrate their new kasali and to welcome us visitors.
The sun sets his golden rays
As the children laugh and play and swim
And the mother’s carry their babies
As the fishing canoes come home
Silhouettes in the sunset
Another day is done in Buingim.
I watch the children of Buingim sitting on their pristine unspoiled beaches.
Their forefathers long before them depended on the sea for their livelihood.
They are continuing this tradition.
That week, thousands of miles away in Sydney, the Wafi-Golpu mine was discussed.
The mine will dispose of millions of tonnes of tailings into the Huon Gulf.
What will their future be like?
After that, we have a refreshing shower, have dinner and tea, and have a devotion service and long meeting with the villagers.
Taimbari and Jabbar talk to them about tourism and what they must do in order to attract tourists.
The villagers listen spellbound.
They are one village that is very keen on tourism.
Early next morning, as Sol casts his golden rays, we are off to Lae, with a short stop at Gayucpu, to pick up our taro and bananas.
Towards Lae, we pass Wagang (Sipaia) village, which is where tailings from Wafi-Golpu mine will be piped out from.
I think back to the children of Buingim, and many others along the Morobe coast, in light of this new invader.
For better or worse?
By MALUM NALU