Experiencing Tapini

Normal, Weekender

Landslips are natural obstacles that often impede the improvement of the livelihoods of the rural folk writes WALLACE KIALA

CENTRAL province governor Alphonse Moroi’s trip to Tapini couldn’t have come at a better time than last weekend.
In a way the leader, and those of us who accompanied him on this trip, may have been literally blessed to have come face to face with the many natural obstacles that often impede the improvement of the livelihoods of the rural folk.
Of course, most important is the need for more attention to rural infrastructure development needs – A national issue.
Departing Port Moresby at around 11pm Thursday, our journey abruptly came to a halt at 3.05 am Friday, over 40km short of the Tapini station
As vehicles slowed down and parked one after the other on the narrow stretch, passengers scrambled out of the vehicles to stretch themselves, have a buai, a cigarette or just to relieve themselves after hours of driving and to see what was ahead that had caused the two vehicles ahead to stop.
Others, however, managed to rest while in the position they had been in throughout the daunting drive from Port Moresby and regardless of how uncomfortable they were, they had to have the remaining hours of sleep before sun rise.
The landslip, more than a meter high of muddy soil, fallen trees and dead logs, completely sealed off the road and motor vehicle access was unimaginable.
This scenario put everyone off with some of us having second thoughts that this trip would have to be aborted till a later date, while others were already complaining.
When almost everyone had had a chance to look at the natural barrier from the headlights of two vehicles parked in front, decisions had to be made as locals began their normal routine of advising Mr Moroi to either call off the event and turn back or wait till dawn and make a pathway over the thick debris and head for Tapini.
According to Mr Moroi and others who organised the trip, there was no turning back now that we had come this far, as he urged everyone to take a break before the ‘crossing’ at first light.
At dawn a group of youths and some men cleared a pathway over the landslip debris as excitement in everyone grew for a big day ahead in the very next few hours.
Governor Moroi was the first to be assisted across through mud and slippery pathway from logs and tree branches that had been placed to assist with footing across.
Anyway, one massive landslip after continuous rain on Thursday night meant most of the people in our entourage, mostly locals, had to stay behind and look after the vehicles we came in parked at the other side of the landslip.
(After Tapini, we teamed up again with them as they helped us carry our cargoes across for the long journey back to the city)
The Goilala highway was reopened last December not long after it had been upgraded with K9 million of Goilala District Support Improvement Programme (DSIP) funds, however most of the highway still requires extensive gravelling as part of the prelinary works component but maybe not during the wet season.
At that occasion last December, the deputy Prime Minister Sir Puka Temu when officially reopening the highway announced that the road was to become a national highway which meant that the state would be responsible for its upgrading and maintenance once officially approved.
Back to the landslip last Friday morning, local carriers, quite like going at turtle’s pace through all the mud and uprooted shrubbery,  shouldered the cargoes across consisting of store goods that were to be distributed to the 10 wards of the Tapini LLG later that day.
The initial engagement by Mr Moroi was to deliver a brand new vehicle to the Tapini local level government (LLG) last Friday as part of the provincial support grants PSG. This vehicle had to be taken back to Port Moresby Upon reaching the other side Governor Moroi, the acting district administrator, media personnel plus two of his officials and four helpers (youths) were the only ones to go in the only vehicle link to Tapini station. The sun began to rise.
The vehicle we traveled in encountered three more smaller landslips which were hastily cleared away by the youths that had come along.
We took the winding uphill road past steep ravines and a fast flowing river at the foothills – it has great rapids for kayaking should readers need to try it out in their next camping trip.
As we drove to the top of the mountain, the landscape scenery was just breathtaking and indeed a breath of fresh air away from the congesting city atmosphere.
And not to mention, we stopped at one or two roadside markets to pickup some peanuts freshly cooked corns and delicious pumpkins we heartily ate as a form of breakfast-they were given to us free of charge, what great hospitality.
We arrived at the top of the last mountain at around 10am. Nestled at the foot of the surrounding high mountains was the picturesque station of Tapini – we just about reached our destination, but not quite.
The view from the top was spectacular and we quickly forget how tired and stiff we’d been after almost 10 hours of non-stop drive from Port Moresby.
As we made the slow winding descent we anticipated what a day of celebration it was that awaited Mr Moroi and the team at the station below.
The welcome chanting, singing and sound of kundu drum beats begun picking up momentously.
The chiefs and other village elders of Woitape, Guari and Tapini greeted the governor, and we included, with jubilation a dancing welcome.
This was not the only activity that coincided with the vehicle presentation.
The locals also had the opportunity to reconcile with Mr Moroi by providing livestock and garden food as a sign of respect and to make amends for not giving that due chieftaincy recognition of in his last trip there in December.
At the occasion a spokesman for the Goilala council of chiefs apologised for this oversight, and did the full honours this time as they crowned Mr Moroi with the chieftaincy head dress, carrying him on the podium, and giving him gifts- 8 pigs, 2 sheep and a huge decorated shelf full of food.
Before receiving the chieftaincy head-dress he was hoisted and carried as royalty while the locals chanted danced and cheered him on as one of the many true sons of Goilala and the Central province.
Another four pigs were slaughtered and pit roasted before being distributed to the people of the 10 LLG wards in the Tapini LLG. This was distributed along with the store goods that had been brought from Port Moresby.
The ceremony also included apologies by youths from the Ivani 1 and 2 areas, -behind one great mountain to the west of Tapini station, who damaged a vehicle belonging to the Governors Office.
Then, Mr Moroi presented the keys of a brand new Toyota Land cruiser to the president for the Tapini LLG getting the loudest applause and cheers.
The vehicle however, could not make it due to the landslide. It was driven back to Port Moresby when we returned.
Mr Moroi reminded district leaders that the vehicles, the one presented on this trip and two similar ones presented last year, were to transport garden produce to nearest markets or in Port Moresby, and not for public servants and ward councillors to use to go around on drunken sprees.
So last Friday was indeed a special occasion and opportunity to honour Mr Moroi as well when he visited to deliver the vehicle to the LLG.
Once again there were vegetables and fruit galore as the locals celebrated and feasted.
Governor Moroi also presented K50,000 to the event organisers with store goods comprising rice tinned meat, sugar and tea to distribute to the 10 wards of the Tapini LLG.
The Tapini District station police commander hosted the luncheon for the governor and other guests during the visit.
Meanwhile, the group that was left behind where the landslip had occurred had camped out all day under canvas shelters and fires to keep out the rain.
When we returned from Tapini they assisted us back carrying our gifts of fruit and vegetables over the landslip to the other side where we loaded on to the vehicles before heading back to Port Moresby.