By ELLEN TIAMU
M ILNE BAY brothers, Justin and Sanakoli John are among a three men team that has braved the sea to try to make world history by being the first to sail and paddle and around the island of New Guinea in a traditional canoe.
The idea to make the hectic, and often times downright dangerous, trip around the island of New Guinea was hatched up by a man from Denmark.
Thor Jensen had worked in tourism, and film, for some years before deciding to travel a bit. One of the places on his must-visit list was Papua New Guinea. That’s how he found himself at the Kenu and Kundu festival in Alotau in November 2015.
While still in his native home, the 36-year-old had pondered over the idea of kayaking a round New Guinea. But at the festival in Milne Bay, a traditional canoe captured his imagination.
There too, he met local man Job Siai from Normanby
Island and put forward the idea of the New Guinea in a traditional canoe. Job agreed. Sanakoli had just won one of the races at the festival and was
handpicked. Sanakoli suggested that h is brother Justin be the fourth candidate. The team was complete. The four left Tawala Resort in Milne Bay on Aug 30 last year. They sailed in to Vanimo two months
later. There, they discovered that Job had to return home because he was unwell. Sanakoli and Justin accompanied him back to Milne Bay while
Thor remained in Vanimo to sort out their papers that would allow them to t ravel to the Indonesian side of New Guinea. The John brothers returned to Vanimo and the trip restarted, this time with three men. A break of two months had thrown their plans into disorder as the Northwest monsoon blew and trying to sail through that in a small canoe was not easy.
Thor had earlier calculated that it would it would only take six months to go around the whole island. But six months passed. A year passed.
Excitement grew as Tuesday Sept 19 dawned. The three were nearing Port Moresby and couldn’t wait for their feet to touch terra firma. Thor, Sanakoli and Justin had been travelling for one year, 20
days already. The Tawali Pasana, sailed into Fairfax Harbor just a little after 10am on Tuesday, surprising a small team from the Royal Papua Yacht Club who were waiting to welcome them at around 12pm.
They have completed 5,600km of the expected 6,200km journey.
“I have never wished I was home,” said Thor of their trip. Thor is hopeful that they will begin their trip to Tawali in Milne Bay on Sunday, a journey that might take them two weeks. If the winds pick
up, Justin and Sanakol i could return to their families in less time.
The canoe, Tawali Pa sana is eight meters long, and two meters wide -including the outrigger. Just by looking at it, it seems like something you wouldn’t even contemplate taking take out of a lagoon into the big, bad ocean. But, as they say, don’t be fooled by looks. This canoe, Tawali Pasana, or beautiful flower of Tawali, is no shrinking violet.
While it needed new masts and sails and ot her little technical adjustments along t he way, it has managed to withstand the might of the ocean and the weather.
“I am proud and happy to make my country (PNG) stand out in the world through this trip,” Sanakoli said. “I wanted to show that a traditional Milne Bay canoe can travel the distance.”
“It was also good to travel and see places,” Justin chips in.
While at sea, Justin is in charge of the rudder, Sanakoli takes care of the sail while Thor bails water.
Thor, Sanakoli and Justin have covered 5600km of the 6200 in total. They hope to make the final miles this weekend back to Tawali where they set off many Ahoy there. The three men on their way to making
By ELLEN TIAMU