Keith's blog post 3
30 July 2011 | Kavieng, and Manus Province, Papua New Guinea
I'll share two island experiences that I will never forget. At Pam Island (again, pronounced Pom), Steve made a very bold move and threaded the needle through an opening in the coral reef to a wonderful, shallow anchorage next to what appeared to be a beautiful, uninhabited island with a sheer cliff that had more things growing on it than a cliff like that ought to have; a beautiful spot! We dropped anchor and immediately put our snorkel gear on and jumped in the water to check out the reef. Within about five minutes, the canoes began arriving from the neighboring island, which was inhabited. It turns out the inhabited island is called Pam and the one we were parked beside they called Pamlette. Both are in the Manus Province of PNG.
One of the things we do with any group of villagers upon meeting them is assure them we are friendly and ask if there are any "raskols" in the area (that's the local term for thieves and such). They said we would be safe there and told us that we were the only cruising boat that had ever anchored at, or visited their island; ever! One man, Solomon, took out a manila envelope, handed it to Steve and asked him to open it. Inside was a paper that showed he was the Peace Officer on the island. Another man, Jack, told us that they had "talked it over and decided that if we were friendly, they'd be friendly." That didn't exactly make us feel safer, but we struck up a conversation with Jack who told us more about the village and that the island we were anchored beside was where they did all their gardening. We told Jack we would love to have a restful night, free from interruption, and invited him to come back with no more than three other men at 9:00 the next morning and we would serve them some Peet's coffee! They agreed that after that they would show us Pamlette.
Of course, the next morning, about 15 people showed up! They were nice enough to bring fruit and vegetables for us to have. So, everyone piled onto the boat, we served coffee (even with lots of cream and lots of sugar, it wasn't a hit!), and just as we began to talk a huge storm arrived and lasted about half an hour. So, we all huddled closer and chatted. After coffee, we and Jack got in the dinghy, the others got in their canoes and seven of the men, led by Jack, escorted us to a tiny secluded little eddy at the edge of this wall of rock. We climbed out of the boat onto a huge tree and crept along the tree to the island.
As an aside, Pamlette, is a rock island made of almost 100% obsidian. There was sharp pieces of obsidian laying around everywhere, which of course they walked over in their bare feet. It was impressive to see these big cliffs of obsidian.
We climbed up to the plateau of the island and walked over the entire thing. They explained all the many fruit trees and nut trees that grew there. They showed us the many private gardens where the locals mostly grew yams (not really what we think of as yams, but some sort of root vegetable anyway). They showed us how they turned coconuts into coconut oil. And, they showed us the graves of family members who had died. The top of the island was thick with tropical growth, and was steamy with humidity. We asked if there was a place at the edge of the cliff where we could see the boat and take a picture. They said yes, escorted us to the edge, pulled out a machete and hacked away until - instant clearing! We walked down to the other side of the island where there was a small beach and I was able to take a group picture of Steve, Manjula, and our guides. The men were a great bunch of characters whose names were Jack, Enoch, Beldan, Carl, Johnny, Bushman, and Screw (that's right, Sc rew!).