Final project work completed
12 October 2008 | Madang, PNG
After an overnight sail we entered Madang in pouring rain. We'll stay here just today to restock the boat before heading south and have a quick meeting with Rebecca Samuel from the LMMA Network to brief her on our trip to Karkar Island.
Irene and I started the day early with a walk along the beach to the water collection point for Marangis village. It's about 1km from the main village. Collecting water is a woman only job in PNG. The men are very lazy! As well as collecting drinking water, the springs, which are warm are also used for washing so it's a great meeting place for the women. The springs get covered at about half tide so water is not available 24/7. Women as young as 12 are expected to get the family water. You can often see women with 30kg of water on their back and a young child on their front. We saw women doing this whilst the guys walked alongside carrying nothing! At Mater village the women also collect the water from a beach spring, the one where we go for our nightly wash. Reaching this spring entails jumping off a rock into the sea then scrambling back up the precipitous rocks with babies and water containers. Once the young girls reach about 6 their duties start with washing the family dishes every morning on the beach.
Irene and I met with the guys who are involved with the water project and had our final discussions and went through the data once again. If any of the readers are interested in assisting us provide water for a school and 1600 villagers we want to hear from you! Providing a tap in the 3 villages will unburden the women from about 2 hours hard drudgery a day!
The rest of the day we took it easier. It eventuated in an "open boat" day during which we must have had >100 visitors! Most of the visitors have been guys but we made an effort to get women to visit us today. As women do not use the canoes much here we ferried them in the dinghy or they swam, often using a coconut as buoyancy. As usual the gifts flowed and our fridge is bulging at the seams with fruit and vegetables.
Late in the afternoon we said our final goodbyes to our lovely new friends. As we sailed off at dusk the villagers flashed torches at us until we disappeared into a pitch dark night.
This has been a most memorable trip for me. I promised to come back to Karkar after visiting in 2007, thanks to all the support OceansWatch has received and in particular thanks to Alice Sowerby for donating the use of Magic Roundabout we made it.. Since 2007 OceansWatch has grown into an organisation that can really make a difference, not only to the coastal environment but also to the people who live there. OceansWatch also gives people like myself the opportunity to gain so much from giving of our skills and time. I earned nothing on the trip but gained more than I ever could from years of delivering yachts, taking the rich on sailing holidays or whatever else has occupied my life?. The people of Marangis and Mater villages have been inspired to work together with us to conserve their marine environment and with luck and some help from other OceansWatch members will have a water supply before too long.
This morning started with another ReefCheck survey off Marangis, this time in deeper water. The reef looks very good here with plenty of fish life including a very large Humphead Wrasse and schools of Snapper and many Grouper.
After the ReefCheck survey we visited Mater primary School where we met the staff and gave a talk to the kids, who whilst shy were obviously very interested in their visitors. In the afternoon I met with the water supply survey team whilst the crew had another dive.
The survey team had done a great job. They took a boat GPS to the water supply and recorded the altitude there and mapped the proposed pipe route through Kargos, Mom and Marangis Villages and also a supply to the primary school.
I started the day with a visit to Michael's house where I met with a community leader called Simon to discuss OceansWatch and the communities needs. This was very worthwhile as Simon was very interested and wanted to set up a community meeting that afternoon.
I then met Steven a Bahai leader and a friend who volunteered to survey the water project that we looked at yesterday. I trained them to use our hand held GPS and they set off for a long day bush bashing.
Whilst I was away the wind had picked up a bit so Jeges had to move the boat for safety. This will be a great disappointment to our 50-100 regular OceansWatch watchers, who man the best view points from dawn to dusk. We moved to a safer bay but it's not an anchorage I would normally stay in as it is quite exposed. I expect we may have some seasick visitors later!
I caught up with some admin whilst the rest of the crew set off to do a ReefCheck survey off Marangis village. The survey showed the deeper reef to be in quite good condition with slightly bigger clams than usual plus some Humphead Wrass. The closer inshore reef was interesting as there were few types of coral and we thought that this might be because there are quite a few freshwater springs along the beach.
In the afternoon Irene and I had a community meeting with a couple of elders and interested fishermen. Though small (there were dancers in town too!) the meeting went well. The elders were very astute and interested in what we had to say and we were asked to please come back next year to work with them. Leila and Jeges meanwhile entertained our usual queue of visitors and accepted an invitation for us to visit the primary school.
Once again after work we cooled off in the beach freshwater pool as the sun went down. Another fun and very satisfying day for us all.
Today was exhausting! In response to a request from the communities of Mom and Marangis we hiked for 3 hours across some very rugged terrain to inspect their water source, with a view to possibly assisting them to get a village water supply. Currently the 1600 people in these villages have no running water, no sanitation and no electricity. The needs here are very basic and very urgent. Our contact person Alois from Mater village had 5 kids, only 2 made it to adulthood. 2 died from Malaria and the other from an unknown illness as a child. Our friend Steven lost his 12 year old girl to a snake bite. Infant mortality is high and death comes early to many. The nearest hospital is Madang, a 3 hour trip by banana boat and truck. At 53 I am considered an old man in Marangis?
The walk to the springs (there are 2, male and female) was a great experience but nerve racking at times as we scrambled up and down some very steep and slippery tracks. At one stage we had to crawl up a 45 degree slope on loose soil a metre away from a 30m drop into a stream bed. All there was to hold on to were some shallow rooted weeds. It was great to reach the top?
After visiting the springs we went back to Mom Village where we were fed lunch and hung out resting with the locals for a couple of hours before the easier downhill walk to Marangis.
In the evening we headed to the bathing stream again as is our custom now and set in a warm pool washing and telling stories as the sun went down. We love the people here, they are so genuinely friendly and interested in talking.