Papua New Guinea, Lea Lea-Porebada-Roku and Adventure

Papua New Guinea, Travel 7 Comments

The past four weeks had been extremely busy, and I had worked long hours every day. So as we approached the weekend, I decided to go on a ride to get some wind in my hair and relax a little.

I had been planning to attempt a ride to Kido, a little village normally only accessible by boat from Lea Lea. However, after carefully viewing the satellite images posted on Google Earth, I thought that there was a small chance that we can ride there by following the inland track. A quick check of the tide charts showed that the tides perfectly supported my intentions.

So I invited a good friend, Axel, to join me for a little sightseeing and exploration.

It didn’t take long to get to Lea Lea, where we pushed our motorbikes across the ‘frail’ wooden bridge.

P1040116

We headed up the beach, and with the receding tide, made great time. We had the whole beach to ourselves.

Kido is located on the far peninsular behind the green hills.

P1040393

We found the track leading off the beach, and immediately found the ‘track’ that I had seen on the satellite images.

P1040394

We followed this track for several kilometers, and then stumbled across this fallen tree. “No Problem”, says Axel, we just carry the bikes over or cut the some of the branches. First choice: Cut the smaller branch. So Axel got out his pocket knife saw and started cutting away.

P1040397

After about 5 minutes of cutting, we tried breaking the rest by forcing the branch. To our surprise, the branch didn’t break where Axel had cut it, but much further back :-(. All that cutting was for nothing!

Anyway, no harm done, except that I had never ridden over such an obstacle (yes, I am still learning). So Axel rode both of our bikes over, and off we went. On the way back, I tried myself, and after many attempts, finally made it. I decided to try again, and went over it two more times for practice!

After a few more minutes of riding, we finally reached the point where the satellite images showed a break in the road.

P1040401

Unfortunately, the water was flowing swiftly (the tide was still flowing out), and it looked about 1.2m deep. Under the circumstances just a little too deep for us to attempt. Sure, in an emergency it could have been attempted, as there was wood around, but certainly not the kind of hard work that we had in mind for this leisurely outing. Are there crocodiles here?

P1040402

So we turned around, and decided to head up the beach where this ‘creek’ hits the ocean. Perhaps it is shallow enough for us to cross.

The ride up the beach was fabulous, but when we reached the ‘creek’, there was so much plastic in the sand. All the white you see here are plastic bottles and plastic bags – it looked terrible.

P1040412

And the ‘creek’ was a little more than a creek here, and way too deep for us to cross. So we decided that Kido was out of the question until we return with a bridge some day :-).

P1040406

On our way back, the beach was alive near Lea Lea.

P1040418

I stopped to talk to the locals – they were so friendly. These people are really wonderful. When I asked permission to take a photo, they children screamed for joy – the noise was deafening! Everyone wanted to be in the front of the picture.

P1040419

We asked the locals how many children there are in Lea Lea, and were told about 2000-3000. While this may be an exaggeration, anyone who doubts that PNG’s population is exploding should come to any of these coastal villages.

P1040423

We then headed back towards town. This photo shows the work being done to upgrade the road for the PNG LNG Project.

P1040428

We then made our way up to one of the cell phone towers, from which we had a great view. This is village of Boira, which recently had a tribal fight with Porebada killing four youths. When I went to Boira about three weeks earlier, we were not allowed to enter the village because of the tensions between these two villages.

P1040430

As we entered Porebada, a man waved us into his front yard. So we rode in, and had a little chat with him and his friends. Within minutes we were again surrounded by children.

P1040436

There is a beautiful United Church building in Porebada. By contrast to the surrounding houses, it is in immaculate condition.

P1040444P1040456

Unfortunately some of the houses are in very poor condition, and there is a lot of plastic on the ground.

P1040461P1040463

However, the people were very friendly. We also saw what we think was the graves of the youth who had lost their lives in the recent tribal fights. Some of the locals invited us to go and take pictures, but we stayed on the road, showed our respect, and kept going. I’m not sure what the right protocol is for behaviour near grave sides, so I wasn’t going to risk offending the locals.

We left Porebada by the main road, which unfortunately is in disrepair.

P1040478

Our next stop was Roku, another beautiful little village by the sea.

P1040479P1040480

It appears that the locals really like being in photos. I took the first photo below, and then a few seconds later I noticed that more people turned up and wanted to have their photo taken!

P1040481P1040484

And after Roku, it was off to the white sandy beach just south of Roku.

P1040487 P1040489

And then we headed back to town … thinking that our adventures for the day were over. We were pleased with ourselves – having had a relaxing day enjoying the beauty of PNG.

On our way home, Axel suggested that we take the back road to Gerehu, and as neither of us had been there before, it seemed like a good idea. WHAT A BIG MISTAKE!! Our adventure was only about start!

We headed back to town, and when we hit the first roundabout, I wasn’t so sure that this could be right one. So we stopped under a tree and consulted the GPS. Yes, this looked like it could be the right one. So we headed down the road. There was a warehouse on the left, so we asked the security guards if this was the right road to Gerehu. We got an affirmative response, and we were on our way.

What we weren’t told, was that this road passes by the main dump, which is not the best place to be in any country. As we were riding along, there was a 30cm deep and 30cm wide trench across the road, and, as I was ahead, I indicated to Axel to be careful. He stopped in front of it, and stalled his bike, so from this point, he wasn’t directly behind me (unbeknownst to me). This was just before the blue mark on this aerial view.

Morsby-Dump-2

When I got to the point where the red marker is, I saw that we were heading to a dump, and I had thoughts of turning around. Right at that point, a 12-year old (or so), who was walking up the hill by the side of the road, picked up the plastic casing of a large computer monitor (or TV) and threw it at me! Yes, it was a direct hit! Fortunately not a painful one, as plastic is not heavy. While wondering what to do, In noticed that a vehicle was just leaving (yellow star), and that seven or eight 15-20 year olds got off the back of the vehicle. They stood in the middle of the road looking rather “tough”. Rather than risk riding past them (and having something else thrown at me), I decided to stop and be friendly. I used the limited Motu I know to greet them. We conversed in Pidgin English, as I introduced myself, and found out all their names. I told them where I live, and they told me that they life at the dump. As we chatted, their demeanour became more friendly. It is at this time that Axel caught up with me, and he told me that a boy (possibly 10 years old) threw a large rock (about 15-20cm in diameter) at his motorbike (see blue marker above). His blinker was completely smashed, along with the bracket and assembly. We talked for another couple of minutes, before deciding to move on. As I was saying “bamahoota” (good bye in Motu), one of the youth tried to rip my camera from my belt. Fortunately the case was strong enough that did not rip off. However, the look on the would-be-thief’s face was not a pleasant one. He looked angry that his attempt was not successful. Without hesitation, we took off – we had already said “good bye”, so it was a great time to leave. But much to my dismay, another group of youth, probably 18-23 year olds was walking onto the road just 200m down the road (where the orange marker is). Part of me wanted to make a dash, but I was worried that at speed we might come off second best if they decided to get us. So I slowed down, introduced myself, got all their names, and started a conversation. These youths also became more friendly as we spoke to them. As I turned to speak to the one of the group’s members, I noticed that the would-be-thief had followed us, and was now less that 10 meters behind me. Not knowing what was on his mind, I decided to get out of there. Mid sentence, I said “Bamahoota”, and Alex and I sped off.

As we were riding back, my mind was going over the incident over and over, to see if there was anything we should have done differently. Well, taking that road was not a good idea, but we didn’t know, and certainly the security guards didn’t warn us either. Further, I have since found out that one of the PAU staff goes there regularly, and is good friends with some of the youths. So were we just unlucky that one tried to take my camera? Was he new to the group? Who knows.

To make matters worse, on the second last intersection before we got back to Axel’s place, a car tried to block Axel on the roundabout. This is something that has never happened to either of us before, and given that we were already on a little adrenaline high from our encounter at the dump, this was just a little unsettling.

Unfortunately, what would have been a perfect day out turned into a somewhat less wonderful experience as the last 30 minutes left us a little concerned.

However, having reviewed the incident over and over in my mind, I am sure that we did the right thing by talking to the youths at the dump. If I had tried to make a run for it at the first point, the second group would certainly have had enough time to group themselves in such a way that I would have come unstuck. Further, Axel would have been about 1.5 minutes behind, and that would not have done much for his chances.

I still maintain that treating people with respect (I took my glove off to shake their hands) resulted in the best possible outcome. And I am sure that speaking in Pidgin/Motu wasn’t a disadvantage either.