06-10-2007 Louisiades English

Dear Friends,

The trip to the Louisiades was not as easy as we hoped for. You never read about it in sailor books or magazines but sometimes you ask yourself if this is fun. Not really seasick but certainly not hungry because of the knot in the stomach we sail to the Louisiades. It´s like being in a big washing machine. In the dark we arrive at the Duchateau Islands and we decide to stay an extra couple of hours in deep water before we enter the dangerous reef area. We find a nice anchorage and we enjoy the peace. Later we explore the island and we get company of the catamaran "Gone Surfin" with whom we mate-up several times. After three days we decide to go to Panasea what is a beautiful idyllic island. The next day already canoes come to us for trading. They carry crayfish, papaya´s, coconuts, etc. We trade some stuff and at the end the very old binoculars, we carry around for so many years, finds a good destination. We explore the island, snorkel and wander around and we´ve got a wonderful feeling to be here. It is an awesome place but it is a bit stressful to get in- and out the reef. The maps are about right but not exact at all. With our GPS we know exactly where we are but the positions on the maps are shifted so we have to make the best of it with a good watch on the bow and manoeuvring with great care. Everything goes fine and we head for Moturina. We anchor just before a little village and the kids are there really soon to trade about everything. We have to stop trading because our supplies will be exhausted in no time. Besides that we notice that some smart arses bring their junk, too bad to consume it their selves, to us Dimdims, that´s how we are called here, to trade this for good stuff. There must have been a whole peloton of laughing Papua´s but for us it is a great pleasure to give to these people. The next day we visit the village and we meet many people. In these area´s almost everybody chews beatlenut already from a very young age. It´s a very light drug but it colours the mouth red as can be and after red the teeth become black before they fall out. The villagers are very friendly but in the beginning it´s hard to get used to the red mouth, tongue and teeth. In this village lives a good canoe builder, Pete, and at present they build three of them. For us it is unbelievable that they can do this with so little tools and gear. The canoes are seaworthy and fast. They can tag upwind and we´ve seen them far offshore with 8 people on board and with more than 25 knots of wind. Of course it is not dry or very comfortable but it tells you something about their seamanship. We talk a lot about many things and just before we head back for the Mary-Eliza someone asks me if I can trade a soccer ball. Of course the chance is a small one to find a yachty with a soccer ball, but here is the one. I used it only once in Grenada and carry it already six years somewhere below. I promise to put some air in it and we agree to trade it for some crayfish. The next day they could pick it up. And now we are in the middle of the fine art of PNG politics. At 06.30h there is a knock-knock on the boat. Ruben, a man out of the village and to my knowledge all one family, is there with a small crayfish to pick up the ball. He said that the village people had asked him to pick up the ball. I show the nice leather ball and tell him that the little crayfish is a bad deal for me and we agree that he will bring some papaya´s extra. Two hours later he is back, with the ball. He gives the ball back to me and says that there was a little misunderstanding. He had heard rumours about the ball but nobody asked him to pick it up. The other family asked him friendly to return the ball before some mischief could happen. In the afternoon the other family came with a big load of six!! Crayfish and we´ve never seen people so happy with a soccer ball. We feel the urge to compensate their generous gifts and give them a few extra T-shirts and everyone gets a package of cigarettes because that´s good stuff for football players. The next day we walk one and a half hour hike over the hill to the other village and the group of Dimdims is the attraction of the day. We visit the only school here for many islands around, and we have a talk with the teachers. On the way back we have company of at least 15 children and Jacqueline is very popular with her little stickers. The kids put them all over their body and they love it. It´s time to go. To Bagaman island is only 10 miles. Gone Surfin´ goes to the west end and we go to the good sheltered bay in the south east. There live four families in the bay and we have a very good contact with them. We visit the house of Sam and he comes aboard with us. The moment he sees the man high mirror he is about frightened to death. He simply doesn´t understand, doesn´t dear to look himself in the eye and tells me that he´s never been on a boat like this where he is "here" and not where the other one was. Again there is a lot of trading and as we visit the house of Waiaki we agree that he will make our ships name in wood carving. Again we love the place very much and on our last day there we got company of the boat "Bon Accord" with Isaac and Ann. Big fun with these two! We have to go to Bwagouia at the island of Misima to do customs and immigration. Together with Bon Accord we race the 25 mile distance. With 25 knots of wind and in an area with water depths variating from over 1000 meter to 20 meter one can expect some special effects concerning waves and currents. But if we pass the narrow entrance between the little poles it is quiet again and we are in the small bay/harbour. Right away we can go to the officer and from now on we´re legal. The village is very poor and there is nothing happening since they stopped mining 8 years ago. Ten years ago we visited my brother John on the mainland and we recognize much of what we´ve seen there. Together with 4 other boats we have an excursion to the skull caves. The bones of these people lay there already long time and the locals say they don´t know how they did come there. We, however, are sure that the little wars here had many casualties and that the dead were cooked and eaten. The bones were then collected in these caves. Our lady guide wants 5 Kina (2.5 US$) and 10 Kina per photograph. We don´t want to pay the 10 Kina so after a gift of some T-shirts and ballpoints it´s free. The weather isn´t marvellous and we´re stuck in the little harbour. When the wind is a bit more in the east next day, still 25 knots, we decide to jump. We pass the very tempestuous Wuri Wuri pass and with the wind on the nose we just can make Bagaman Island. That´s a nice place to recover and write a report. We hope you enjoyed reading it and in a few weeks when we are back in Australia you will receive part two.

Warm regards,

Rob en Jacqueline

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