Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Aborted Hike

A villager carries pandanus leaves back from her family's farm.

Before we left Nabouwalu Bay, we tried to hike across to the western side of the island to visit a school at Natusara. We had seen the school from the radio tower hill and thought we knew which path to take to get to it. A little brown dog followed us out of the village, despite our attempts to dissuade it from coming. We were to enjoy its company for the rest of the day.  We had set off late and it was soon time for lunch, so we sat on a fallen tree trunk and took out the crackers, cheese and tomato. The dog sat at our feet, wagged his tail and looked at us in anticipation. He seemed to appreciate the breakfast crackers and New Zealand aged cheddar as much as we did. We poured some of our precious water in a plastic tub for him but he did not seem to know to what to make of that, so Chris ended up drinking it instead - woof, woof!

This tough little fellow hiked all day with us

We met these little chaps on the outskirts of the village.

The pigs appear to wander at will on this side of the river.

We were on the familiar Naqara village trail for the first half hour and then took a right turn, just before a bamboo tunnel. The side trail was well beaten and headed in the right direction. At the next fork, we struck right and the trail dipped into a valley and crossed a creek. After a brief uphill section, we crossed another shallow creek flowing from a planting of elephant ears. We stepped across on trunks someone had thoughtfully placed across the thick sticky mud. The trail continued up a small hill on the other side and our intuition began to tell us we were heading in the wrong direction. It was nice to reach the top, though, where a patch had been cleared for camping. Sharpened sticks and wood chips laying around suggested a plantation must be nearby.

The smell of orchids filled the air at many points along the trail.

Doubling back across the creeks to the last fork, we took the other path which dropped down immediately into what looked like a cleared valley leading toward Natusara. Ahhh - we must be on the right trail this time! A few hundred meters down the trail we arrived at a cassava and taro plantation. The rows of taro were planted in a field at the bottom of the valley and a stream with steep banks wound around it on two sides, like a moat. We struggled through the tall grass past the field but could not see any sort of path in the dense vegetation across the stream. We were feeling quite dejected as we returned up the path. I heard voices at the fork and we met a group of young men heading to their plantation to pull some yanqona. The men confirmed that the trail to Natusara is not there anymore because everyone travels by boat. Arghhhh. We headed back to the main trail and returned to Naturu.

The trail crossed a creek below these elephant ear plants (the roots of which are eaten by the locals)

On the outskirts of Naturu, we ran into Melina, a lovely woman we had met a few days ago. She was cutting pandanus leaves to weave mats for her house. Melina was surprised and delighted when Chris offered to carry them to her house. She had not finished cutting her full load yet, but, using a vine that grows over just about everything here, she tied up a small load for Chris's back. It was so light that he joked "This is a kevalangi bundle!"  Back in the village we dropped the bundle at Melina's house and left a shirt for her son who had given us some vegetables a few days before. We judged the day a success despite not reaching our goal. Not sure if our canine friend agreed with us, but he followed us all the way back to the beach where we left him sitting as we rowed back to Ladybug.

Melina gives Chris a light bundle to take back to the village.

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