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A vast grass plain appeared. M'Bayua was the largest place we had seen since Kerema, with houses widely spread and in the middle a school with a large sign celebrating the upcoming anniversary. The guesthouse had the most luxurious toilet we had seen so far on this trip - a newly built tree hut in European style built around the ground hole. In the village, there were many people trying to get a glimpse of us foreigners. Some of the locals had brought food to sell.

In the evening, we told stories about Sweden and our hosts told their stories and showed some old ceremonial clothing with long, colourful bird feathers. Unfortunately M'Bayua is a fairly modern village and not much of the old culture remains.

259. Strong Currents
Early next day we paid the bill and continued our journey. Tightly wrapped in plastic the satellite phone would hopefully survive any sudden river on the way.
262. Timo´s wantoks
The word wantok means friend in pidgin and Timo seemed to have wantoks in every village. Walking slightly faster than us he often stopped to pay them a short visit. Once we found Timo´s bag on the ground below a village. We stopped to take a pineapple picnic knowing he would show up sooner or later.
263. Poncho Druid
There are many ways to dress for tropical rain. You can use a huge rain poncho or modern "breathing" materials. You can also do as Timo did and hold a big palm tree leaf over your head. The alternative is to just ignore the rain and let it soak in.
266. Dense Forest
The rain kept coming through the large leaves. Thomas's backpack soaked up everything and its weight nearly doubled (if not tripled!). We got strange GPS map positions. They did not correspond with the actual surroundings. Maybe the GPS device could not handle the moisture? Later on we found out that the map was old and incorrect.
Remembering previous experiences - we insisted on walking around the mountains instead of taking shortcuts. In the sharp bends of the path, there were often tree trunks placed over crevices carved by mountain rainwater. The tree trunks were often extremely slippery so usually it was best to step down into the crevice.

We walked really fast in the rain hoping that soon we would reach Ivandu. After walking all day we reached the Meparo village where we stopped for the night.

We dried our soaked clothes over the fire. The residents had stayed indoors all day to keep dry so they had no food, but because they had guests they went outside to cut some sugar canes. Early next morning we continued our quest for Ivandu - on an empty stomach; we were out of food.
267. Vitaminerale
In Ivandu, there is a store where you even can buy tennis balls - if you want. We recommend that you buy food. Staying the night in the mission house cost 20 Kina and firewood was included. (Ivandu, Gulf Province)
269. Happy Photographer
Longing for fried food the Swedish Defence's skin ointment were used to fry chives. Served with mashed tarot and a few potatoes, it was a splendid meal. You could not tell whether John and Timo had eaten mashed potatoes before but the food quickly vanished, so they must have liked it.
272. Water Taps
Ivandu has a big water tank on top and there are pipes to many houses as well as a taps inside. Tin roofs were quite common.
273. Cut Knives
Through the mission house window, we noticed small children cutting the grass with knives large enough to reach from the ground and up to their heads. They stopped cutting as they fascinatingly watched Nicklas and his camera.
275. Grass
It was very humid and cold during the night. Even though we slept fully clothed, we froze. We walked on the next day. As we got higher up in the mountains, there was less forest and more grass plains with bushes and other low vegetation.
277. Clearing Up
In some places, we spotted round circles of ashes close to other buildings. We later found out that the police had recently burnt down huts in order to stop ongoing pyramid-games in this neighbourhood.
279. Hut
Up in the mountains the hut floors are close to the ground and often there were also huts with no floor other than the ground itself.
280. Gathering
Lots of people with curiosity shining in their faces had gathered outside their village to meet us. We had been told that you could get a grasp of a person's wealth by counting the necklaces around his or her neck. The Kina necklaces are mostly used on festive occasions.
281. Moisture
Looking through our small and misty binoculars we spotted a mudslide probably caused by the heavy rains. John really liked using the binoculars and shared his happiness with the locals.
285. Panorama
If you ever move to PNG there are several advantages to building your house at a high altitude. You can safeguard it from rotting and the heavy rain torrents from the mountains. In the old days, you would also be in a better position in case of an enemy attack.
289. Iridium
With one stick in the ground and one connected to the sky, you almost feel invincible.
291. Overloaded
We walked down a slope. John and Timo told us several times that there were cows here - briskly pointing at dung spread on the ground. We came down to a wide river and a long scary bridge awaited us.
293. Stroll
When standing with a heavy rucksack, on the middle of a bridge that sways sideways and that has several planks missing, you are glad to be able to temporarily forget everything you have learned about physics and just walk.
299. Delighted
On the other side, we once again repaired John's plastic bag using what was left of our tape. The road now sloped slightly upwards again. For some reason, we encountered a guy with a yellow helmet and a pig. As we walked on, we passed several small villages one with three green fields sized as football grounds.
302. Sitting
We sat down on a rock in the middle of a village waiting for the teacher. We wanted to ask if he could provide some accommodation. He had a guesthouse for us. While we got settled, John and Peter went to the store using a bridge much smaller than earlier, but with as many planks missing. But for Peter, who had the magic cloak and staff, it was child's play. (Meware, Gulf Province)
304. Teacher's House
That evening, the teacher had invited us over to cook in his kitchen. We made a "strongpela" meat casserole using cayenne pepper and slices of pineapple. It was one of the rare occasions when the teacher used his battery FM-radio. On air, was a Swedish pop group called A-Teens. (Meware, Gulf Province)
305. Early Morning
The guesthouse was large but we all slept in a small room to keep warm. For breakfast we boiled various kinds of noodles and, before setting out to reach Kanabea, we brushed our teeth at the neighbour's water tank. (Meware, Gulf Province)
307. Gardens
When we left Meware and looked back it looked like a big well cut lawn with little huts popping up like mushrooms. Each hut had a garden framed with a fence of dry stakes. (Meware, Gulf Province)
310. Shade
A house gave shade to us and our "escort" who was following us from Meware. Back on track again, we carefully checked the maps to see if they were correct and to get a grip of the remaining walk.
312. Reflection
Occasionally, we stopped thinking about food and instead gazed at the beautiful nature.
314. Reading
We had a discussion on whether the author of our Lonely Planet guide really had walked the track as quickly as written or not. A decision was taken - we would have to send a letter to correct the timings. John had his own opinion on correction, which involved setting things on fire.
317. Pol-Mek
On the road above the Kotidanga village, a man wearing a bathrobe waved wanting us to come down. It was the district president Pol-Mek. He had been in contact with Jack, who had told him of our journey. The villagers were preparing some activities for us and he hoped we could stay a day or two. (Kotidanga, Gulf Province)
323. Kotidanga Tour
We were guided around the village by Pol-Mek. There were two schools and a district office. Pol-Mek´s house was also the village store. Around 8 people in the village were employed and, as we understood it, they worked for the government.
At night we went up the highway again to go round to the headmaster's peninsula. The headmaster, who is a big and jovial man, has a spare house, which he built himself. It has a brilliant construction in the kitchen - one of the walls can be removed to let out the smoke when cooking.
348. Grand Tour
During the preparations for the plays Pol-Mek gave us the grand tour around the village and its surroundings. He showed us the two churches and a cemetery and told us a lot about edible plants and water grass.
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© 1999-2002  • Photos Nicklas Nordborg  • Texts Peter Waller and Thomas Nilsson