Day M19: Exodus

16.10.11: Alex had told me to keep an eye on my phone for the message to head to the port. At this point, The Papuan Chief shouldn’t be leaving until 10pm, but you can never be too careful. Stan returned in the morning with his mum and her friend who was excited about going to the Morobe Show today. I had kept hold of the VIP pass I had borrowed from Duncan yesterday (no photo, all too easy) and was pretty chuffed that I was going to be able to see today’s big singsing.

We arrived sometime after 10am and headed into the showground. Hundreds of people in traditional dress – all the tribes the organisers could find – filled the track which led to the main arena. It was a National Geographic photographers’ wet dream. Even with my little two-bit Sony camera (held in my left hand, camcorder in my right) I got shots like this:

Papua New Guinea
Dude.

And this:

Papua New Guinea Mudmen Tribe
The Mudmen Tribe

And this:

Papua New Guinea Warrior Lady
Warriors... come out and play-ay...

Just think what I could have done with my right hand. And a Canon 7D.

Around midday we headed over to the main arena. The Governor General of PNG was in attendance, as were the police, army, the tribes and the winner and two runners up from yesterday’s Miss Morobe contest. As Stan and I ate sausage rolls and lamented the lack of beer (the show came with a strict liquor ban for the weekend) my phone buzzed in my pocket. It was a text message from Alex. ‘Call me urgently’.

The Papuan Chief was actually going to be leaving early. I’ve have to miss the big singsing. Well, it just gives me a good excuse to return to Lae in the near future and it’s not like I didn’t get enough great footage. Stan kindly offered to run me to the shipping office. It was time to go.

But not before I ran over to the warrior women of the Central Highlands and got this shot of me, spear in hand, leading them into battle:

Graham Hughes in Papua New Guinea
If you even DREAM of appearing in a cooler photo, you better wake up and apologise.

Stan dropped me off at the Steamships Shipping office and we said our goodbyes. The shipping agent took me onboard the mighty Papuan Chief. I was introduced to Captain Bernie Santos, Chief Mate Jerry Divinagracia, Second Mate Bert Ramos, Third Mate Jonell Salas, and Dave Varley, the Chief Engineer from Burnley. Finally! A Brit on board a cargo ship – and a Northerner an’ all. Awesome.

That evening we departed Lae. It’s taken me the best part of ten months, but I’m finally on my way. Nation 185 awaits…!