Thursday, November 20, 2008

Understanding what is appropriate can be a challenge in itself.

After making it through the phone/shower ordeal I met geomorphologist Scott Smithers in John's room. They chatted science and I wondered what was going to happen next. What did happen was the arrival of Briar, Jeffrey, Endar and Rose, still reasonably fresh from a day of shooting in Moresby. After meeting Peter Mildner, Briar and Zane's main contact in Moresby during the last shoot, we managed to organise everyone into a room, and then met the redoubtable Jim Robins in the restaurant next to the pool for dinner. This is the second time that Jim has managed the vaguaries of PNG bureaucracy to get everyone a visa into Moresby in time to make a film. I, for, one, was very pleased to be able to put a face to the name, although my mental picture of him is so different to the reality it's like there are two Jims in my head.

Our next port of call was Buka. People there are wonderfully friendly and the town is putting up new buildings everywhere in a most industrious way but infrastructure is limited compared to what we're used to and mechanical issues, getting basic types of supplies and making sure we communicate with the appropriate local authorities have all required negotiation. Understanding what is appropriate can be a challenge in itself. Buka seems to be a developers dream but a place that gives the impression of being very much the last outpost. Despite the new building projects there are still people crapping and washing in the strait.

The shops are fascinating - each one sells the exact same stuff as every other one and we must have been into about nine of them to get appropriate supplies during our two days in the town. Of interest in the smell department - perfumed toilet tissue reminiscent of cat piss, available in more than one place. That and the fact that the shops all smell really interesting and not necessarily in a good way. We stayed at the Kuri Resort, which had a couple of bamboo bands through in the time we were there and that was interesting - a sort of fifties style of music played on bamboo and pvc piping with jandals. Briar caused quite a stir on the first night by taking a chomp on Rose's betel nut and suffering all the usual effects including blurred vision - and a very red mouth. Jeffrey, for his trouble, was accosted on the second day by a drunk guy from a political rally who made declarations of love until he was finally pulled off - by a girl no less.

We had a few dramas waiting in Buka for the MV Barbarian which didn't show up on the day we anticipated - but hey, this is PNG - what's new? We spent a night on board waiting for the weather to clear so we could head off. This first night some drunk guys came out to us in a banana boat but Scott (the geomorphologist) struck a blow for the earth scientists by appearing in his boxers and standing on the deck until they went away.

As of November 15 we are in still in the boat which will remain broken but usable. Jeffery bought a part to repair the malfunctioning autopilot but it didn't fit the current arrangement and this makes all travel harder, particularly for the skipper. We're still waiting for the weather out at sea to clear sufficiently for us to begin the journey to Takuu. Because conditions are rough outside of the shelter around Buka we will have the first leg via the Carteret Islands. This Atoll is also sinking fast and is closer to the mainland than Takuu, making it perfect for laying over if the weather turns to crap.

Our skipper is Rod Pearce - when I first took a banana boat from the Kuri Resort to meet him he hadn't slept for more than two days as he had been piloting the Barbarian off the compass through rough weather and through the night. However after a day unconscious he emerged from his cocoon of incoherence as a very curmudgeonly butterfly. He is so careful about the weather on the open ocean that he actually suggested we shoot the doco on the Carterets, which are closer to Buka. And Briar actually started shouting. We managed to detach him from this idea but it had already become obvious at that Rod is as crusty a seadog as ever rode the waves - and he is extremely cautious about going out in unsuitable conditions, so we know that we're as safe as the situation allows.

There have been more developments since but you'll have to wait to get those.....

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