The Last Survey.
Do I mean the last survey that we took?
Or the last survey that we are going to take?
The answer is, yes…Lord willing.
We are praying that the last survey we took was also the last survey we will need to take. We are praying that the last village we surveyed will be the one we allocate into. But that is a different blog post.
Cameron explained her experience of our last survey here, and now I’ll give my side of our last hike/helicopter trip into the jungle to find a place to live.
Our original plan was for Zach and I to leave on Friday, May 15th and hike into one of the villages, Yot Wam, stay there until the ladies joined us on Tuesday, leaving behind all of our children with our other teammates, the Lehmans.
From there, we all would leave Yot Wam on Wednesday and fly to the next village, Maweroro. We would all spend the night there and then the girls would leave us on Thursday morning and Zach and I would hike out either on Friday or Saturday.
And, in what is a rare occurrence here in PNG, everything went according to plan.
A lot could have gone wrong, considering there were two plane flights and three helicopter flights involved, but praise God, nothing did!
Zach and I left Friday, May 15th at 7:30 in the morning to catch a boat ride to a beach called Malalamai where we could then hike into Yot Wam. We quickly found a boat that would take us, but they couldn’t leave until they gathered enough passengers.
So we waited.
Around 10:30am, we realized we would still be waiting for a while so we called up our wives and asked if they would want to meet us for lunch right next door to the dock. Though we were hoping to leave a lot earlier, it was really sweet to be able to see our families again before we left for another nine days. We had lunch, then the skipper of the boat called us and said the boat was ready to go. We went and hopped on.
The boat ride was good (not like this one), but since we were leaving pretty late in the day — it was hot!
Here’s our bus crew for the boat.
As we got closer to beaches, we started to drop people off. We would stay on the boat longest since Malalamai was further away then the other beaches. On our way to one of the beaches, Saidor, a heavy rain fell, and our very hot and sunny boat ride turned into a very wet and cold boat ride.
We made it to Saidor, and the bus crew informed us we would stop there and wait for the storm to pass, and that we could sit down in the one of the huts. But as we walked down the beach to one of the huts, Zach and I began to realize that if we went into this hut, we may not come out again until the next day. The bus crew seemed a little too eager to be done sailing for the day and we were tired, but we knew that we had three guys waiting for us on the beach at Malalamai.
We tuned around and went back to talk to the bus crew again to see if we could leave earlier. We had some help in making our case from a couple that had also been on the boat whom we knew from a previous hike to Nekgini (insert link here), who helped us talk to the bus crew, explaining who we were and what we were doing.
Praise God, the bus crew changed their minds, dragged the boat back out, we hopped in, and soon we were off to sea again.
In front of us, there were clouds that told us we would be driving through heavy rain again. But as we kept driving, the rain started to die down. We finally reached Malalamai around 6 pm (it gets dark around 6:30pm) and at first we were a little concerned, because we had never met the people we were supposed to be meeting and didn’t know who they were, but then, three men ran down the beach from Yot to meet us.
I was thinking we would find a hut to stay in and hike the next day to Yot Wam since night was falling….but they informed us that we had to hike to the place we would be spending the night. So we started, and soon I got to partake for the first time, in night-time hiking in Papua New Guinea! It was actually not bad.
I had a headlamp so it wasn’t too bad seeing, and the weather was great! We walked for about an hour and a half before we got to a fairly large river, which they said we were going to be crossing. So now here was another first—crossing a wide, three feet deep, rushing river at night in Papua New Guinea!
Zach and I made it across and after a few more minutes of hiking, we made it to the village we were going to spend the night in. This village was a place the Yot people and others would go to sell their coffee and this is where we slept.
The night we slept, I left my food bag right above my head and all night I kept hearing all this scurrying around. In the morning, I awoke to my food bag with lots of holes in it! So, I learned to keep my food bag inside my backpack so it doesn’t tempt the rats or mice.
After sleeping Friday night in this village, we woke up Saturday morning and started hiking around 6:30am.
The two guys hiking with us were Jamos and Damas.
Jamos is a government guy, basically he looks out for the people in his region, which Yot Wam was a part of, and Damas is a teacher in Yot Wam.
The hike to Yot Wam was…difficult. We had to go up to I don’t know how many feet, I’m guessing 4500 to another village, and then go back down to 3400 feet to Yot Wam.
At first, Zach and I carried our own bags, but after a few hours of this and seeing us hike slower and slower, the two guys from Yot took our bags, and carried them the rest of the way. Once we got to the top of the mountain, we stopped in a town called Gaptoman to rest for a minutes, and Zach and I sat down on a hut floor. Within minutes, we were both asleep…and so we slept for an hour on this hut floor before continuing our journey to Yot Wam.
Around noon, we were woken up to continue on our way to Yot Wam. We tried calling our wives at this point too, and I think I talked to Cameron for maybe 15 seconds before losing service. And that would be the last time we spoke, heard, or contacted anyone from town until we saw them again on Tuesday.
We arrived in Yot Wam around 5:15 pm on Saturday, and I was pretty much exhausted. I went into the hut we were staying, laid down, and fell asleep. They made us dinner at 8pm and I ate, but then quickly I fell asleep again until around 6 or 7 the next morning. That was a good night’s sleep.
Sunday was a busy day where we met with the leaders, and again told everyone in the community what we would like to do if we were to come to Yot. The leaders all agreed that they wanted us to come, but one of the big reasons we came back was to see if they had ground we could build houses on and actually move in.
Our original plan gave us some days to work this out, because we knew this could be a sensitive, touchy, or volatile topic. Often different people will argue over the ground in tribes, so we wanted to make sure that the ground where we could live on wouldn’t be disputed ground.
After this meeting on Sunday, really much of what we came to accomplish in Yot Wam took place, and now the only thing left was for the ladies to see the ground and village and meet the people…but this wasn’t happening until Tuesday
— and so we waited.
Monday was mostly a day of hanging out. Zach and I hung out, we read, we “storied”, read some more, and storied with others. It was a pretty relaxed day. The extra day was really a “just in case buffer”, but since everything went well on Sunday, we used it just to hang out.
Tuesday morning, Zach and I made guesses of when the wives would come. I guessed 9:15am, Zach guessed 9:30. Around 9:15 there was nothing. We weren’t even sure if our wives were coming at this point.
We tried to think of things that could have happened. And game plans if they never showed up (remember we didn’t have any service at this point, so we couldn’t call anyone to find out if weather had grounded the helicopter or if they hadn’t made their plane flight the day before, etc.).
But around 9:30am we heard the noise of a helicopter (Yes, Zach won).
I was so happy that Cameron actually made it. We watched the chopper, and they landed in Yot. You can read Cameron’s summary here for what happened after that, but the rest of the day was great. It had been clear skies the whole time we were there, and that night the rain came down.
We all slept in a hut together, and then woke up early to fly to Maweroro. We weren’t sure what to expect going into Malorero.
Just before we left on Friday, we had heard from a guy named Stephen, whom we had met on our first hike through Ndo, and he said he was going to hike to Maweroro and let everyone know we would be there on Wednesday — but, we hadn’t talked to him since.
Did he make it? Did they know we were coming? We had no way of knowing.
When we got to Maweroro, it turned out he did! Stephen had made it there, and told everyone that we were coming!
At this point, I’ll skip what happened in Maweroro since Cameron described it in her blog post, and begin with what happened after the wives left. But first a few pictures of us together in Maweroro.
Cameron and Cass left Thursday morning, and our original plan had Zach and I hiking out on Saturday or Sunday and coming home on Monday, though we were thinking at this point we could be ready to hike out on Friday—two days earlier!
After the ladies left, there was more hanging out. Culturally, this is how much of time is spent in the mountains, especially on rainy afternoons
Maybe that sounds like nothing is happening, but when it comes down to it, I think it just takes time for things to happen in Papua New Guinea and it takes time just hanging out with people, sitting in their huts, eating sugar cane, while they chew buai, and telling stories, and asking questions to get things done.
So we spent Friday walking around, meeting people, and talking (storying). We hiked to the water and washed up, and came back.
The first time that we hiked through Ndo, a lady named Maria helped us a good chunk of the way with carrying our bags and she was so happy the whole time. It turns out that her son was who we had contacted to let everyone know we were coming, Stephen. Their whole family were very welcoming and excited for us to come to Maweroro.
Thursday night we went to sleep, hoping that someone the next day would help us hike to the beach. And on Friday morning, Egi, whose hut we slept in in Maweroro, and his wife volunteered to hike us out to the beach. They even carried our bags (which if they hadn’t, I’m pretty sure we would have died).
Now, yes. They were probably in their 50s and, yes, they hiked the entire way holding our bags, along with some other heavy things. And that right there is the difference between those who have grown up in the mountains and those who have not.
We left at 6:30 in the morning on Friday and we made it to the beach by 5:15 that evening.
We stayed in the same house on the beach we stayed in the last day we hiked through Ndo.
The last time we stayed here I actually got close to 60 mosquito bites on my back — but this time i put up a mosquito net, so it was much better.
Saturday morning we were excited that we were actually going to make it home two days earlier, but we couldn’t find enough passengers for the boat. Eventually, the skipper said he would take us anyway, and then a few more people came out and hopped in!
We made it back to Madang around 11:30 on Saturday morning. I went home, ate three tacos, several cookies, a glass of milk and a chicken sandwich. After several days in the village, your stomach starts craving things like bread products, dairy products, meat products, etc.
And that summarizes the survey trip. Not much in Papua New Guinea seems to go according to plan, but sometimes they do.
This trip was one of those times and it was just a kindness of God for which we are thankful.