Arriving in Madang I felt a bit disappointed that yet again we were arriving in the dark. It’s really hard to get a good first impression of an unfamiliar place when you can’t see where you’re landing. I find the PNG towns are very dark because there are fewer street lamps than in Perth. So again we arrived at a small airport in the dark. But what a delight to have Yabru meet us there. It is always so good to see a familiar face and be warmly welcomed. Yabru had recruited some Pioneer Bible Translator missionaries who had a vehicle to collect us which was great. They drove us to our accommodation which was behind high fences and electric gates along the main road into Madang town. It was busy and we were warned to be careful. The electric gate opened and the car ducked in, quickly the gates were closed again. I noticed that they were very wary and on the lookout all the time.
Our accommodation was magnificent, like nothing we’d experienced yet in PNG. It was an above ground self-contained flat that had everything we needed including an ice-cream maker on the shelf! It was very comfortable. So after a lovely shower and a change of clothes we sat down to a meal of rice and tuna (thankfully I’d packed a bit of food). Life was good.
After a very disturbed night – traffic, barking dogs, screeching bats, probably some possums too bouncing along the rooftop and men shouting – we were picked up by a woman named Robbie who owned a minivan. She ran a people moving business. We had an hour ride to the venue where the boat would transport us to Karkar Island. Being a Sunday it was difficult to find transport so we were thankful to have found this minibus. Mike was dropped off at the local church as he was giving the sermon that morning and Debbie and I were now on our own. Along the way we picked up 3 women from a very remote village along the Sogeram River where there is no health care and Yabru was keen for us to work with them to give some education about family planning and clean safe birth. Their names were Rebekah, Ester and Alexia. They spoke very little English and were shy. This was there first time travelling in a boat across the ocean and so they felt very nervous.
The road to the pick up point was not too bad – a few potholes towards the end but otherwise quite a smooth ride (a different story on the way back). The area was really beautiful. Cocoa trees and coconut palms dotted along the way and a beautiful flat blue sea to our right and high tree covered mountains to our left. We arrived at the rudimentary harbour where ‘banana boats’ transport people across to the island. It was absolutely idyllic . Crystal clear water, small islands of coconut trees just off the coast with rings of coral around them – just like the coffee table travel books. It was incredibly hot and humid but the ocean was flat and that was what I was interested in. In the distance I could see the magnificent Karkar Island, a volcano rising up to the clouds. We loaded up our luggage, the Sogeram ladies and us and off we went. Bernard was our boat skipper. It was a flat ride and so it was comfortable. Rebekah, Ester and Alexia were relaxing and so were we. We saw a huge pod of dolphins swim by and every now and again a flying fish would take off and flutter across the top of the water, landing about 200m further along. It was magical.
As we came to the edge of the island I could see a group of people waving to us. There was Wendy Stein in her blue top and with camera in hand taking photos. “Which one is Sara?” she asked. “I am” and stepped towards her and gave her a hug. We stood and hugged for a while, it was lovely to finally meet this woman who I’d only spoken to on the phone and in emails, but with whom I felt a natural affinity and who had inspired and encouraged me so much. “Welcome to Karkar Island” she said, “We’ve got an hour and then we’re having lunch with Sir John and Lady Anna Middleton”.
Debbie, Alexia, Ester, Rebekah, Robbie and Me