Daily Ramblings - April 15, 2009

April 15, 2009 - Arriving in Wewak, Papua New Guinea on the morning of April 15th we met Alois Mateos – our host and guide for the day.  Alois operates a small lodge and hosts visitors to Wewak as they organize their adventure to the Sepik River Region:  [email protected].
 
We also hooked up with Jim Elmslie, an anthropologist from Australia and author of books on West Papua and Papua New Guinea.  An expert on tribal life and artifacts, Jim is guiding us throughout the Sepik River adventure.  

River Captain Peter Waman also joined us. Originally from Tambunum Village on the Sepik, he will guide Major Wager up the river as well as provide a wealth of information on river and village life.

Planning to acquire a variety of village artistry we shopped for gunny sacks, old newspapers, and tags to mark and package our treasure.  Jim brought a VHS cassette tape – a movie filmed on the Sepik.  So we scoured Wewak and found a VCR player to purchase - $35.  And Tom continued to load up on toys, candies and soccer balls to share with the village kids.

All set we departed Wednesday evening for the mouth of the Sepik River – just 60 miles from Wewak.
 
The largest river system in Asia and third largest in the world, the river's total length is 700 miles and has a drainage basin of over 30,000 square miles. There is a 3 to 6 mile wide belt of active meanders formed by the river that has created a floodplain up to 40 miles wide. There are around 1500 Ox Bow and other lakes in the floodplain, the largest of which are the Chambri Lakes which we will be visiting.

The Sepik basin is largely an undisturbed environment as there are no major urban settlements or mining and forestry activities in the river catchment.  And much of tribal life is un-impacted by outsiders.

Famous for their carving skills and outlandish artistic imaginations,  tribal artistry from the Sepik is a favorite of collectors, of which Tom plans to become.

Before forging the mouth of the river we visited Watam Village, a clean and spacious village of 150 people.  We were invited to review their village art and preparations for an upcoming Sing-Sing – a tribal dance honoring their ancestors.  Jim coordinated negotiations with the local craftsmen and Tom is now the proud owner of 15 artifacts.

Heading to the Sepik we observed a silt line in the sea extending over 30 miles from the mouth of the river.  It is one of the few major river systems in the world without a delta – but the ocean is shallow at the mouth and certainly is abundant with deposits from up river.

We stopped long enough to visit Kopar Village – the first on the Sepik.  The people were delightful and the kids full of life and playfulness.

Tonight we will anchor in the river as it is dangerous to travel after dark.  There are sand bars and floating logs that must be avoided.

Read April 14 Log

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