Philip and Eva from Kamlawa Village became my friends who worried and cared for my well being while my rowboat was tied at the Maneba Wharf in Finsch Harbor.
Christian was always serious; catching a short lived smile on him was entertaining in itself.
Eva had prepared a delicious mainly vegetarian dish for me with a touch of small fish on top.
I made friends while at Finsch Harbor... (Part 2)
February 20, 2009
On Thursday the 5th, during the second night that I spent tied at Finsch Harbor, a passenger vessel servicing the route between Lae and Umboi Island was scheduled to stop over at the Maneba Wharf. This vessel carrying about 200 passengers normally arrived at 11:30 pm on Thursdays, then stayed for about an hour before continuing on.
Philip had left that afternoon, saying that he would return to keep me company at the wharf. "It will be crowded, too many people come, we want you to be safe," he had said. "Should I be worried?" "No... I will bring food. You can taste local cooking." "That would be nice. I can prepare some of my own special food from the boat. I am sure you will find the new tastes interesting."
Black sea urchins with ten inch needles were appearing on the concrete of the wharf, close to the water surface toward the end of the day. Colorful small tropical fish nibbled on the algae around the urchins. Mosquitoes came out of hiding, looking for fresh blood. The rusty World War II remnants of a Japanese vessel were still visible toward the south end of the lagoon. The generator kicked in, providing power for the few houses and buildings on the wharf. New faces appeared on the wharf grounds, gathering around the waiting hall with mosquito screens for windows, and bringing much needed business to the small dark shop with little variety on its shelves. A market area with corrugated roof over it was temporarily closed. On the stalls below it, the villagers from the surrounding areas would normally sell their products including bananas, mangoes, pawpaws, betelnuts, coconuts, and hand woven baskets.
Philip came back after dark with Christian and Jeffrey. These were the men who now intended to walk the distance with me from Maneba Wharf at the Finsch Harbor all the way to Lae, a distance of about 60 miles. "We have family all along the coast, they will take us in and give us water and food," Philip had said. I was happy to get to know them a bit more. Philip then handed me a stainless steel pot with a glass lid. In it was a wonderfully tasty meal, prepared by his wife Eva using Chinese taros, sweet potatoes, cooking bananas, coconut milk, ginger and chili. On top were perhaps six small fried fish, which added a nice flavor to this mainly vegetarian delight. The best part about it was the heat of the chili which had a lingering mild burn at the back of my mouth, almost near my tonsils. It was a unique sensation, stimulating different taste buds than the chili varieties I had had before.
I was in my boat still, when I took the first taste of that wonderful meal. I reached in my cabin, and brought out the large bottle of Tanduay Rhum that Bob Bismar had given me back at General Santos the night that I had left there on VANILLA in December. "You will need this at sea," Bob had said then. I had yet to touch that Philippine brew, and this was a great occasion to share. I sampled four different kinds of freeze dried dinners, one of which was the Mountain House Chicken Polynesian, which had some pineapples in it giving it a nice slightly sweet flavor. Philip set that one aside, to offer Eva at home.
I showed them the little handheld stove which I used simply for boiling water. I attached a propane canister under it, then after boiling the water, I poured it into the dinner pouches one at a time. I asked them to wait at least 15 minutes for the dinner to cool down a little. "I burned the top of my mouth more than once," I warned them. I rummaged around in the kitchen cabinet for a couple more spoons. The meals were each a hit!
We kept up the conversation until the passenger vessel arrived. Ephraim showed up with a plastic tub spontaneously; he also had thought to bring me a meal. His wife's choice was bananas cooked with parsley like greens in coconut milk. We shared with him what was left of our dinners. Since I had already eaten, I could not finish his offer. He could not stay long...
Philip had been insisting that I should go to sleep, telling me not to worry about them. "Will you go home after the vessel leaves?" "No, we will stay here. Keep you company. We want you to be safe." I could not stay up any longer after a while, and I retired in the cabin after thanking them.
When I woke up in the morning, they were still on the wharf. "Did you sleep at all?" "Oh, a little. We talked. We were worried about you." What could I say? These loyal men had been their brother’s keeper, sleeping in the open on the concrete wharf. I prepared them breakfast from my boat, fixed them some coffee before they returned to their homes half an hour distance on foot, leaving me to spend the day in the shade of the rain tree.