We’re so slow and heavy-footed compared to our Kovol friends! Today we went out to Kavaluku’s garden to see what was going on and we came away feeling very incapable.
There are 5 of us now and so we’re hiking the steep, muddy trails with babies strapped on to us (one on Gerdine and one on Rhett) while I give Oscar a piggy back. That’s the postcard shot right there:all of us hiking – doing a great job (or at least that’s what we’re sure everyone at home will say). Carrying babies around everywhere in Kovol is just the done thing though; everyone does it and there are no gold stars for doing it – in fact I’m sure everyone wonders why we go so slowly!
After a few slips and falls on the muddy parts of the trail that have been covered by a landslide we come to a fence. Gardens have a chest high fence all the way around them to keep pigs out. I’m giving Oscar a piggy back at the time, I walk up the log on one side, swing my leg over the fence to step on the stick step on the other side and snap it breaks right in half.
I’m already heavier than any Kovol person here, and with Oscar on my back too we’re probably twice the weight of anyone who normally climbs over. With the sudden jolt I was able to sit down on top of the fence and keep my balance, a good grip on a post with my left hand, but little Oscar wasn’t holding on so well.
I had his leg clamped to me with my right hand, but the jolt swung him round so he was hanging upside down over a steep drop. He was a little shocked, but otherwise was handling things well until I asked Kavaluku to take him – which is when it was all too much 🙂 I try to tell him Kovol people’s hands are much safer than mine on these trails – but he doesn’t want to hear it.
After our little accident the remaining trail received a bit of reinforcement and “white-man proofing”, but we were all good to continue.
The work in the garden was cutting down trees to make space for planting. Impressive axe skills were employed (not by me) and trees started going down left, right and centre. I could at least join in with the whooping and shouting as each tree came down.
Knowing that garden work equals machete time I’d brought my small one with me (I have a long one too, but I’m more likely to hurt myself with it than get anything done), and went looking for a tree to cut down to help out. I got directed to the trees the thickness of my thigh or smaller; you know the trees the kids usually do.
I had at it with my machete, but I wasn’t producing the clean cuts everyone else was getting. I can hit where I aim my machete about 30% of the time so that mine looked more as though an animal had chewed on them than that they were cut with a sharp tool; and 3/4 of them got caught in other trees and didn’t fall down after being cut.
After we had duly demonstrated our impotence and lack of anything to contribute to the physical work of gardennig in PNG, Kavaluku decides to show off.
One of the trees is a forest giant. They could of course cut it down also, but then the huge trunk would just get in the way. The solution was to climb up the tree and prune off its branches so the sun could get through to what will soon be planted.
Kavaluku gets climbing as I work on pulling out my phone to snap pictures, and he’s already half-way up by the time I’m ready to take photos! Through a combination of climbing vines and branches and at one point holding his machete between his teeth so he can shimmy up a smooth, straight section with no handholds he arrives at the top.
It was the most spectacular display of athleticism I’ve seen here in Kovol. 20-25m up in the canopy he starts hacking away at branches, at times standing on branches I’d conclude are too small to support me – but for him they just bend. Branches start raining down all over.
My job is to watch and snap pictures – which also results in my slipping around in the mud on the steep slopes and almost falling down. I mean I’m doing pretty well for a westerner – but I’ve got nothing to boast about around here! I still felt pretty good managing to carry Oscar and Millie all the way back home – arriving a sweaty mess though 🙂
Yesterday I fixed the ethernet connection to Rhett’s house and I felt like a man. Today I feel like a little boy 😀