The PMV (public motor vehicle) ride from Wewak to Angoram is my first in Papua New Guinea, and more comfortable than I thought. When I arrive just below the market place, I get my first view of the Sepik River that I have seen snaking through the green landscape from the plane the previous day. People help me find the guesthouse I am looking for, and after chatting to the talkative and friendly owner of the guesthouse, one of his many friends takes me around for a walk in Angoram. The open area I have seen before is indeed, as I suspected, an airstrip that apparently was last used in the 1980s. It is now a shortcut for getting from one part of town to the other. New police barracks have been built alongside the airfield, and the question is: will flights ever resume and lift this town out of its sleepy state? We pass the market which basically consists of women sitting with their wares in the shade of a huge fire tree. We arrive at the small jetty, and across the Sepik is another part of town: wooden houses on stilts. I now see the effects of the flood which has only recently diminished after seriously affecting the river communities for six months.
The next day, I spend most of the time on the Sepik and Keram rivers, and the following day is one of waiting for transport down the Sepik. I start getting more confident with the people, and walk all over town. I walk down to the jetty, and from there, I follow the waterfront, past the market, to where I find a lake. The houses are less sophisticated here than in town. Kids are playing at the waterfront, fishing, bathing, washing in the lake and all big smiles when I pass. When I come back, an older lady runs towards me, and starts babbling about her being a bachelor, and why I would not come to her place. I get understanding stares from people we pass as we walk to the market, and continue on my own on the main road out of town, towards Wewak. A blue building in the distance intrigues me - it looks like a church, but when I get closer, it turns out to be a government building with traditional decorations on the outside. I walk past sport fields, and into a quiet neighbourhood before hitting the airstrip again. A woman in the street tells me she is on her way to hospital because she suffers malaria. Indeed, the town is infested by the malicious insects who pester you day and night.
That evening, the betel nut boat down the Sepik apparently does not run, so I have yet another day in Angoram. The adopted and smart son of the family and I walk around town again, continuing further along the lakeside village where kids still play. I now discover a carved crocodile head on a traditional canoe, with two kids in it - it lies ashore and I wonder if it is just a showcase canoe or that they really use it. We continue walking until we reach a deep stream which I decide not to cross. Walking back, I buy some betel nuts at the market for the guesthouse owner. A couple of hours later, we sit here, on the roots of the enormous tree, drink a coconut, and just while away our time like all other villagers seem to do. People are sent around inquiring about boats down the Sepik, but no news is forthcoming. PMVs pull into town, and I wonder if I should take one back to Wewak and continue from there. No matter how much I like this town and its slow pace, I am getting impatient to explore more of this country. When we return to the guesthouse, three men are waiting for us. The confirm they will go down the Sepik that night: new adventures loom around the corner!
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Angoram (Papua New Guinea). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Angoram.
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