Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Release date 9/27/2009

I released this message in Kavieng Harbor while kayaking.

The night before we went there was a power failure on our street. It was pretty dramatic. There must have been a short circuit the wires outside our house started sparking glowing, and eventually blew right off the pole. All kinds of crazy blue and red sparks. The whole neighborhood was plunged into darkness. Kate was out on the street, and I was watching from the porch.

They were working on it in the morning. I have included a picture of the guy sitting on top of the cross piece. You can see his ladder is a bit short, so he climbed the rest of it. The thing hanging down, totally useless, is his safety strap that is presumably supposed to be attached to the pole. It is about 100 degrees in the sun at 10:00 AM. He is about 40 feet in the air. They had Oldies from the 1960s, Wipe out and the Beach Boys, that kind of stuff, cranking on their radio while they were working. I guess he didn't fall because it was all working when we got home and looks totally normal now.

We tried to do everything in one day: paddling, fishing, kayak surfing, snorkleing, and having lunch on the beach. We managed to get it all in, but didn't really master any one activity.

We could see the surf break, I think it is called "long long" was cranking pretty good off of the tip of Nusa Island. Long long means crazy in tok pisin (PNG pigeon) so we wanted to be careful.

As we paddled over near the break we met a man and some kids fishing from an outrigger canoe. It was one of the those classic kayaking things where you can just make out something from a distance, and as you get closer you can very slowly figure out the full story. When we launched we thought we saw a canoe with a single paddler. 10 minutes later we could see a figure standing in the canoe hitting the water with a giant stick. At 20 minutes we could see one man in the canoe with the stick and other figures in the water.

Kate reckoned, correctly, that they were trying to herd fish into a net. When we got really close the figures in the water were kids spearing the reef fish, the man was indeed herding them into the net, so the kids could spear or grab them. We chatted with them for a bit, or Kate did. I still haven't done much in my Pigeon course, and can't seem to get past: beer, dog, pig, eat, good morning, good afternoon, etc etc.

The family was from New Hanover, but married into a family living on Nusa. The kids were only too happy to show us the fish they were catching. Really pretty parot fish, they were tossing them into the boat. The spears looked like simple pole spears. The reef here was pretty healthy. Lots of living coral, and a nice change from some of the other reefs we have seen in the harbor. We took a few underwater pictures, by holding the camera under the kayak, always a dicey proposition.

We could see that there were indeed a bunch of kids surfing on the break. I now have to find the tide tables and try to remember that this is a good time. We got in the water about 12:15, out to the break by 13:00.

I think high tide was about 15:00. I don't think it is current related. There is a very slight current in the harbor. I think it is all about swell size and depth over the reef where it breaks. These were all local kids. The little ones near the shore were using planks and pieces of wood, while the older kids were on surfboards. There were some boggie boards in the middle.

I hope someday we will see a Papua New Guniean on the world surf circuit. The oldest kid was maybe 16, rail thin, but pretty good. Riding up and down the wave, right on the break pumping the wave looking totally at home.

People have told me that this is not a good place for beginners. The breaks are always on coral reefs, which is sort of like cemet with broken glass sticking out of it. Getting my body ground between my kayak and the bottom like I do back home on a sanbar could be kind of nasty, so I want to be real careful.

When we got out there I did decide to try a few rides. The reef runs off the tip of the island, so I figured if I stayed near the very edge, where the wave is mostly green where the water was deeper it would be ok. This also allowed me to stay out of the way of the board surfers, since they couldn't catch these waves that are just barely breaking.

This is actually the best kind of wave for a sea kayak. In my "short" sea kayak of 15 feet, it is slightly maneuverable but all you can do is ride straight ahead. Real kayak surfers in white water, and surf kayaks can ride the curl of a wave, like a board surfer, but that isn't an option for even a small sea kayak.

I did a few rides and the kids were laughing at me. In 10 minutes I got 3 or 4 50 yard rides. I'm

looking forward to getting out more and seeing how the breaks develop as we get into surf season. This is the biggest I have seen, but the season isn't supposed to start until November. I suppose then the swell will increase a lot.The trough to peak height was about 6ft, I imagine it will get two or three times bigger.

There is a funny system for surfing in place. The local community has organized a quota system, and they only let 20 surfers a day use the breaks around Kavieng. I think there are 4 or 5 of them. Three are within a few miles of Kate's office. You have to buy a pass to surf for the day. The tourists like this since they are virtually guaranteed to have wave after wave all to themselves.

It is $15 a day or some nominal fee, but…The 2009/2010 season is already totally sold out. I think Nusa resort buys all of the slots for the whole year, and then sells it to their guests. Locals can surf any day if they are a member of the surf club. But I think "local" means a Papua New Guniean, and even they probably wait until the tourisits get tired so they don't get in their way. It is neat system since it pumps money back into the community, but it might be a problem for somebody like me who isn't staying at the resort, and hasn't bought a pass.

I'd be happy to pay $15, but I would want to wait until the day when the surf was good, I didn't have something else to do, and wanted to go. I can't look at the calendar and buy a couple of days right now in November and December. I was thinking I would just for the hell of it, but it looks like the year is totally sold out….

I'm kind of thinking the best thing is to just check everytime I am out paddling, or every morning, and if the swell is good, just go out paddling, and jump on a wave if there is nobody else around. If I'm lucky it won't be an issue since the safest place for me is going to out where the water is deeper and waves aren't good for surfboards.

I'm going to look around and try and find a place where the break is good for kayaks, and not good for board surfing. It is totally irresponsible to surf in a sea kayak anywhere near board surfers anyway since if the kayak gets turned sideways and start doing what they call a "bongo slide" It will be broadside to the wave in the white water, out of control, just trying to stay upright. This means that a 250lb 15ft mass is sliding across the water, and would mow any swimmer over.

The other issue is that a kayak is a LOT faster than a surfboard, and can catch a wave a lot further out in deeper water, so the kayak can always be the first person on the wave. The etiquette is to let the first person up on wave have it. This is to be courteous, and also to be safe so there are no collisions, but it isn't courteous or safe if you are in a kayak, and everybody else is swimming.

We then paddled over to Nago island and had lunch. We met a guy who's family owns the island. He is a cop in the capital city of Port Moresby. This city is famous for it's crime and violence. I haven't been there yet. Kate was for a visit and it sounds kind of bad. Everyone has to be off the streets a few hours before dark.

The city is ruled by gangs of "rascals". This not your spanky and alplha kind of rascals. These are armed thugs who hijack cars and kill people. Gunfire is pretty common. One of the rascal's problem is that they often can't afford or find ammunition. So now whenever they hold up a car or a person, they will have shells in their mouth to demonstrate that they do have bullets. The other way to demonstrate it is to fire a few into your car, the street, or presumably your leg.

This means that PNG has very very strict gun control laws. I brought my powerhead for "puk-puks" crocodiles, but now I can't buy bullets. I need 357 magnum shells... My original plan was pick them up a sporting goods store. That isn't going to be happening.

Anyway lunch was nice. They cut down a couple of coconuts for us. I ate half of one, and started feeling a bit funky. I'm starting to think I'm allergic to them. The last coconut episode is still fresh in my memory.

After lunch we tried to go snorkeling on a reef on the other side of the island. I went here the last time I was paddling and it looked beautiful. Crystal clear water, about 15 feet deep that went for miles. Unfortunately the high tide had flushed all this muddy water out of the mangroves. We couldn't find the reef from the boats, and when we did dive down there was a 7foot layer of warm brown water with Gulf of Mexico after a storm visibility on the top.

Once you got below it you could see for 20 or 30 feet, but I'm already spoiled and consider this crap visibility so we gave up.

I did see yet another small sea turtle. This means I have seen a turtle almost every time I have been out. Kate saw one later on the surface as well.

On the way back in we tried a bit of fishing, but it was starting to get dark and we could see rain off in the distance.

A little kid we saw at Nago was interested in my kayak, but ran away from me when I tired to let him sit in it. The kid had probably not seen many white people and he was scared of me. Kate has met kids who have never seen white people at all and they get scared and start screaming and crying when they see her. I'm looking forward to that. Apparently we look like "ghosts".

When we got back to the dock and carried the boats back up, we saw two little kids. Leon and Byron. I met these kids a few weeks ago. I was painting the covers for the air conditioners to Kate's office. Leon, who is about 3 or 4 came up and started staring at me. People often stare at me because I am doing things regular white men aren't doing: Riding a bike, doing manual labor, paddling a funky looking kayak with a life jacket, digging a hole in the yard to put a bomb casing up to hold the garbage, shopping for food, etc etc…

He just stood there staring at me, so I held out the paintbrush and he took it and started doing the painting. He didn't do too bad, then his brother Byron came-up, and I thought back to that classic Mark Twain story when Huck Finn gets the other kids to paint the fence for him. Byron had a fish he had snagged for his dinner, but I decided to just let him do the painting, and not make him give me the fish. Huck Finn got a broken knife, a dead cat, and bunch of other stuff.

When Kate came out to check on me I was under an umbrella, and the kids were doing the painting. I explained that I was "training" them. Anyway these same kids live around Kate's office, and they came up when we broght the boats back in, along with the 10 other people who stopped what they were doing to stare at us.

I let them sit in the boats, then Kate put them to work while we cleared boxes out of our container. The continer is full of packing peanuts that leaked out of bags we used for cushions. The little kids could reach in places we couldn't get to and pick them up. I explained to Kate that this is why they used to use kids down in the mines. They are limber, they don't use much air, and they can get into spots we can't get to. We sent them home with the extra coconuts because between the coconut, and the 120 degree temperature in the container I was ready to call it a day.I'll give them a ride next time.

I forgot what the ultimate truth of the day was, sorry….

Monday, September 14, 2009

Release Date 9/12/2009

Release Date 9/12/2009

I released this message in Kavieng Harbor while kayaking. Kate and I went for our maiden kayak voyage in PNG.

We paddled out into the harbor and met these kids who were paddling a large outrigger canoe. They were clowning around standing up and stuff, and I think making fun of us. I was going to race them, but they had too much of a headstart.

We went over to look at the house we wanted to rent on Nusa Island. It seems the owners daughter is in it now, so it doesn’t look like that will work out. The house looks ok, but it is in a great spot bordering the channel between the 2 islands. You can see the surf break and the open ocean from the shore where I would build our veranda, which would double as a cigar and beer dispensary. I think we are just torturing ourselves looking at it…

We then got caught in a tremendous rainstorm, it had been drizzling all afternoon, but it really came down. It was the first time I have been cold in this country. There was even a bit of lightening, so we hung-out on the shore waiting for it to stop, or at least slow down. In addition to no warm clothes we also didn’t have any lights. It was just like a trip on the Hudson, without the box wine.

On the way back in we saw a large turtle. This is only about 300 yards from where the guy was butchering and eating the turtle last week, so we encouraged the turtle to go somewhere else.

I went out again on 9/13/2009 and saw all kinds of fish, including I think small frigate tuna jumping near the shore, and yet another large turtle. At one point a big fish slammed into the back of the boat. I think he might have been stunned, since I saw him bobbing near the surface, but he swam away before I could repeat my hand grab move that won me fame and fortune on Japanese TV a few years ago.

It was fairly windy, as I went out past Nago island. This looks like another good place for fishing and diving. There seems to be a large reef that goes on for almost a mile in not too deep water.

We are getting ready to take a trip to Australia on the 17th for 1 week. Last night I had a dream about eating a hamburger, and I don’t really even like hamburgers!!

It has been very busy because a lot of people from Kate’s organization up in the highlands have been in town for some terrestrial projects they are going to do on New Ireland, and the surrounding islands. The house across the street and our house were totally full of these visitors. We met a lot of nice people, but I’m looking forward to things quieting down.

We had a big BBQ the other night for them. They don’t use charcoal here, you just dig up the yard, and cook over wood. You don’t have to worry about messing up the grass because everything grows really really fast. It rains all the time, and the soil looks like potting soil.

We borrowed a “grill” from the neighbors. Instead of a grill they use a giant flat piece of metal on legs like a square frying pan. They then toss the food and oil onto it. You are supposed to wrap it in foil first, which nobody told me, so I spent an hour the next day trying to get the burned junk off of it. I included a picture. You can see one of the bomb casings in the background that I pressed into service as an alternate grill with a grate for some fish.

Somebody told Kate they sell firewood at the prison, so she went over there and got the prisoners to chop up a bunch of it. The prison seems to have pretty loose security. One day we saw a road crew cutting bush. Imagine 50 guys in their underwear with no shoes, each armed with a giant machete (they call them “bush knives” here). I think that’s why Kate wanted to go over there to buy the wood, and I have instituted a strict no more going to the prison rule.

I’m also including a picture of our adopted dog named Stinky. He is very friendly, but worthless as a watchdog, and yes he does stink.

Truth: There’s always something to do.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Release Date 9/5/2009

I released this message off of the coast of New Hanover. This is a large island about 20 miles north of New Ireland where we are living. I went up here for the day with a survey team from Kate’s organization. They are going to be doing a terrestrial survey for a few weeks here, and I just went along for the ride.

On the way back we did a lot of fishing. We caught: 3 frigate tuna, 1 large mackerel, 2 crevellie, 2 barracuda, and one rainbow runner. Most of the people here, including the guy I was with, fish with handlines. We just trolled, sometimes at 15 MPH or more from the boat. For the tuna we watched the birds feeding on baitfish the tuna drove up, for the others we just went along the reef edge.

On the way back we stopped a very cool little island that is inhabited by 2 eagles who live in a nest on the top of the tree. The island is tiny, about 30 yards in diameter. It is fairly close to Kavieng, and hopefully we can get permission and camp on it sometime. See the pictures of the nest behind my head, and the island from a distance.

We will be able to kayak there soon because… Our container finally arrived. It was delivered last week. We haven’t been able to unpack very much of it because Kate has a big group here from another part of the country for a huge meeting, and there is no room in our house, and no time.

I did manage to get my bike out, but now I can’t find the pedals, so I still can’t use it. I’m pretty sure they are in a large cooler, but I need a lot of time to unpack deep enough to get to it.

Earlier in the week we saw some people that had caught a turtle for food. I wanted to buy it from them, and set it free. Unfortunately by the time we found it, they had already cut it up. We took a tissue sample in case Kate is able to get some other turtle researchers interested in studying them here. This is the 4th one I have seen, so there must be a lot of them around, but the researchers better hurry because the people are hungry, and the turtles are very tasty.

Truth: It's going to rain sometime.