Usually when I travel on Public Motor Vehicles (PMVs) along the highways between provinces, I get to have drinks like kulau, soft drinks, water and even coffee at stops. For coffee, most often, it is served in a household ceramic cup and you drink from it. Once finished, the cup is returned to the owner before you leave and continue on your journey.
However, this time, as I travelled from Lae in Morobe Province to Goroka Eastern Highlands Province by PMV, I found an unexpected coffee encounter. We took off at around 5pm from Lae and by 7pm we were already past the Markham Valley and heading up the Kassam Pass – the gateway to the Highlands region of Papua New Guinea. We drove past the famous Yang Creek and once we reached Yonki Dam, we were knew we were already in Eastern Highlands Province territory as the air temperature began to drop. I had already began regretting my choice of wearing just a single shirt.
Yonki Dam, constructed in 1991, is located in the Arona Valley adjacent to the township of Yonki and generates around 18 megawatts of electricity to Morobe, Madang and Eastern Highlands provinces respectively. As the PMV zigzagged its way up the highway, we came to a stop just past the dam. It is a small roadside market with vendors selling items such as food, drinks, fruits, betelnuts, cigarettes, etc. Amongst all the usual items sold, I was pleasantly surprised to see a roadside vendor selling hot coffee in disposable paper cups with lids.
I paid K2.00 and the male vendor, who had a urn already filled with hot water, filled my cup, stirred the liquid and put the lid on . It wasn’t premium highlands coffee but the cheaper 3-in-1 ones that comes in sachets. It didn’t matter to me. The hot sweet coffee went easily down my throat and warmed by already cold hands.
It’s not something you see often on roadside markets along highways in PNG but I guess it’s all about stepping up and making the hustle cost effective and customer oriented. I never got to ask him about the cups as we only stopped for a few minutes before we took off again. I drank from a paper cup with a lid and as the bus took off, I held the cup and took sips from it until we reach Kainantu township.
If you ever travel along the highlands highway and stop at the Yonki Dam market, please purchase a K2.00 cup coffee and make the informal sector keep money in the pockets pf ordinary folks in Yonki!