Enjoying the process in the work

Life in the village, especially those in rural and remote settings, can be a fun place to visit especially for tourists or for people who just come for the holidays. But for people who live there, it can be a struggle at times. Apart from poor access issues to good social services like heath, education and communication, villagers in Manus still have to struggle to get by. Most often, you have to physically exert yourself so that the basic needs of life can be satisfied.

Take for example, having fish to eat to supplement your diet of mostly carbohydrates such as cassava, sago, sweet potato, bananas, yams, taro and a little bit of greens . The process starts with making a canoe and goes through many stages before a canoe is finished and ready for sailing over the sea to the place where you can catch fish. It can take days, weeks or months to even select, carve, tighten, fix, pull and put together a decent canoe fit enough to pass over water.

Carving a canoe in the inland of Manus Island
My brother uses a hacking tool to chip away at the hull of the canoe

But to say that going through the process of making a canoe is tiring and difficult in order to catch a fish, even true? I guess it depends on the way you look at it. Some people enjoy the life that comes with the process of doing things. It may take several days or months but it may not be the work at all that is important when making the canoe. It is family connections, the tea drinking, the long stories in between, the learning that takes place, etc. All these things happen as the process of work i.e. making a canoe takes place.

Shaping a canoe at the beginning in the bushes of Kurti language group area in Manus Province.
Its a work in progress but something he enjoys doing

My small brother has been shaping a canoe from a tree he felled behind the house. This tree is very light but durable. Its easy to carve but it is taking time to develop. I sit beside him and talk to him while he works – asking questions about why he is doing this, how he intends to bring it down to the seaside since we are up on the mountains. He chats while his mind is on the work. He stops, looks at the angles, then continues chipping away. He uses an axe and then uses a hacking tool like a chisel but circular. Both are metal tools but represent what our people in the past have used to carve the canoe. We are both near a creek as he continues doing his work. He will shape the canoe and then after a few weeks, he will, with a group of his friends or family carry this down to the beach. It is around two hours walk down to the coast. Once there he will continue further shaping it, put the outrigger and carve the paddles.

Kingston Namun on Manus Island
Why not a selfie while at work!

Life is in the process. We work but we also have to find enjoyment in the work that we do. Otherwise what is the point of grinding away at work while we loose ourselves in the process?

Message in a bottle: From the Bismarck Sea to the Solomon Sea!

Around December in 2004, I had boarded a Lutheran Shipping vessel from Lae and travelled to Manus. I am not sure which ship it was but it definitely was either MV Manemba or MV Umboi which I am sure many people who travel by ship know. From Lae, Morobe Province, it takes one full day and two nights on the open sea before we land in Loregnau town, Manus Province. As is the custom when travelling on long trips over the sea, we take lots of fresh fruits, home cooked meals and lots of water to keep our stay on these cargo ships as homely as possible.

Anyway, we left the Lae port, Voco Point, at around 5pm and began the journey. By 10pm people like myself were already sound asleep. I woke up at around 5am to the sound of the sailors pulling in yellow fin tuna and mackerel. During the day I had nothing to do but play cards and tell stories with whoever I met on the ship. Besides, the majority of people on the ship were Manusians so it wasn’t hard finding people who liked to talk…lol

At around midday, we were heading full steam ahead. The sea was calm, the wind was slight and as far as the eye could see, there was no sign of land in all directions. After I had eaten salty biscuits and drunk a 500ml coca cola, I decided to try sending a letter in a bottle. I think I was inspired by a story that in the 1700s, a Japanese crew of 44, were shipwrecked and marooned on a small Island in the South Pacific. The captain scratched details of their story and fate onto chips of wood and put them into a bottle. The bottle was found 150 years later on the shoreline of Japan, reportedly, close to where the sailors had grew up.

Well I wrote my name and postal address on the white label of the Coca Cola bottle and said that whoever found it should write to me. In the middle of the Bismarck Sea, I threw the plastic bottle with the small note inside. I went home for the holidays in Manus then came back to Lae. It was the year 2005 and I was working away when early in March that year, I received a letter. And here is the exact letter that was written….

The letter that I received in Lae Post Office in 2005.
The actual letter from Andrew in Poroporo village
This pink line and then the white line respresent how I believe the plastic bottle travelled in the middle of the Bismarck Sea to the Solomon Sea to reach Poroporo village.


The coke plastic bottle with my note inside had reached Poroporo village at the tip of the Choiseul Province in the Solomon Islands. It had gone international! WOW!!!!

It was picked up by a Mr. Andrew Silukana of Poroporo village just across the Papua New Guinea border! It had taken almost two months from when I first threw the bottle in the middle of the Bismarck to when Andrew picked it up in his village. I don’t know how it travelled there but my assumption is that it must have travelled past the gap between Manus and New Ireland or between East New Britain and New Ireland and then the strong tides of the Pacific Ocean travelling south must have pushed it down past the Autonomous Region of Bougainville right through to the tip of Choiseul province where Poroporo village is.
On that same day I quickly wrote a letter back to him on the address he had provided. But sadly, to this day I haven’t received a reply.

Em tasol!

Sago beating: An example of a timeless innovation at work

In the Kurti language group area of Manus Province, producing sago is hard work. This is because it involves numerous processes, each containing smaller activities requiring the use of skills, innovation and utilizing available resources. Take for example, the first process which is the cutting down of the sago palm tree. You first have to identify the tree, make sure it has matured, then decide where the sago tree will fall when cut. This is important because failure to place it correctly will mean the tree palm tree falls and breaks into several pieces. It doesn’t break off but the outer shell covering is broken making it very difficult to remove the outer covering of the palm tree. Even when you are actually beating the sago, the sago pulp will fall through the crack and be lost. Losing sago means loosing food. Even the crown of the fallen tree must be intact as some of it’s parts will be used to create the basin for washing the sago. This is only the first part of the other processes that need to be done but you can already see the type of work that must be done to make sure the work of producing sago is easier to manage.

In the Kurti language group area of Manus Province, the men stand upright alongside the fallen sago palm and beat the sago with the wooden bow.

Some of the processes involve men and some processes are for women. For example, after the sago tree is felled, the outer hard bark like covering of the sago palm must be removed with an iron digging bar. It requires that a man must be physically strong to handle and maneuver the steel bar and must be experienced enough to plow the outer bark off. Meanwhile another process is that of the sharpening of a bamboo piece to put at the end of the sago beating bow. In this process, a man must go into the bush, look for right bamboos, cut them and bring them back to the place where the fallen sago is.  He must sharpen the bamboo and place it on the end of the wooden tool used to beat the sago. Even the intricate part of sharpening the bamboo takes time and skill to master the right edge required for beating the sago. Another process is that actual sago beating. One must stand beside the sago and swing the wooden bow to ‘beat’ the sago flesh into pulp. Improper stance will make a person swing the wooden sago beating bow awkwardly resulting in the bamboo piece breaking. Striking the sago with the bow is a repeated process so one must adjust themselves into a stance that enables them to strike in a rhythmic cycle. Then men pack the fine pulp into bags and then bring them to where the women will be washing the sago. This is just three processes so far for the men.

Some of the processes involve women. The women also have their own work cut out for them. They have to manually build a filtration system using some parts of the crown of the the sago palm, matting of the sago palm, maybe some pieces of a mosquito net and sago leaves. The decanting part of the sago washing system needs to be a place where the water for the washed sago is captured. This may include a dugout canoe or a collection tray made up of canvas. After the decanting process is done, the sago is placed into bags and placed on a stand to allow more water to drain out. Then the fresh sago is taken to the house and fried to eat. These numerous processes take place each day until the whole sago palm has been beaten.

In my view there should be around 5-7 different processes that are carried out to make sure a sago production is effectively carried out. Here is my list: 1) Identification of matured sago palm tree and cutting down 2) Removing outer shell/bark of sago using a digging bar 3) Collecting and sharpening of bamboo 4) beating the sago 5) cutting and packing the sago and transporting sago to wash area 6. Washing the sago using a filtration and decanting system 7. Packing and transporting sago bags home.

Although it seems like hard work, it is essentially a show of basic innovation on display. You see, the numerous process all use bits and pieces of the objects found in the natural environment. The individual objects have been picked out from the bush, trialed and practiced over many decades and have proven to be reliable in getting the job done. Our ancestors have used these to innovative practices to develop a system of processes that work together to produce sago. I have done this video to only show the beating sago (Process part 4) where the bow is used to beat the sago. In the Kurti language group area, the men beat the sago and the women wash the sago. This short video explains and shows the process of beating sago done by men. It does not show the next process where women wash the sago. I hope I can be able to record all the steps to develop a longer more informative video. In the meantime, here is a video of myself and my male relatives beating the sago.    

Tranquil island, resilient people: The Nyapio islanders of Manus

Manus Province is around 2, 100 square kilometers in land area and amongst its vast open 220,00 square kilometer seas, lie many islands, some inhabited and others, not. While some of these islands are large and can sustain multiple villagers like Lou, Rambutso, Pak and Baluan; others like Nyapio island are so small no one would think Manusians lived on them. Nyapio island, more popularly known as Johnston Island, today, has fourteen (14) households. It also has a population of just under 50 or so people who call this remote island their home.

A young men fishing on his small canoe in front of Nyapio island
The beach in front of the community guest house
A young boys walks in the ‘main street’ of the village which is only roughly 100 meters long.
A typical Nyapio island house

The island, on the south coast of Manus is part of Ward 6 of the POBUMA local level government area.  Nyapio is around a kilometer long, around 400 meters wide and has sparse vegetation. These Titan language speaking people do not have a trade store, a school or an aidpost on the island. Their livelihood and major source of income is fishing. They fish from the sea and then sell their catch to villages along mainland Manus or to Lorengau for cash. Other times they exchange fish with the Lou islanders for fresh vegetables. On the island, they have coconuts, banana, pawpaw, taro and very few sago trees but apart from that there are not too many food crops. The island is just three to four metes above sea level and even water is scarce on this island. When the seasonal trade winds become harsh, food from the sea becomes even harder to find making hunger a real issue at times.

The Nyapio sail on outrigger canoes to mainland Manus or the surrounding islands of M’buke, Lou or Baluan. They even sail to the nearest health service provider at Patu Health Centre on the mainland of Manus, some two to four hours away. One person I talked to explained that once, he had to take two children who were very sick most probably with Malaria, with their mothers, and sail on his outrigger canoe all the way to Lorengau town. They begun the journey in the middle of the night using the stars as their guide. All along the journey, the mothers kept keeping a cold press on the children’s bodies just to keep their fever at bay for that three hour journey on the high open seas. They arrived in Lorengau, just as daylight broke out.      

While their story seems sad and difficult, it is what makes them resilient in the face of constant hardship and continued difficulties. I usually write on my blog lopoki.com about community initiatives in Manus. So I was pleasantly surprised when I was invited by the community in September to come see a small project they had started early this year. It was there that I saw a resilient community at work. You see, being resilient means that when everything seems to be going wrong or difficult, strong people emerge and stand up to provide solutions to the problems faced by their communities.

The Nyapio people are a resilient people. Firstly, they sat down and thought long and hard about how they could solve some of their community problems. They knew that the island would, in its simplest and mundane form, still provide the solution. Then, the leaders decided to build a community based resort of sorts that would provide a means of an income to support their livelihood on the island. Together, they had this understanding that through such an enterprise, much more would come and eventually a school or an aidpost would become viable on their little island. In that way, they wouldn’t have to send their kids away to the mainlaind of Manus for months on end to gain basic education or sail the high open seas just to have access to life saving medication.

The young elite of the village, who live in Port Moresby, supported this move and began by chipping in cash and kind. Around ten young men on the island eventually built two bungalows – one completed using traditional materials like wood, sago leaves, bamboo thatched walls, etc while the other, still to complete, had a roofing iron. They are also building a septic toilet and shower room too. They sourced the raw materials from mainland Manus and shipped the rest of the materials from Lorengau. The community resort is 10 minutes away from the main village.

One of the two beach side bungalows being constructed.
The two beachside bungalows nestled quietly among the trees, sand and sea.

In November, through my small not-for-profit non government organization called Lopoki Inc, I organized a three day Basic House Keeping training for ten (10) of the locals. The Nyapio Island Getaway Resort fully funded the three day training on their island. Lopoki Inc. worked in partnership with the Manus Provincial Government’s Commerce Division and the Manus Training Centre to carry out the training. The Division of Commerce through their Business Development Officer Mr. Pius Kuweh and Manus Training Centre’s Tourism and Hospitality Instructor Mr. Albert Pih were both at the island to conduct the sessions. The trainer Mr. Albert Pih focused his training on three main areas of housekeeping –  Storeroom and stock control; Accommodation and guest laundry; and Room Servicing. The training provided basic housekeeping skills to the participants and increased their knowledge and capacity to manage guests.

Mr. Pius Kuweh, in representing the Manus Provincial Government through its Commerce Division, officially opened the training program.
Trainer Mr. Albert Pih teaches the participants the art of preparing a clean and comfotable bed
The 10 participants listen as Mr. Pih goes through the concepts of basic housekeeping.
The participants practice folding linen correctly.
Mr. Pih goes through the methods of hanging and removing, folding and using the clothes line as a tool to help in managing linen and clothes.
The participants practice full room servicing and the results are amazing!
The ten participants receive their certificates of participation. Mr. Albert Pih (far right), Mr. Pius Kuweh (left) and Mr. Kingston Namun (far left) look on.

I can already see that the community has already taken the initiative to build two semi-permanent buildings housing four rooms for around eight (8) guests when they visit the community based resort. The Nyapio islanders have proven that they want to bring change to their community and so they worked with Lopoki Inc. to ensure this training occurred. The very fact that they do not have an aidpost or even an elementary school speaks volumes about the hardship that they have had to go through all these years. It is inspiring to see the islanders stand on their own two feet and build something that will sustain them as a community.

If you want to visit Nyapio Island Getaway Resort, please visit the website: https://nyapioislandgetawayresort.com/ for more information. You won’t regret your decision to visit. If you do visit, please commit yourself to give something back to the island with a program or session while you are there through your passion, education and work so that greater cultural learning is mutual.

Getting from the provincial township of Lorengau to Nyapio island (Johnston islands)

Ends//

Lopoki Inc. training receives essential coverage on national television

Lopoki Inc. recently completed the Basic Housekeeping training a Nyapio Island in Manus Province so we were pleased to see that the mass media give us some coverage.

Although the television coverage was less than four minutes, we take courage in the fact that the training on Nyapio was put on national TV. This, itself, provided us the footprint to follow in future dealings with the media and improve our messaging as well. Our news on the training appeared on two national TV stations at their respective nightly news bulletin.

The first one was on EMTV News on the 28th November, 2021 while the second time for the same story appeared was on the NBC News on 7th December, 2021. Here are the respective news stories:

We’d like to thank Mr. Bradley Valenaki of EMTV and Ms. Sinivar Kasimani and Mr. Cashmir Waken of NBC for taking their time to put the story together and air it on their respective television stations.

It is the very first television news for Lopoki Inc. and its a small step for us as we begin to initiate and create contacts in the media industry here in Papua New Guinea. We hope to work with the mass media more to promote the work of Lopoki Inc. and eventually reach those who are willing to support our work across local communities.

Whuroh!!

Free online advertising for Lorengau based very small businesses

If you are a very small business or community organisation (one to three people operated) in Lorengau town, Manus Province and want to advertise your service or event, then Lopoki Inc. can help spread the word online.

Just do your small and simple advertisment as a photo and send it to Lopoki Inc. so we can place it on our blog for FREE for three months. After that we will take your advert down and you don’t have to pay anything at all. It’s part of our community program in helping Manusians be better versions of themselves.

Not too many people visit our blog but its worth a try getting your work, service or event out there. It’s free so you win and we win by getting people to visit our website. There is no guarantee that your advertisement will be sucessful on our blog but it is better than nothing at all.

Send your artwork/photo to lopoki2020@gmail.com

You can go to our blog lopoki.com and see the current adverts on the righthand side (if you are using a computer) or at the bottom of the page (if you are using a mobile phone).

We are putting up only FIVE SPACES on our blog so first come first serve. Once five adverts go up on our blog, then we will not be accepting any more.

Whuroh!

Ps. We are not helping anyone develop their advert. It’s a skill you should develop to market yourself as a small business or community organisation. Here is a tip: You can do your advert on MS PowerPoint on your computer then save it as a picture (jpeg). Then send the picture file to us.

A very small business or club or group or faith based or family based in Lorengau is most welcome to use this opportunity.

Home is where the heart belongs

Sometimes when we think about rural areas, we often imagine the hardships and difficulties faced by those who live in these places. There is often no reliable communication and energy infrastructure and very poor public utilities like roads and transport. Those who live in these rural areas often fall back and rely on the resource that is around them – land, water, sea – to sustain them. The natural environment is pristine in many areas as in the case of Manus province. However, there are rising social pressures that are beginning to have an impact on the reliability and the sustainability of the land, water and sea. This includes a growing population which has led to overfishing, increasing deforestation and encroachment onto places where once were idle in many parts of Manus.

Care should be taken to not trivialize or sensationalize life in the rural setting. It is home. It is where many Papua New Guineans first lived, grew up and become part of great communities. Communities that had intricate knowledge of how the land, water and sea worked and where they would dwell. These are places where fresh air, clean water and seas filled with coral still abound and make life meaningful. Like the principle of ‘Opportunity Cost’ in economics, we have to be reminded that one has to give up something in order to get a benefit from another. We all make choices. Opportunity cost is what one sacrifices when they choose one option over another. Many have been drawn to a better life outside of these rural communities in search for opportunities in education, health care access and places where public utilities function better. In turn, the cost is that they miss the rural life, interacting with relatives and living in the village. But when one is far away from the rural areas, one should never forget home. Home is where the heart belongs. Some may come back to these rural areas to live but others may never come back home. Life is such a rollercoaster of turns and events. But one must know that your heart will always have a place here.  

Lopoki Inc created this video to remind those who live far away from their village, land or community that their heart will always be at home. This video depicts the life of people and places in the Liap and Derimbat vilages in the Kurti Langguage group area in the Pomotu Ndrehet Kurti Andrea (PNKA) Local Level Government area in Manus.

Enjoy!

Local Manus rubber farmer perseveres to make an honest living.

In the last Papua New Guinea census in 2011, a total of 7.2 million persons were enumerated in 1.3 million citizen households in the country. This gives an average household size of around 5.5 persons per household. Manus province had a population of 60,480 people with 10,360 households but now ten years has passed since and the population would have certainly grown. According to the 2021 National Budget Volume 1 document, COVID-19 had an impact on the PNG economy in 2020 leading to a job loss of 35% and both the private and the public sectors, including the agriculture sector, declined by 12%. However, farmers all around the country have not given up with major strides taken in industries relating to Cocoa, Coffee, Vanilla, etc. Rubber has been one such industry that has gone through a lot and has still maintained a stronghold as a key cash crop in PNG’s economy. Published research by Hirohata (2017) point out that natural rubber has had a long history in Papua New Guinea since the early 1900s because the rubber tree, Hevea brasiliensis has been planted here since 1903. There are two Technically Specific Rubber (TSR 10) factories in the country, one natural rubber estate in Doa, Central province while another, privately owned in Western Province and they export some 300,000 to 400,000 tonnes every month.

Individual farmers are doing their bit too to make sure they maintain, harvest and sell their rubber too. One such farmer is Mr. Mark Patlau, 59, of Liap village in Manus Province. Liap village is on the northern coastline of Manus and is situated in the Pomotu Ndrehet Kurti Andra (PNKA) Local Level Government area. According to the last PNG National Census in 2011, PNKA holds around 12.2% of the total Manus population of 60,480 with an average household of 6.4 people. Mr. Patlau is a humble and hardworking smallholder rubber farmer who has 500 trees on his land. Mr. Patlau, according to the Department of Agriculture and Livestock (DAL) website, is one of around 60,000 rubber farmers growing rubber in eight provinces in the country. These include Central, Gulf, New Ireland, Manus, Oro, Western, East Sepik and Sandaun provinces respectively.

Mr. Mark Patlau standing amongst his 500 trees on his customary land in Liap village.

He first planted his rubber trees in 1987 but did not utilise this cash crop. However, in 2012, the Manus Division of Agriculture and Livestock initiated a training for 15 farmers and gave them 200 cup holders each and a tapping knife. Using this, he begun harvesting his rubber trees. He explained that it took around 2 hours for the latex to collect in each cup. He harvests what scientists call as a natural rubber polymer known as ‘cup lump’ rubber. Cup lump is a coagulated rubber that is produced when the latex is left uncollected and allowed to coagulate under bacterial action. Once collected, he stores the rubber in the plantation area. He cannot take it home as the smell emanating from the latex is foul, like rotten fish.

He is making sure the latex falls into the cup correctly.
Mark Patlau stands besides his multiple rubber trees.
The latex seeps from the freshly cut tree into the cup

After a few weeks, he collects all the rubber that has dried and carries them from his plantation back to his house. It is rigorous work carrying the harvested rubber from the plantation area to home as he has to go back and forth multiple times carrying heavy sacks. His family and extended family provide a helping hand. His first harvest in 2012 was 50 kilograms and then over subsequent years his harvests grew. He has never looked back, with his minimum of 120 kg and maximum of 360kg harvests since. He always transports the cup lump rubber to Lorengau where he sells it at the Manus Division of Agriculture and Livestock at Tamat for K3 per kilogram.

Mark Patlau (right side with orange vest) together with his nephew Ari Longowei, showcase the rubber they have harvested from his plantation and brought back to store at his house before taking it to Lorengau.
Mark Patlau shows two samples of the rubber he has harvested, dried and ready for sale in Lorengau
Mark Patlau with family showing the harvested rubber

It hasn’t been an easy job harvesting the rubber for this father of six children but this year he has gone to another level. This year, Mr. Patlau and his nephew Mr. Ari Longowei, 35, spent three months harvesting close to two (2) tonnes of latex from 300 of his 500 trees. He couldn’t harvest from all his trees due to the shortage of cups. It is a mean feat considering it was only a two men operation. But the journey is not complete as he now has to bring the rubber to Lorengau town to sell. While Mr. Patlau continues this labour intensive work, his challenges are even greater. Most problematic has been the lack of cups in the province to capture the latex and secondly, high transportation costs when he has to bring his rubber to Lorengau town to sell. He has to hire a boat to transport his rubber to town, further digging into his costs. At the national level, rubber nursery development has been allocated K1 million under the 2021 National Budget but that money has not trickled down to farmers like Mr. Patlau in Manus. Even to make matters worse, earlier this year, money meant for Agriculture in PNG was squandered such as the recent revelation in the mass media that K22.7 million that was misused.

While rubber is a viable crop for farmers in PNG, in my opinion, there needs to be more government funding allocated to finance rubber nurseries, processing infrastructure developed or provided to small holder farmers, extension efforts improved and maybe small loan programs initiated to assist framers establish proper rubber blocks on their customary land. Only then can smallholder farmers living in rural areas like Mr. Patlau truly experience the true value of their work, add cash flow to the local economy and support their families as well.

Ends//

Ps. The story was published in The National newspaper on 7th January 2022.

Need to reduce work related stress? An unforgettable two days on Nyapio island can do the trick

Suppose you have been working for a number of years and your now routine life activities are beginning to eat at your happiness. Or maybe you just want a little bit of adventure or even something different for a few days. Do you feel you should take a few days off your normal routine and repeated activities? Then Nyapio Island Getaway Resort is surely the best therapy for you. Just a few days on this island oasis would have you feeling good all over. Since I regularly write about community initiatives in Manus for my blog lopoki.com, the Nyapio community invited me to visit their new village style Resort initative and, along with their guests, experience what the Resort had to offer. So on 16th September, I made the trip from Lorengau to their island. All I can say is that it is truly one of the best places you will ever set foot on in Manus Province, Papua New Guinea.

Nyapio Island Getaway Resort is located on the south coast of Manus Province. Nyapio and other surrounding smaller islands are most widely known as the Johnston islands and are a rural and remote group of islands in the Pobuma Local Level Government (LLG) area. It is roughly two hours by outboard motor from the provincial capital, Lorengau. You have to travel north over the sea from Lorengau town, go through the Loniu waterway passage, then under the famous Loniu bridge, hit the open seas past Lawes village and then set the course straight past N’dropwa island and after a few minutes further south, Nyapio island emerges from the edge of the sea. We took this route on the 16th of September from Lorengau around 4.30pm and arrived in the afternoon at roughly around 6pm.

Passing through the Loniu passage onto the south coast of Manus
Arriving at Nyapio after the two hour boat ride from Lorengau town
First time ever to touch down on Nyapio island aka Johnston Island.

We were welcomed by the sound of a lone wooden garamut as we neared the shoreline. When we landed, the community came to welcome us. We quickly sorted our baggage and moved them to the bungalow accommodation just a few meters from the seashore. We then took a bath with fresh water to rinse sea salt from our body and clothes. Then dinner came in hot and hearty. There were multiple varieties of fish, mashed cassava, sago infused with sea shell meat, greens, bananas and sweet potatoes. We topped it off with tea while the local clan leaders spoke and welcomed us as guests to the Resort.

Dinner is served!
Some of the yummy island delicacies! The sliver tray in front is sago immersed with meat from seashells! Just too good!

We then moved to the bungalow, sorted our clothes and things. There are two bungalows with one fully complete. The next one was under construction and had iron roofing. The completed bungalow is made from traditional house materials of wood, sago leaves and cane thatched blinds. The flooring has a mat and the windows have flywire screens. It is spacious around 3 meters by 3 meters and the interior roofing is high forming an apex in the middle of the house. One bungalow has two rooms and each room had two single beds, each with comfortable mattresses, clean sheets and pillows. The cool evening breeze lulled us into submission and by 9pm or 10pm we were already sound asleep.

Our bungalows. This bungalow has two rooms and each room as two beds.

 In the morning, we had breakfast, similar to what we had the night before, but this time we had baked buns, fried bananas and pawpaw slices too. The plan was that we would go fishing and then visit one of the islands nearby. With a boat skipper, two crew and us, the guests, we set off onto the open sea on a 40 horse powered engine. Since I lived in the hinterlands of Manus, this was an opportunity for me to fish. Alas, my inexperienced hands only landed one small fish but I was too proud nonetheless.

Richard with his catch!
Its a tiny fish but I’m over the moon!
Island hopping after the trawling session. This is Kalopa island
Majestic views from the top! Standing on the hill of Kalopa island and looking west back to Nyapio island. M’buke island is further back of Nyapio
Standing at the top of Kalopa and looking towards the east where Lou island stands proud in the distance.
The waters surrounding Kalopa are just amazing!
Skillful Master: As we near Nyapio, one of the islanders is fishing in the deep sea, straddling his legs aside the canoe to balance himself while pulling in the fish.

We then circled back and approached one of the island just next to Nyapio – Kalopa. The waters leading towards the island are just as clean as a whistle in the rays of the midday sunlight. We landed at the beach and then decided to climb the hard rocks to reach the summit roughly 20 meters above sea level. We sat down for a few minutes and looked back to the main island Nyapio. M’buke island was further to the west while at our back, in the distant sea, were the islands of Baluan and Lou. Many of the islands on the south coast of Manus are very far from mainland Manus in comparison to the islands on the north coast of Manus which are very close to the mainland Manus. So for the Johnston islanders, travelling to the mainland of Manus is too far so their main trading partners are the two islands on the east. When in need, they usually catch a bountiful of fish and exchange these for baskets of fruits and vegetables from the Lou and Baluan islanders. It must be also noted that Nypio island is one of the last islands of Manus where human population reside before you travel across provincial maritime borders on the high open seas to Madang or Wewak, if you happen to make that trip. After our climb, we came back down, washed in the cool waters of Kalopa, had lunch on the beach and took photos. We then went on the boat to the next island Keyoni where we picked up some ‘aleleu’ fresh off the tree. The ‘aleleu’, as a typical greens would be used together with our village raised chicken in our afternoon meal. We then left Keyoni, went past the back of Nyopio and arrived back to the front of the island where our accommodation was.  

A lovely parrot rests on my head
Two of the guests Mr. Richard Mark from Abus na Kumu and Mr. Richard Dellman from Advantage (PNG) share tips on the use of automatic SRL cameras

In the afternoon, one of the other guests Mr. Richard Mark, who is the founder of the business called Abus na Kumu, decided to run a practical workshop for the women involved in the Resort on how to prepare and cook the famous East New Britain province delicacy – the Aigir. He used local chickens and fish including vegetables and showed them every step of the process. It was the first time anyone had cooked Aigir on the small island and so the women were eager participants. He also prepared the two small fish we had caught using his signature sauce and lemon fish tray. The aroma of great food filled the kitchen area. In the evening, it was a really good meal! I practically swallowed the lemon slices together with the fish! After the day long adventure, we were so tried that we hit the sack early.

Richard prepares to heat the stones for the Aigir
The women of Nyapio chip in with the work
The team from Abus na Kumu show the finer points of preparing the Aigir while the women of Nyapio look on.
Putting all the ingredients, sweet potato, bananas, greens and chicken into the pot and putting the coconut milk in as well before covering it up.
Along with the Aigir dishes, Abus na Kumu also prepared a delicious fish receipe
A short video about what Abus na Kumu did on the island.

The next day after breakfast, we loaded up three outboard boats and headed to Al island, around 15 minutes from the main island. This time, many of the children of Nyapio came with us to go to Al island. Al island is truly a magnificent island. It is just a meter or so above the sea level and has the finest sand and clear crystal waters. The white soft sand cuts across the sea creating a sand bank that stretches almost a kilometer. It is just hard to describe its beauty and the natural calmness of this tiny strip of an island. One should visit it to understand its tranquility and majestic natural environment. There are no large trees and it seems to be in the middle of nowhere! While the others headed to see the other interesting spots on the trip such as the sea bubbles and dolphins further out to the sea, I stayed on the island to take it all in.

Absolutely beautiful sand and sea on Al
Too perfect!
The children of Nyapio place the PNG flag on the sand as we all take in the natural beauty of the island.
One could walk along the sand and be just lost in the moment!

We all arrived back at Nyapio in the afternoon and Richard Mark went to prepare roast pork for dinner. The Resort also had some of its members go diving so we would have some reef fish to eat in the evening dinner. The dinner also marked our last night on the island as we would be departing the next day. The local community was invited to share a meal with the guests. There was lots of food and during dinner, each of the guests were given an opportunity to address the men, women and children at the Resort dining area. We all talked about the wonderful place the Resort was and urged the community to support and grow the Resort into something that would assist them in the long run.

Richard Mark of Abus na Kumu preparing the pork for our last meal.
The women of Nyapio take stock of the pork and are shown how to marinate the meat
Some of the Nyapio men have gone fishing and have brought back fish to be prepared for our last meal.
My plate is just awesome! Roast pork, mashed cassava, cream rich boiled rice in coconut leaves and sago immersed with meat from sea shells.
The leaders of the community, men, women and children all gather to say ‘word of thanks’ and we respond then we all have our last meal together.
The villagers present Manus baskets to us.

After dinner, we all marched 10 minutes westwards to the edge of the Resort where there was sandbank. There, the Resort had set up and built a bonfire using logs collected on the sandbank plus coconut leaves, dried bamboo and small sticks. It was already past 7pm and we took out candy and soft drinks for the children. Then the community set the stack of wood and debris alight. Oh what a sight it was!!! The orange flames lit up the night sky and the crackling sound of dry bamboos popping filled the warm night. We all sat around the warmth of the fire and told stories with the locals until 10pm before we retired back to our rooms.

The Bonfire! Young kids all around as we all sat around the magnificent fire to tell stories late into the night.

The next morning, we took the two hour ride back to town along the route closer to the mainland of south coast Manus past Pere and M’bunai to Pamachau, Waratalai and Lawes before hitting the Loniu passage into Lorengau town where we ended our two-day trip to the newest community resort in Manus. I came here curious, with an open mind as a Manusian myself but was totally blown away about how the people of Nyapio have began this community resort project to build on their reputation as a resilient people. My next post will be about explaining the background of the Resort and what it stands to accomplish for the people of that island.

One thing to take away from this trip? One thing I believe that will make your trip more interesting would be for you, the guest, to think about something you would like to give back to the locals in terms of your passion, career or education. You can do an hour or 30-minute program or session to the local islanders in the afternoons or evenings. Abus na Kumu showed the way though its cooking sessions. You can do the same too. This is because it is a community based Resort so feel free to give back as much as you get from the experience from the island. It is a win-win situation and a greater cultural learning takes place between you and the locals of Nyapio.  

If you want to visit Nyapio and see its natural wonder, the friendly locals and experience the Mwanus way, see the website for the resort at https://nyapioislandgetawayresort.com/ and book your trip today!