East Sepik

Roads, Rivers and Markets of Maprik District

Stream & ForestRoad to Brugam
Brugam from Opposite HillsideSomething I’ve always loved about this life with MSF is how it lets me see so many towns and villages in so many parts of the world – so many ways that humanity organizes itself into social units and carries out daily life. Here in PNG there is such tremendous range cultural and social diversity that I’ve really cherished all the opportunities I’ve had to get out and see villages, meet local people and find out how they access health care, how they live, see the kids playing or running by the road, see the market ladies selling their coconuts or buai (betel nut) or onions, and so on.

Brugam from Opposite Hillside 2 This is the final entry that I will post from PNG. There are still some shots from a recent trip to Honiara in the Solomon Islands, which I might post next weekend when I expect to be in Canberra; or the next entry might have to wait until I’m back in Europe debriefing and then seeing friends and family there. It’s lovely that this last entry can show another style of roads and villages from those that you’ll see from my past visits to Tari, the peeks at the streets of Port Moresby I’ve offered you in recent years, or even the views of roads and rivers in Bougainville from late 2012. Just a month ago or so I had the chance to get out with our teams in Maprik, a town and district centre in East Sepik province – these shots are from outreach activities (health education) at the main market in Maprik town, plus a trip we did to a lovely little town (which you see, across the valley, in the shot directly above and whose streets and houses you see also in the shot below) called Brugam. I won’t say a lot more – the photos have names which tell what they are, and there’s a small gallery below in which a colleague documented me buying a nice big coconut to enjoy the coconut juice…which we’re told is nature’s perfect electrolyte drink, and certainly is a fine thirst-quencher after a day on the road. Consider this my sign-off from my dear temporary home since March 2012, good ol’ Port Moresby…

Brugam Houses…many of the rivers reminded me of streams that I’d play in with my brothers as a kid in Southern Ohio (especially the one at the very top, first in the entry), while others reminded me of streams I drove past in New Zealand with one of those brothers and my Mom, just a few months ago. Notice also how differently the houses and family compounds are set up compared to Tari — here, open yards and houses on stilts for cool and flood-protection; there, big earthen walls to create privacy and…well, I’ve never been inside a Huli home, but I’m guessing they’re on the ground since it’s plenty cool overnight up there in the highlands…
East Sepik Stream Maprik Central Market Maprik Market  Shelter Maprik Market Outreach 3 Maprik Market Outreach Crowd Mountain Vista from Road Moutains & Forest Orchids & Sky Orchids & Trumpet Flowers Riverside House Road at Brugan HC
Roadside House & Hedge Roadside House & Yard Roadside Houses & Landscape Buying Coconuts 1

Roadside Market Outreach Roadside Market Team Roadside Market

The River at Pagwi

Paddles-RiverPagwi Guesthouse Roof

A few weeks ago, I got back to East Sepik again for the first time since July of 2012. It was great to see the towns and have a sense of continuity; also great to see it through eyes that have now been around PNG a bit longer and come to understand the extent to which the arts of the Sepik region are represented all around the country. At Ambua Lodge near Tari, the dining room is full of magnificent woodwork carved by folks from Sepik. This set of photos is all from the settlements on both sides of the river at Pagwi, which so far as I can see is the first place along the course of the river, in its run from the mountains at the Indonesian-PNG border to the Bismarck Sea, where a sealed road gets to the river’s bank. The detail of roof decoration above is from a lodge I photographed at that time as well; but then I’d not seen the gorgeous close-up mask that I shared with you all back when the orchid show was happening down the road from us at the house of Parliament….which was built in the style of a House Tamburan, a men’s house for traditional ceremonies in the Sepik region, from what I understand.

It’s good I went for the orchid show and took those shots of the lovely facade of parliament house when I did, because not long after, the speaker of parliament had the lovely row of traditional masks just above the lintel taken down and (at least partly) destroyed, for religious reasons – something about idolatry, I think. This caused a bit of a kerfuffle in the local media. I remain somewhat shocked that in such a multi-cultural country, such a senior leader can get away with simply destroying something of that sort which, as I see it, represents both part of the wondrous heterogeneous cultural patrimony of this rich nation, and beautifully skilled artistic craft. This blog, it would appear, is one of the few places where one can easily see images of the original, intact facade of the lovely house of parliament. That entry, and another example of a lovely traditional larger mask like the one above can be found in these entries:


and here, though I think some of these masks have origins from other regions as well:


Back to Pagwi

Paul by Sepik 2

If you’d like to see the rainy vs dry season comparisons, go check out a few of the river shots from the entry below:


if you scan through that entry you’ll see a few shots of the same stretch of shore above and below; there’s one where many people are unloading from a boat that’s down below where I was shooting from: that spot is where the boat is in shot just below. I figure the river is a good several metres higher in these shots than last time I was here.

Dugout at Rest
Dugout Paddle-Yard-River Dugout Under House Family in Canoe Loading Back to Pagwi Marja in Boat
Pagwi Guesthouse Art 2 Pagwi GuesthousePagwi Guesthouse ArtPaul & Marja in Boat Paul & the River CrocsBosman-Croc Skull-PaulThe Croc Hunters

On the other side from Pagwi is a crocodile farm, with riverine crocodiles. Compared to the massive saltwater crocs I saw in Northern Territory two years ago, these guys look cute and cuddly. Still, I’d rather not step on one or even share the same patch of water with them! And as the wonderfully decorated skull below shows, even these freshwater guys can grow to substantial size if not captured by croc hunters like those pictured above and then sold for either meat or leather.

Decorated Croc SkullPelican at Pagwi Pelican by Guesthouse Pillar Sepik River at Pagwi Sepik Riverside House