After the yellow faced dancers it’s time for another picnic lunch
We drive off to our lunch spot. On the way we pass several groups of young men sitting by the roadside, playing cards, some drinking and most smoking the ever present pot. They look like trouble.
Alice says they are.
They have nothing to do with their lives, Alice says. They are the result of people having too many children. When a man has many wives he tends to have many children. School is not free and is in fact quite expensive for Hulis who make little money. Most fathers can only afford to send one, or maybe two children to school. The rest remain uneducated, unemployable, and are rejecting the tribal culture of working the land. They spend their days drinking, smoking and getting into trouble. It is a sad state of affairs for a proud tribe, and as the new world envelopes them it will become a much bigger problem.
We pull in to a small unofficial parking lot by the side of the road. There are a couple of stalls there selling not very much. There is a large crowd of unemployed young men just hanging out. For the first time since leaving Port Moresby we don’t feel comfortable
We take the picnic and walk across a couple of fields to a hut used by a local family. It is similar to the one which we had lunch in yesterday at the local hotel. But this one is a lot nicer having open windows all the way round. The toilet is another story and one that my sense of decorum will not allow me to describe. Even the women will not go in this one. There’s a lot of pissing about in the bushes.
It is not exciting, but for a picnic in the middle of PNG, it is way better than we have a right to expect. Cold fried tuna patties, which may sound nice, but are not. Cold fried vegetable patties that don’t sound nice but are, and various salads. Salads have been an unexpected surprise everywhere in PNG. They come with every meal and are delicious with all sorts of really fresh crisp greens, some of which we know, others we don’t, plus plenty of cucumbers and tomatoes. This really is a land of plenty when it comes to vegetables.
Our next stop, is another small village where we will see how the men live.
The family who own this plot of land have obviously been there for a long time, and are a large family. It is a big contrast to Alice’s. Here everything is manicured and carefully laid out. Almost all of the land is being used for growing vegetables, and there are beautifully kept paths between the different gardens.
The men’s hut is carefully separated from the rest of the land by mud walls which enclose an area of grass and the hut itself.
There are two small gates in the walls, one leading out of the compound and one leading into it. Women are not allowed within these walls. However Nellie and Colette are allowed in because they are foreigners and have no significance at all in the eyes of the Huli men. Nellie and Colette are on the verge of being offended until I point out that the alternative is living with the pigs
The men’s hut houses about six men. It is just one room, and extremely small and dark. We are invited in to see it. We have to bend low to get through the door. The usual fire is burning in the middle of the floor and the hut is full of smoke. It is also full of us. There is no room to move. As our eyes become accustomed to the gloom, we can see that the women may live with the pigs, but the men live like pigs. It is a mess.
House keeping has its place, but this obviously is not it.
Nellie takes one peek from outside and refuses to go in.
He welcomes us and gives a little speech which the guides translate. He proudly invites us to take photos. There is little to photograph, and nothing that House and Gardens would be interested in. But it seems rude not to.
Outside in the area around the men’s hut, a few of the men have gathered to meet us. They have bows and arrows with them. The bow and arrow is their main weapon and is used for hunting and fighting. The chief smiles as he tells us how much more civilised their tribal fights are than ours, because they do not have guns. The concept of killing someone with a bow and arrow being more civilised than shooting them with a gun is a new one to me, but I am his guest and decide it would be rude to argue the point.
The men ask us if we would like to see how skilled they are with the bow and arrow. Reluctant to refuse them their bragging rights, we say we would.
They take us through to the gardens. There is a broken trunk of a banana palm in the middle of the field. It is quite narrow and maybe sixty yards away. It is to be their target. One of the men takes charge of the demonstration. He clearly relishes the limelight and with a great many theatrical flourishes, smiles and snarls, show us how to fire the weapon. He then takes aim at the banana trunk and fires.
Much to his amazement the arrow misses its mark. Close but no banana. He tries again. He misses again. The chief gives him a look that clearly expresses his disappointment in the man. If looks could kill, this definitely found its mark.
The chief snatches the bow away, picks up another arrow and with a fierce sounding cry launches himself off the ground while firing. It is an impressive sight. If I had been the enemy I would have fled. The arrow not only hits the tree, but penetrates at least a foot into it. The chief turns to us with a look that clearly says “and that is why I am the chief and this other man is doing the play acting”
It is my turn. I pull the string back and realise why no one can shoot the arrow very far. The string is extremely taught and hard to pull back. I am determined to improve on the other two. I pull the string back as far as I can, and let go. The string hits the wrist of my other hand inflicting a certain amount of pain and the arrow drops to the floor at my feet.
It has been a fascinating day, and I have spent most of it keeping the Huli men laughing.
Time to return to the hotel!