Out There

Sepik River guest­house

Paradise - - Contents - —HAZEL KUTKUE

It isn’t easy get­ting to Jerry Gon­juan’s three­room guest­house, in the re­mote town of Am­bunti, on the banks of the Sepik River.

First, there’s a four-hour bus ride from We­wak to Pagwi, then a two-hour boat jour­ney up river, fol­lowed by a three-kilo­me­tre walk.

The Wom­bun guest­house sits among palm trees and neatly kept lawns. It has a liv­ing room and three bed­rooms (PGK100 a night per room). Each room is fur­nished with the ba­sics – such as beds with mos­quito nets, fans, ta­ble and chairs – and there is run­ning wa­ter and a diesel gen­er­a­tor for power.

Meals are cooked by Gon­juan’s wife, Regina, and in­clude sweet pota­toes, yams and other gar­den foods, as well as freshly caught fish and fruit.

Gon­juan con­ducts mo­torised ca­noe vis­its, for up to five peo­ple, to vil­lages along the Sepik River. The ca­noes have wo­ven-cane chairs, bring­ing a de­gree of lux­ury to the river jour­ney. But you’ll need a big sun hat for pro­tec­tion from the trop­i­cal sun.

Vil­lages that are vis­ited in­clude Ya­manumbu, Korogu, Pal­imbe (stopover vil­lage), Yenchen, Kan­gana­mun, Ka­man­im­bit (stopover vil­lage), and Aibam and Cham­bri, in the Cham­bri Lake area (stopover vil­lage).

Kan­gana­mun has one of the old­est spirit houses along the Sepik River. It was built in the pre-World War 2 days and is three storeys. Among the in­ter­est­ing fea­tures is the carv­ing of a naked woman sit­ting at the front of the haus

tam­baran (a spirit house for sa­cred rit­u­als). In Aibam, vil­lagers have unique, tra­di­tion­ally styled clay pots that are avail­able for sale, there’s a croc­o­dile farm at Ya­manumbu, and in Ka­man­im­bit you can see sago mak­ing. Most vil­lages have haus tam­barans and haus

bois (a house used for sa­cred male rit­u­als with to­tal fe­male ex­clu­sion) that you can visit. Some vil­lages show­case their tum­buna (tra­di­tional) dances, carv­ings and other art.

Other ac­tiv­i­ties in­clude hik­ing into low­ly­ing hills to see birdlife, in­clud­ing the bird of par­adise, and go­ing on a croc­o­dile hunt with Wagu vil­lagers.

The guest­houses are pri­mar­ily made of tra­di­tional ma­te­ri­als, but have elec­tric­ity from gen­er­a­tors and wa­ter tanks for guest use.

The re­gion’s main at­trac­tion is the an­nual Sepik River Croc­o­dile Fes­ti­val at Am­bunti, to be staged this year on Au­gust 5–7. (Gon­juan will take vis­i­tors to the fes­ti­val.)

His mo­torised ca­noe trips start from PGK3415 for one day. The cost in­cludes ac­com­mo­da­tion in guest­houses at stopover vil­lages, meals and hired help, such as es­corts and driv­ers. Ex­tra costs are payable to see dances and take pho­tos.

To con­tact Jerry Gon­juan, phone +675 71431905 / +675 75433200 or email jer­ry­gonjuan@out­look.com.

Jerry Gon­juan ... of­fers mo­torised boat tours of the Sepik River.

Sou­venir hunters … tourists buy­ing lo­cal hand­i­crafts along the Sepik River.

Wom­bun guest­house ... four hours by bus, two hours by boat and a three- kilo­me­tre walk.

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