AUSTRAL, March 9th, 2017, Kopar Village, PNGPosted on Tuesday 28 March 2017
By Sandrine ERWIN ROSE
The arrival of L’Austral at the mouth of the majestic Sepik River in the early morning had an air of mystery and intrigue. This mighty river, the longest in PNG, is the lifeblood of the region including the village of Kopar and our Zodiac® trip up the river allowed us to appreciate the sheer size of the river. Our arrival in the village was a colourful and welcome affair with men, women and children dressed in traditional ceremonial dress. L’Austral’s Captain Lemaire was greeted as a special guest and following the welcome ceremony and the singing of the national anthem we were delighted to witness the Snake Dance with its colourful feather decorations and rhythmic beating of the drum. The villagers welcomed us into their lives, opened their homes and shared with us aspects of their daily life. Although at first glance our lives appear very different, in reality it was easy to see our own domestic lives reflected in their homes, gardens and cooking. We were treated to various demonstrations such as the art of canoe-making and the time-consuming process of sago preparation and cooking. We also had the opportunity to purchase genuine, locally crafted artefacts such as intricate carvings and traditional ‘bilums’, the local string bag made by the women. It was a privilege to be made to feel so welcome with these warm and welcoming people and the memories of this village and its people will linger in our memories for many years to come. Upon our return to the ship we enjoyed lunch whilst sailing to our next port of call. The afternoon progressed with our naturalist and local expert, Justin presenting a lecture entitled ‘Choose your Poison- Kava & Betelnut’ followed by some fun with Kamel with arts & crafts, trivia quiz and bingo. The evening briefing with our Expedition Leader José whetted our appetite for our next stop at Jayapura. Following a gastronomic dinner, we finished the evening with an entertaining rendition of ‘Muses’ by the L’Austral dancers and singer Oksana.