We will remember this weekend not for starting our St. Patrick’s day celebrations (St. John Vianney is way bigger around here) nor for Pi day (not enough nerds around to celebrate with. Or pie, for that matter, it being Lent) but for visiting the cliff-side pool, the swimming hole halfway through a waterfall.
Our neighbors, friends, and fellow seminary lay staff, the Dings, hail from the nearby areas of Kimil and Bunum Wo. We went with Bernardette, Cornelia, and Elijah, the three children of the family, Soti Ding, who is a maternal auntie of some variety, Alice, an auntie by marriage, and her daughter C. We drove the paved road past CLTC and the Bunum Wo coffee factory (where Alice’s husband is a manager) to a turn-off through a coffee plantation. We bumped along until we came to the local primary school, where we left the car. We proceeded on foot through the village, where we greeted Soti’s neighbors and we amassed the beginnings of a small army of middle schoolers who wanted to go the waterfall with us. They were eager to try out their English with us – “That house is of mine!” burbled one boy- but were also curious how much tok pisin we knew.
After Brandon tried to find his own shortcut through an overgrown garden, the 12 year old boys decided that we were a little soft in the head and needed some looking after. Much of the trail consisted of hopping on rocks up the streambed, and I always had a hand or two grabbing mine to make sure I didn’t tumble. Other than all the hopping and a short muddy forest section, the walk wasn’t bad at all- not like the waterfall near Kala.
We stopped for a breather and to let all the sections of our party catch up at the “first” or “lower” falls, which is basically a chute the water has carved around a titanic boulder and spilling out the other side. Then came more hopping and some wet feet where there weren’t enough rocks above water to hop on, and the sites of several landslides- one we could see the remains of a garden fence at the top of the hill, and I felt bad for the people who had lost their crop.
The waterfall, when we reached it, was gorgeous. It falls in two segments, with a round, deep pool in the middle. We had brought our swimming gear and so plunged in!
It was not quite as cold as the Atlantic in Maine early in June- my toes took a while for the joints to start aching. But it was similar enough that I was surprised that the water was not salty. Annie only spent a little time splashing about, and the rest of the time wrapped in a towel in the sun, watching Brandon do somersaults. Even Tabitha dunked her feet in!
We ate some peanut butter sandwiches as a picnic while watching the village kids dive in (from heights that made Brandon quite anxious), or attempt to block the channel out of the pool with their bodies.
We greatly enjoyed our waterfall trip and are already plotting whether we can bring some other friends with us next time!
Imagine you found a record of someone living in your same house, with the same job, and the same friends. Taking the same vacations, hanging out at the same places- but it all happening fifteen years ago. A doppelganger from the past!
This is kind of what my experience of reading the Mowbrays’ blog “The PNG Letters” is like. Perry Mowbray was the bursar in 1998 and 1999, as a lay volunteer. He and his wife and three sons lived in our house, and their children went to school in Fatima and played at the Dings’ house. They went on vacation to Madang and hung out with other missionaries at Kudjip. Some of the fun of reading the blog for me is comparing same and different. The students they wrote about are now ordained priests serving in nearby parishes. The local missionary presence has declined greatly, and the number of national staff has increased.
All this to say, they also visited the waterfall!