Looking for a taxi after dark in Alatou is not an easy task. During the day they are frequently spotted around the warf, heading to and from the nearby town. As we looked around for any signs of a cab to pass us by, a few local boys walked up and started talking to us. We told them that we were heading to Napatana lodge for dinner and were looking for a taxi. The boys told us that the taxis don’t run after dark and not to even think about walking as many people have been killed along the road at night there. Without taxis around and no chance of walking, there we stood by the roadside, trying to figure out a way to get to the lodge for dinner.
“Hello!” cried a voice from a small pickup truck that stopped nearby. “Where are you going?” the driver shouted. Thinking that this could be our lucky break, I walked over to the window and introduced myself to a broad shouldered man named Sonny. He said he saw us stainding on the side of the road and it looked like we needed a ride. I told him we were trying to get to Napatana and could he possibly take us there. “Of course!” he replied. Sonny had just moved here and was still trying to figure his way around town but knew exactly where Napata was because he had spent a few nights their upon is arrival in Alotau.
Piling out of the back of Sonny’s Toyota pickup, we invited him in to join us for dinner and a few drinks inside. He gladly accepted and into the hotel we went. Our new arrival Elina who always seems to have a smile on her face was now acting as a wonderful go between with the Russian girl, Irina. She was very friendly to her and included her in all the conversations we had. The only problem was that while Irina would contribute to anything Elina had to say, when Bill or I spoke, she still just closed her mouth and looked around the room without interest in anything we were saying. At the bar, we met a Greek guy named Yiannis whom we had seen walking around town ealier in the day. He’d been backpacking around Papua New Guinea for the past couple of months and had been to some amazing and remote places. We invited him to join us and were all eager to hear his account of his journey across the country.
While Sonny told us incredible stories about his life in the highlands, Yiannis encaptivated us all with tales of his adventures travelling on the small trading and fishing vessels that we have encountered throughout the islands. These boats are all timber and load down their hulls with more cargo than they are supposed to carry before piling as many people on to every inch of surface that covers the tiny little boat. This is all done for journeys that can take several days and always have the risk of encountering severe storms at sea. The captain of one boat told us that he thinks that about one of these vessels sinks each month and here was Yiannis, travelling around the country aboard many different trading vessels!
After realizing that Yiannis was heading back to Australia around the same time as us and what a wonderful personality he would add to the crew, Bill invited him to join us on board Seawanhaka. Yiannis immediately accepted and was excited about the opportunity before him. Even Irina looked excited about someone other than Bill and I to talk to. It looked like he and Elina just might do the trick to turn the cold war around and bring everyone on board Seawanhaka together.
The dinner ended and Bill volounteered to pick up the check. He bought everyone at the tables dinner as well as their beers along with several bottle of wine. It was a kind gesture and I gladly thanked him for the wonderful night out. Sonny drove us back to the boat and dropped us off at the harbor where we invited him to come out the following day for a look at the boat. He gladly accepted and wished us goodnight before heading home. Yiannis departed for his guesthouse to pack his things and was due to be on board early the next morning. With Bill rowing, Irina, Elina and myself boarded the dinghy for the short row back out to the boat.
Now, as I previously mentioned, Bill purchased dinner for everyone on board. I noticed everyone at the table thank him except for Irina. She just followed along with the same miserable scowl on her face as if she had been condemmed to live in this hell that the rest of us are calling paradise. Back on the boat, I opened a beer and offered everyone on board one as well. It was late and everyone other than Bill was headed off to sleep so he accepted the beer and told me he would be up top shortly.
The next thing I know, I hear Bill talking to Irina down below. He had already confronted her several times about her poor attitude and lack of desire to sail. She had been told that if she did not learn how to sail, she would not be going back to Cairns with us as it is too dangerous to have someone completely unfamiliar with the boat on board during a journey upon the open sea. Down below, I could hear Bill confronting Irina about the fact that she didn’t even have the courtousey to say thank you. Sarcastically she replied to him “Thank you.” She said it in such an awful way that Bill just looked at her in disgust and said that it was too late and he was absoloutely tired of her attitutde. He told her to pack her bags and get off the boat first thing in the morning! While I listened in from above, I raised my beer to the stars in the sky, offering thanks to the heaveans above. The cold war had now ended and while I listened to the ranting and raving of a crazed russian woman complaining of how awful the boat was, I couldn’t help but smile knowing we were finally rid of her!