Papua New Guinea
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My Gabagaba weekend escape

BY BARNEY ORERE

The encroaching national population census will give the true population of Gabagaba.

But according to Malcolm Gari, its around 5,000 from the last count. It’s a sprawling village, famous for the smart people it produced.

Take your pick from Sir Philip Bouraga, ex District Commissioner cum Commissioner of Police, Sir Sere Pitoi, the first Chairman of the Public Service, Rei Gari, the first


superintendent of education, Captain Bouraga, the aviator and others; too many to name.

Due to time constraint, I was only able to visit the famous jetty which was once the focal point of Rigo development. Just before you get there is Sir Sere Pitoi’s residence and beside it is a stone wall that looks odd.

There’s a story to it that will no doubt become a legend with the passage of time. For a place to be interesting to visitors, you must have stories so there you go.

A breath of fresh air was nearby; a stand of mangroves, almost in pristine condition.

The picture of Malcolm Gari and I with the backdrop of the village was to capture the mud flats and connect it to the mangrove forest.

The surprising thing was the savannah country side and the sudden appearance of the mangrove forest which was very contrasting.

I don’t know if this is true because the tide was out. But mangroves inundated by water typically harbour small fish which find safety from predators learning to swim in the shallows and to hide among the jumbled roots of mangroves.

You might be wondering what happens when the tide goes out totally and there’s bare floor. Well, the mother fish will swim out with the baby fishes in her mouth and bid for time to let them out of her mouth as if nothing happened.

And what if they are swimming and a predator approaches. Well, the mama fish, sensing danger quickly scoops everyone into the safety of her mouth and fool the predator that way. Sorry no lunch! So don’t let the mud flats sway your thought; it’s part of a grand design.

The small crabs with one giant claw are the gardeners of the mangrove forest tidal flats.

When the withered mangrove leaves fall, they grab them and quickly drag them into their holes to eat.

The wastes become compost to keep the mangrove forest.

This is part of the food chain and how the eco system works. When their holes are swamped by water, they just relax because their body is adapted to cope and when the tide goes out it is business as usual; dragging more mangrove leaves into the holes.

When I saw the jetty, I knew straightaway that this was where the cattle from Lae should have been landed.

Twenty-four hours earlier, I saw how the cattle people struggled to land couple of beasts on the beach at Keapara. To get the beasts into the holding yard, they were sent into the small stretch of water and they didn’t like that.

And tell you what, if you thinking that Gabagaba is a long way to Launakalana near Keapara, how about this feat? A Goilala man on horseback drove cattle that arrived by ship from Le to Oro Bay, all the way to Safia.

That is a massive distance will all sorts of obstacles. But they made it to thrive and an abattoir was even built.

But the best-kept secret for Gabagaba is the stretch of white sand that goes for a kilometre. Someday you will sleep in a bungalow and listen to the roar of the ocean or have a barbie under the stars.

The road side markets tell their own story. Dry season is the time for magani.

You might find the occasional pig leg. But when the sun is descending and throws long shadows, you can feel the beauty of it all. Drinking fresh kulau for instance has never tasted better.