The title above is borrowed from a New Guinea exploration classic of the same name by the Italian explorer Luigi D’Albertis.  One of my more memorable field seasons was my first trip to the Crater Mountain area in 2000.  Below are some images from that trip excepts from my field journal.  Images © 2006 Edwin Scholes III.

New Guinea: What I did and what I saw...

Lubuyavi Journal 2000:


13 November:

Awake by 6am as the carriers were to arrive by 7 and was on the trail out of Herowana by 8.  I arrived at the camp site by 10:45.  I think I could make the walk in 2 hours next time. The 3 workers (Kilaro, Selot, and Peter) had already begun to clear the ground and cut trees.  All the cargo carriers stayed around to help raise the "sails" (tarps) for the camp.  I think most of the people were amused by my large tent and its complicated set-up.  Camp was set by 2ish and I went into the forest with Selot and Peter to check out one of the nearby “Kulele” Parotia carolae courts that they had found previously.


In the PM we all sat by the fire to "stori".  Selot pulled out a small packet of folded leaves tied with bush rope and asked me, "yu save kaikai?”  I leaned in for a better look and he opened the packet to reveal about a dozen plump white wriggling beetle grubs about the length of my middle finger and fat as my thumb.  I cleared my throat and answered, "nogot, mi no save kaikai (I have not eaten that before).  He told me he found the grubs in the dry wood of the tree that they cut for firewood (that’s how they know it's dry-they look for the marks of the grubs) and asked if I wanted to try them.  Not wanting to miss a new PNG-bush experience, I said yes, albeit a bit hesitantly.  After a short boil in a mackerel tin, I ate my first beetle grub.  It was not bad; the texture was a bit like boiled shrimp and the taste was similar too (the fish residue in the tin may have added to that as well).  The head was crunchy.  I ate two.  After the "meal", Kilaro the "Papa Graun" tells me that this place is called "Lubuyavi".  I have high expectations.


14 November:

Off to a good start!  In the AM, I took it easy around camp and continued to straighten up the place.  The guys build a table for the H20 jugs, a shower hut, and fixed up the perimeter of the sails with palm leaves to make a little wall.  Around 8:30 the guys went to build the hide (haus pisin) at one of the courts and to fix up a good road for me.  I stayed back to watch the camp and ready my gear.  Three other guys showed up to have a look and “stori” a bit, one even finished building the "haus wash-wash" for the heck of it.  The workers showed up around 1:15 and informed me that they had finished the hide and the road.  They also said that they saw the male give a few "sing-sings" while they were building the house.  I was eager to check out the court, so I went with Selot to set up the camera.  Wow, what a great blind!  Kilaro had been trained by David Gillison in the 70's and he knew how to make excellent blinds and great "white man roads" with sticks planted in the ground to serve as steps on step muddy slopes.  The hide is tall enough for me to stand up in, and the roof is sloped and covered with plastic so it is virtually rain proof!  To top it all off, an adult male "Kulele" (P. carolae) showed up several times and gave a few practice displays-very good stuff!  Mi hammas tru.  There was much activity all around, so things look very promising.  When I came back, I tried the new "haus wash-wash"…it was fine, just a bucket of cold water in a leaf covered stall!!


15 November:

He calls me "Pitome" after the name for the very tall straight tree with "white skin".  Now they all call me Pitome because he is the Papa Graun and one of the local big men.  Kilaro says Pitome is a good name for a man because it is a good tree.  It is the only tree that "Kavare" (Vulturine Parrot) will sleep in he says.  Kilaro is a good man, very wise and experienced.  He loves to talk and is a self professed, "man belong tok tok."  He is taking extra good care of me and doing all he can to make sure I am happy.  His entire line (the Mane clan) has been bringing me food and helping to find the courts of Kulele and Keaga (P. lawesii). 


Today in the hide, I saw my first wild Muruk (cassowary).  It walked slowly by the court ducking underneath the tangle of vines searching for food.  When I arrived back a camp in the PM, Kilaro informed me that someone had found a very large court (he showed me the size with a bush rope that he person had used to measure it).  The guys will build a hide there in the morning.  Another scout returned with a kapul (cuscus) that he had killed while out looking for courts.   I got my first taste of cuscus at dinner.  It was good meat, rich and juicy.  They guys cooked it by chopping it up (skin and all) into bits that would fit into a length of bamboo and then put the bamboo on the fire.  I was served a front leg with a little black human-like hand still attached.  I pealed back the skin and ate the meat, getting musty smelling grease all over my beard.  After I finished the meat, I was going to toss the bone and skin into the fire, but guys wanted to chew on the bone and eat the skin (lots of fat and grease!).  Kilaro says that when you piss that you can smell the kapul smell in your piss…I'll have to check that out.  The scout that killed the kapul also reported finding 2 more courts and he says that one had 10 birds on it!!!  I will have to see that to believe it!!


16 November:

The PNG bush experience here at Lubuyavi never ends…much different than being in a field station.  After eating giant beetle grubs on the 1st night, kapul cooked "mambu" style (steamed in bamboo) last night, I ate the eggs of a Common Scrubfowl tonight.  One of the Kilaro's boys found the nest mound and dug up 5 eggs.  They tasted pretty good, but were very rich and the yolks were orange (and very large).  They guys wanted me to cook them in the frying pan as they said it is "tambu" (taboo) to boil them and they did not have any bamboo to cook them in.  So, I made a large batch of orange scrambled scrubfowl eggs!  Data collection has been very successful and I am getting much more video data here than at Mekil.


20 November:

Started the week off with a bang.  In the AM, I set up a few nets on the road.  After we set up 4 nets on the road, I decided to try on near the court nearby that I am not doing observations on.  As we were setting the net, the  male came down to the court and flew right into the net with the 3 of us standing right there!  What a surprise I was, I was totally unprepared, but leapt upon the bird that was about to escape.  Again, I had to kill my favorite creature with my own hands, and this time I did not have a bird bag to put it in first to hide the torture.  It was more difficult seeing him struggle a bit, especially after just having had a dream about trying to kill a Parotia that would not expire.  Fortunately, unlike the nightmare, it was a quick death.  We closed the net and walk fast back to camp so could weigh it and prepare the skin.  It was a long ordeal, but everything turned out alright (if only the skin will last for 3 weeks in plastic!).  Again I ate the flesh of my kill.  The taste of paradise was a good as before!


21 November:

For once things just keep getting better.  In the AM, work with nets was slow, however in the PM, I went to L-6 for the first time and had an amazing observation period.  At first I was not impressed with the court.  It was a long walk from camp on the "ma-ne road" and the court did not look very spectacular.  I must admit that at first I was even a bit angry that the guys even bothered built a hide there.  However, shortly after getting settled, everything changed.  At first one adult male P. carolae showed up and then another and then a female plumaged bird.  By the end of the afternoon there were 6 males and 6 females on the court!  The court owner had the females lined up waiting for their chance to mate…it was unreal!  I used an entire tape and a portion of the previous one and still did not capture all the action.


22 November:

Very heavy rain in the night and was still raining in the AM.  Spent the AM in bed reading and listening to the sounds of rain pounding on the tarp above my head.  By mid morning the rain had slowed to a drizzle and by 11 it was finished.  I went to do a PM observation at L-4.  By all accounts it was a good observation, but after the last observation at L-6 it seemed very slow (I am getting spoiled).  I came back to camp to find a crowd of men, women and children waiting or my return.  After I washed and ate I decided to show the crowd some video footage of "Kulele sing-sing".  Everyone laughed, shouted and pointed at the images on the tiny screen.  The kids were staring wide eyed and the baby cried.  I’m sure they will talk about this experience to their wantoks back in the village for weeks.  I just hope the whole village doesn’t show up to also see the show!  It’s nice to have the mini-screen on the camera, it makes an excellent educational tool.  Some of the men who visited were from the upper house line's management committee. They came to check up on me and to talk with Kilaro about my stay here and the report to RCF that they want me to write.  The seeming to always be talking about this report.  All I hear is, "blah blah blah-tourist-blah, blah, blah- report-blah, blah, blah."  It seems as if they think I am the "promised child" and will change their future in terms of tourist activity.  I gather they are jealous of the tourism and researcher activity that is concentrated at the lower house line because of the proximity to the airstrip (and the guest house).  I guess everybody needs something to dream about and talk about with their friends, I just hope they work out and the people don't blame me if nothing changes!


25 November:

In the AM I straightened all the cargo from the first work crew.  Kilaro wanted to make sure that I knew every little thing I had given them to use was there and make sure nothing was lost or stolen.  He is very concerned that something will be missing and I will have a bad impression of the people.  After looking at everything, I went to change the nets on the road and put one on another court near the house.  I opened the net and went back to check it on occasion.  I ended up netting 2 Parotia, but BOTH escaped the net as I approached!! I think it was set too tight it since it was near the court, the birds were not flying very fast when they hit it.  In the PM I storied with Selot, Kilaro, and Peter for the last time (as workers).  The second crew will start tomorrow while I hike to Herowana to get more supplies.  The new crew will be Pitome (my "one-name"), Samson, and a guy named Ubule that I have not seen before.


28 November:

Very heavy rain during the night.  The guys say the raining season is now beginning.  After last nights downpour I believe it!  In the AM, I stayed in camp with Pitome and charged the camera batts with the solar.  The other 2 guys went to finish the hide at the P. lawesii site on the road to Ubaigubi.  I hope to try it out tomorrow.  In the PM, I went to L-4 and had a decent observation in spite of another large rainstorm.  Fortunately, the nice hide kept most of the water out, so I just sat there staring at the ground as it was to dark to read no matter how I tilted the book near the door.  No P. lawesii showed up like before, only P. carolae, so nothing new.  As I was walking back to camp (not even particularly late) I came upon Pitome carrying a lantern.  Apparently, he was worried about me not coming back after such a big rain (Pitome is very concerned about trees or big branches falling on me).  I guess he did not want to take any chances on his first full night on the watch for me!  It is good to know that he would come looking for me should I not return.  This knowledge will keep me alive when I am laying beneath a huge tree branch with 2 broken legs and a ruptured kidney.


29 November:

It was raining again in the morning…it is definitely raining more now than before.  Again I was forced to stay around camp in the AM because of the rain.  I tried to charge the batts but the sun was weak.  Around 10:30, I went to the Ubaigubi road P. lawesii lek for the first time.  The walk was pretty far and included traversing 2 rivers  (on log bridges that they guys cut) and climbing up and down 2 steep gorges.  It took me about 1 hour and 20 min. to get there.  As I was setting up the camera, it began to rain.  The rain did not stop for the entire time I sat there and I finally gave up at 3:15 with thoughts of how flooded the 2 rivers would be.  As I packed up the gear, the rain started to pound with a force that I have not ever seen before.  I wanted to wait it out, but I was too worried about the rivers.  Ubule came to meet me on the road.  We walked back in the downpour.  The first river was high, but the bridge was still above the water and the crossing was easy.  The second bridge, however, was another story.  The second river was roaring and the color of chocolate milk by the time we arrived.  Amazingly, the bridge had not been swept away the current, but rather it was pinned to the rocks by the swift water rushing over it.  I could not see the tree, but Ubule said it was there.  I took off my pack and boots and had them precede me across with Ubule who had tested the submerged "bridge" and determined it "safe".  With one hand holding the hand of my guide and the other holding the vine rope, I slowly walked across the torrent feeling the bridge with my toes under the water.  When I got back Pitome was worried sick about the trees again.


1 December:

In the very early AM, I went to the Ubaigubi road lek to see if P. lawesii is more active in the AM as the guys claim (Kulele in the PM and Keaga in the AM they say).  Once again, they were correct as I was successful.  I observed 2 copulations, however, I did not get any decent footage of the displays as the male did not display first?  He just hopped up and copulated with only a few ritualized postures…no dancing.  The few practice displays he gave were a bit off to the side and I could get them on tape for the obstructions were many.  I hope to have the guys open up the area more.  In the PM, I realized that I somehow lost my GPS in the bush yesterday while working the nets.  Pitome looked horrified when I told him I lost something and he jumped up to go retrace my steps from the previous day in the area that I felt I might have lost it.  He also made his boy go look around too.  After about 45 min they came back looking glum and empty handed.  A short while later, I also went to look and to set a new net at L-1.  Pitome, his boy and I retraced all my steps in the area around the courts for which I was running nets yesterday with no luck.  As we were walking home thinking it lost for good, we crossed the small stream on the trail and I remembered I had stooped near the water to wash my face.  As the GPS had been in my shirt pocket, I figured it had fallen out when I bent over.  After this realization, I told Pitome about my stooping at the water and commented that if it fell into the water would have been washed away for good.  No sooner than I finished the sentence, I spotted an odd shadow at the bottom of the deeper pool about 5 meters downstream from where I had washed my face nearly 24 hours before.  I pointed and Pitome reached in and pulled his hand out with a look of astonishment.  Sure enough, there was my little grey and black GPS unit in his hand.  It had been submerged in a nameless creek in the middle of the jungle for almost 24 hours and we somehow managed to find it!!!  Last night was the only night in more than a week when it did not downpour…unreal.  Had it rained, the GPS would be at the bottom of the Gulf of Papua by now.  To top it all off, the little bastard still works!  Even the manufacturer claims it will only repel water for short periods of time.  As Pitome said, "em i laki nogut tru!"


2 December:

I wanted to go to the Jesi ridge lek in the AM, but I was rained out.  It rained all night from about 5pm to 6am- 13 hours straight with not a single minute of relief!  So, I stayed around the camp and waited for the PM.  Needless to say, the bridge over the 1st half of the big river (wara koko-o) was washed away. We had to build a new one before I could go do my observation.  The observation was OK…much activity all around, but few visits at the court.  However I did see both species.  The huge rain came again at about 4pm and I ran home worried about the bridges. I had left instructions with Ubule to come and find me at the big bridge should the big rains come so that he could help me carry my gear across.  When I arrived, I shouted but nobody was there.  Not wanting to waste time and have the water carry away the smaller bridge I just crossed the bigger bridge on my own.  When I arrived at the smaller bridge, I again shouted several times and again there was no response.  By this time the rain was dumping buckets and the river was quickly rising.  So, I just pushed the thoughts of falling into the river from my head and concentrated on my footing and crossed the 2nd bridge (the one we had built in the morning).  I was soaked by the time I returned to camp and everyone looked surprised to see me as they didn't think I could cross the bridges in the rain alone.  I told them I did not want to wait.  They seemed to like the fact I crossed on my own in the rain…manly thing I guess.  They kept joking, "yu man ya…yu no lapun yet!" (you’re a man…you're not an old man!).  Pitome had found some common scrubfowl eggs in the bush and I made an omelet with onions and garlic for dinner.  I think I prefer chicken eggs, but maybe it is just me.


3 December:

Another night of torrential rains (I'm seeing a trend here).  All night there were bits of trees falling on the sails with a loud thud.  I was awakened several times by nearby tree-falls.  One was so loud that I awoke from a deep sleep with a scream and my hands covering my head in fear of being crushed (Pitome's worries are getting to me).  Pitome was so afraid of a tree falling on him that he took his boy out of the camp in the middle of the night to walk in the dark through the bush to a nearby garden (no trees) to sleep in a little bush house!!


4 December:

I had intended to go the Ubaigubi road lek in the AM, but yesterday in the PM, Pitome informed me that he found a "keaga" lek on Saturday when he was out in the bush.  He figured it was easier to get to than the Ubaigubi road and he thought it had more birds (he says 7 courts). So, I changed my plans at the last minute and went to the Jesi Ridge lek in the AM while the guys built a haus pisin at the new place.  As I was walking to the Jesi ridge, I had to cross both bridges of the Wara Koko-o.  As I was about halfway accross the first bridge, I realized the hand ropes were very loose.  As I neared the far side of the bridge, I began to sway back and forth trying to regain my balance on the loose ropes.  At that point my worst fears became true and the rope in my left hand snapped and I fell off the bridge into the rushing water!  Luckily I was near the end and the water was only up t my knees.  Somehow I managed to land on my feet, so most of me was dry and safe.  It really scared the hell out of me though, and I nearly lost my nerve crossing the second larger bridge.  I had to keep telling myself that I could make it.  If I would have fallen on the second bridge or on the first half of the first bridge, I could have been seriously injured or at least ruined the camera in the water.  After a lousy wet observation, I returned to the river again.  After crossing the big bridge, I decided to wade across the smaller water to avoid the broken bridge.  I took off my boots and socks (found a record of 11 leeches on my boots!), pulled up my pants and forged the water.  I was wet, but safer than attempting the bridge again.


6 December:

In the AM, I went back to the new P. lawesii lek near the Mane road.  Again, it was very active and I got some good data.  I'm finding P. lawesii to be even more different from P. carolae than I expected.  This bodes well for the rest of the project, although, I suspect P. wahnesi, P. sefilata and P. helenae to be much more similar to P. lawesii than P. lawesii is to P. carolae.  I am looking forward to doing analysis on the 3 spp I have data for when I return.  After the observation, it was a beautiful day with no rain, so I walked home very slowly and enjoyed the walk (for once).   However, the rains did arrive and when they did they came with a downpour.  The rain spoiled my chances for any PM work.  When they guys came back from the house-line, they told me that some people from the village were going to Wara Sera on Friday to carry cargo for some "tourists".  That means that Chris and Julie must be planning to fly out with me on Tuesday from Herowana.  That will be fun to see them.

 
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