While there is certainly a lot our team does not yet know about place we’ve chosen to go, I would still like to introduce you to what will be our new home.
We’ve chosen to allocate in the Ndo language group. Ndo is pronounced like the word “doe” (thus the title to this blog)… sorry if the song gets stuck in your head. Some spell it “Do” and others “nDo.” But as you’ll soon see, in a world where written language is relatively new and generally foreign, spelling is still up for grabs (and sometimes pronunciation is too).
Ndo is a relatively large language group for the Finisterre Mountains that covers a sizable swath of mountain range. It is estimated that over 2,500 people speak some dialect of the language. When we visited Ufim during our helicopter survey, even they spoke a form of the Ndo language. The Bible has already been translated into a similar language called Iyo on the southern side of the mountain range in a place called Nahu.
We will build our home and base our work out of a village called Mawelelo. Again, spelling and pronunciation are fluid here. We’ve heard and seen Maweroro, Mawelelo, Mawelele, and Mawerere. The jury is still out on how we’ll end up spelling it… stay tuned. For now, Mawelelo matches our previous blog posts, so I’ll stick with that spelling. This village is located on a mountain ridge at just over 3,000 feet above sea level (see map below… click on it for a larger view). It is surrounded by towering peaks that go from 5,000 feet to well above 8,000 feet. Being a little lower in elevation, Mawelelo is warm during the day, but still cool at night.
Based on our previous surveys, we estimate that somewhere between 400 and 600 men and women live in Mawelelo. Tribes do not seem to keep an accurate count of children. This is the largest village that Matt and I have seen in all our survey work thus far.
Getting in and out of Mawelelo is not easy. It is an 11-hour hike to get from Mawelelo to the coast (I show the route out of Mawelelo in the short video below). We’ve never tried hiking into the mountains via this route yet, but I bet it would take us 2 days to get to Mawelelo. The closest airstrip is a three-day hike away in the coastal town of Saidor. The only way to avoid hiking is to take a helicopter. There is a small clearing at the far end of the ridge where we managed to land last time.
Lord-willing, we will be building two houses at the end of the ridge. There is land there for us to use, but we’re still not sure if both houses will fit, especially if we still want a helicopter to be able to land. We hope to go on a house-building survey sometime in late June or early July.
Mawelelo is an 8-hour hike from Nekgini (see map), where we did our first survey back in February. Some in Nekgini have already said they want to come see us once we’ve moved into Mawelelo.
Despite its seeming isolation from the rest of the world, there is cell phone service in Mawelelo. Cell phone companies have been putting up towers along the coast of the Finisterre Mountains in recent years (see map above). Most families still build palm and bamboo huts, grow all their food in steep jungle gardens, and drink water straight from springs in the mountain sides. And yet many of them own cell phones (though few have the money to use them regularly). The world is getting smaller… even in PNG.
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