Part 1 of our hike to Ndo left off with us on our way to the first Ndo village, Bilong. This village is on the outskirts of the Ndo language group and borders the Mina language group. So everyone in this village actually speaks both Mina and Ndo.
The day we hiked to Bilong was one of the longer days of hiking we had. We started off in the morning around 7 from Langany and headed to Titarabok, and then departed Titarabok around 2 in the afternoon after speaking with the church there and eating a lot of passion fruit, oranges, and soup! The hike from Titarabok had us walk down a mountain and cross a bamboo bridge, and then head back up the mountain to the village of Bilong.
As I mentioned in the last blog post, my shoes fell apart somewhere on the way to Langany and on the way to Bilong, I fell off the trail. One minute, I was walking on the trail and then the next the ground closest to the edge where I stepped, and the ground just gave way. I went head first down the mountain! It’s not as bad as it sounds though…or not as bad as it could have been had it been on another part of the trail where there wouldn’t have been anything to stop me. I remember sliding down and just grabbing whatever I could to stop myself.
Everyone helped me get back up onto the trail, and then for the next 50 feet or so, I had two guys with hands on my back and two other guys holding my hands. It wasn’t a bad fall really, I only had a couple of scratches, but I was a little shaken up.
Then came our first bamboo bridge crossing!
At this point, we were the lowest that we would be…the hike was all uphill from here. Some of the questions we asked frequently on this trip were “Are we close?” or “How much further do you think we have left?” or “Is this a hard road or an easy road?” We were like the kids in the back of the car constantly asking, “Are we there yet?”
In the end, the questions were never really helpful. Because usually the responses were like, “Oh, yes, we’re close” or “It’s only about about 30 minutes away for us, but for you it’s about 4 hours” or “Oh yes, this is a good road!” when, in reality, we were never really close and the road was never really good. But for some reason, we kept asking.
We made it to Bilong at about 5pm and started to meet people. We slept that night in a hut belonging to the relative of a man who married a lady from Titarabok. This man also heard the gospel in Titarabok when it was preached there. This was one of the happiest guys I met on this trip. We spent the night in Bilong, and planned on giving a message the next morning on the work that we were looking to do in the Ndo language.
Here is a picture of us in Bilong, the night we stayed the night. This, I believe, is typically how everyone hangs out. You have a hut room (maybe with a window or two) and a fire pit in the middle. Everyone just sits around the fire pit and talks while the fire generates smoke that completely fills the room. The windows are shut so as to not let the smoke from the fire blow in people’s faces. Instead, everyone just inhales it.
The next morning, we packed up and headed to the village where everyone was gathered. We told them why we were there. Because we wanted to learn their language, teach them to read and write, preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, and eventually leave them to continue the work.
After the message, we left Bilong and headed for the next village in Ndo, Yokia 1. At this point, it was Wednesday—the day before we originally planned on returning home and we still had at least two more villages to walk through and talk to and then there was still the village to spend the night in on the beach.
As with the other hikes from village to village, we could see Yokia 1 off in the distance at the beginning of our walk.
Yokia 1 would be the first all-Ndo village we would reach. The hike was just as difficult as the other hikes and by the time we arrived, thick clouds were starting the set in. The rest of our time from this point forward in the Finisterre Mountains was mostly marked by thick clouds.
On the way to Yokea 1, we also decided that there was no way we were going to make it out of the bush at the time we were thinking, or even before the weekend was over, and that we should just change our plans to leave on Monday. The nice, and kind of funny, part of this hike was that though we were so far from town, and roads, and stores — our cell phones still worked! So we called our wives at that point to let them know the change of plans.
It was a breath of fresh air talking to Cameron.
Though I was slightly discouraged by how our (unrealistic) plans were failing, she was so joyful to have me continue in the work. We also learned somewhere in here that there had been a major power outage back in Madang while we were gone, and it was unclear when the power was going to come back on. And in addition to that, the guards at our place had been inconsistent with some being injured and others not showing up.
One of the first things we noticed in Yokia 1 was that there was a giant school house located right in the middle of it. By the time we got here, it was too late to give the same message to this village that we gave in Bilong…and we were probably too tired to do so anyway.
We went inside the house of the local teacher, where we would spend the night, and rested there for the next hour or so before we got enough energy to start asking some questions. We started with questions about the villages and languages spoken. But about ten questions into this, I started feeling pretty sick. For the rest of that night, I didn’t feel well. The next day, we woke to tell everyone why we were there, but I didn’t feel up to speaking at this point, so Zach did most of the talking while I just sat there feeling horrible.
Our plans were to hike out that day, but the rain came all morning. Though we wanted to keep moving to the next village, I was thankful for the time there as I just laid on the floor of the hut fevering with the fire burning while Zach worked through a word list. Also at one point in Yokia 1, one of the villagers graciously offered me a pair of shoes to replace my broken ones and I accepted.
Around 2 pm, someone came in and said that the weather let up enough so that we could hike. At this point, I felt well enough to hike so we packed up and headed to the next village, Malowelo.
The hike to Malawelo was beautiful. We passed low clouds, waterfalls, and another bamboo bridge!
As we approached Malawelo, my fever started to come back, They welcomed us, brought us to the house we would stay the night in, and rested for a minute before we addressed the village. By the time everyone was gathered together, I wasn’t even sure if I would make it through the speech, so Zach did all the talking while I sat on the steps of the house.
After the talk, the leaders were going to come over that night and Zach went to wash, but I couldn’t do anything. I made my bed and slept the rest of that day. I heard people come into the hut, and talk that night, but really for the most part I was out for the rest of the night. Apparently also, as Zach told me, there were several earthquakes this night.
By morning though, I felt great…just a little hungry since I hadn’t eaten much for the previous day and a half.
At this point, we were longing to be back home and started coming up with another somewhat unrealistic plan of being able to hike out that day to the beach. This plan, as you might have already guessed, did not work out either.
The next village’s name was Cerimore, and upon entering it, we tried to explain to them that we were just passing through. But they insisted that we stay with them and we eventually gave in because of their persistence.
We walked down to a small stream and washed off and came back to the house of the leader of the village. That day, someone had just died so not as many people initially came and talked with us. Our host informed us that they would be staying up mourning for the dead.
This night was dark and dreary.
The rain fell all night. Amidst the rain, I heard mice squeaking in the rafters, dogs whimpering outside, and men crying in the distance as they mourned. Our host returned sometime around 2am. Our plan was to wake up early and leave around 6am, but as 5 am approached and it was clearly still pouring outside, we slept a little longer. We woke up and waited as the rain continued to fall. Our host then came in around 8am and said the weather was clear enough for us to hike out.
We packed up and left one of the last Ndo villages and for the rest of the trip we were on our own to the beach. This day started out pretty muddy, but as the sun came out, the mud dried up, rocks became less slippery, and our hiking became a little easier. The shoes I’d acquired in Yokia 1 at this point were also just about completely destroyed, held together by only rope.
We passed the last town of Ndo, Rusuang.
We left Ceramore around 8 am Saturday and hiked this last day until around 5pm. Our hope was that someone might give us a ride home from the beach this night, but boats don’t normally run in the afternoons…or on Sundays.
Knowing that there was an excellent chance that even if we made it to the beach that night(Saturday), we may have to wait on the beach until Monday morning anyway before heading back to Madang, we hiked on to the beach. At some point, I couldn’t take the shoes-held-together-by-rope-only strategy anymore and hiked barefoot for a couple miles until the ground was dry enough to wear some sandals I had brought.
Once we made it to the beach, we couldn’t find anyone to take us home that night, but one family said they would take us in the morning(Sunday!), and that we could sleep with them.
So that night we slept in a half finished house on the beach in Biliau.
We left the beach at 6 in the morning and—finally—headed home. This boat trip home was definitely my favorite thus far. Early morning was a great time to leave. The water was smooth(in Tok Pisin, they would say “wara slip(water sleep)”), the air was fresh, and we all just sat there and watched the sun rise.
And that was the end of our first survey.
Next week Monday, we depart for our second. This time though, we will be heading out by helicopter to try to see at least two more tribes.
Please pray for us in all of this.
The whole reason for all of this survey work is to find a tribe that needs to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ. God is in control of all things. He has brought us thus far, and we trust and pray that He will bring us to a people group with those whom He desires to save.