Saturday brought the birthday of an interesting German bloke that Ralph befriended a couple of days ago. Christophe, has been in PNG for over 14 years, (most of them illegally on the North Coast of East New Britain, living and working alongside the locals) had his 50th Birthday just down the road from his house in a place called Koulau Lodge and we were invited.

We piled into a mates ute with all of his family and headed up the hills, twisting round pot hole ridden roads to the North Coast, finding a slightly run down but tidy lodge with a beautiful outlook and a fantastic spread of local delicacies (including an earth baked pig)…we munched our way through the pork and managed to successfully consume just enough beer to wash it down whilst listening to a local string band as they sang their way through the evening….good company, good food and to cap it all off a night in a cabin with an overhead fan,  limitless water and a bed with a spring mattress!!...Unbeknown to us however the night had taken a nasty turn long after we’d gone to bed….

It’s a bit of a convoluted story, but I’ll do my best… It all centres around the wife/girlfriend of an ex-pat who has had a long standing affair with a rather dark and dangerous character who deals drugs to the local youths in the village next to Koulau Lodge. Unfortunately both these people had arranged a tryst on the evening of Christophe’s birthday…so with this with the local lads drinking and smoking freshly supplied weed they had decided to harass 2 of the waitresses. No other person (including the security guards) sought to intervene aside from one heroic individual who was promptly set upon with bush knives for his trouble. Luckily he fled before he was butchered, suffering some rather nasty cuts to his arms and neck…but this is only where the story begins!!

By morning, with wounds tended, our hero had advised the village elders/committee and sought advice on the next course of action. The upshot of all advice and subsequent discussions was what was explained to me as a ‘red mark’ upon not only the wielder of the knife but also the drug dealer and his wayward woman! Basically this means that it is most likely that all three will be knocked off! This system of ‘payback’ is quite simply the way things are done around here on a local level… the police are also aware of this and in most cases will not (in fact would not dare) interfere with. Village to village there have been attempts to appease our hero, offering compensation of sorts, but thus far ‘payback’ is the only course of action our hero is considering…. At this point everyone has gone to ground so only time will tell how this one will turn out.

Unbelievable that all this happened right under our nose!

Aside from all this drama our extremely pleasant weekend continued upon our return to yacht club, where we were picked up by Dave for a run around the Gazelle Peninsula by car. We went all the way around old Rabaul to the areas that had once been a beautiful settlement, but is now covered by metres of ash. There are some people that have sought to re-establish their homes in the shells of buildings but largely the huge area affected by the last eruption remains uninhabited. Further around the peninsula the lush surrounds remained untouched and just as beautiful as ever, aside perhaps from the rather washed out roads….a 4WD is a must! We finished our tour with a wee glimpse at the local graveyards (macabre but interesting) and it is fascinating to see the degree to which various local communities have sought to maintain them. The Chinese cemetery for example is well cared for, with manicured grass and pristine headstones (courtesy of the Chinese government) while the Australian cemetery (long live segregation eh) is completely dishevelled, with graves either washed out or headstones cracked and only just visible above the ash (I guess the Australian government has other priorities).