Daru Island 2

Jessie T. Ponce Photography

Food Traders of Daru Island

Stranded in Daru Island in the Western Province of Papua New Guinea (see Daru Island 1); I made use of most of my free time photographing the view from my hotel’s main balcony and observing the cycles of life before me: the seaside market that woke up and slept with the light of day, and the canopied wooden boats that tried to stay in place as the tide swelled and subsided.  Of particular interest to me were the life of the water-borne traders  who, I was told, come from villages as far as 3 days away by boat through the Fly River or a week on foot deep inside the mainland jungles. But this particular extended family who came in two boats really caught my attention.  Here’s a day in their life as I saw it.

Jessie T. Ponce Photography

(1) The sun had started to rise over the Gulf of Papua and the inhabitants of the dugout houseboats anchored by the shores of Daru started to stir.

Jessie T. Ponce Photography

(2) The men in the two boats got out and brought the dugouts closer to shore.

Jessie T. Ponce Photography

(3) The ladies emerged from under the canopies, stepped into the water, then, one by one, brought out the goods they needed to sell. It wasn’t much but they had to hide these things deep inside the hull of their dugouts to keep them away from thieves who prowl the Daru shores at night. Back in their village, they spent weeks collecting the products and so losing them to thieves will be a big set-back.

Jessie T. Ponce Photography

(4) Then, wading in the shallow water, they started to carry the goods to their makeshift stall at the seaside market.

Jessie T. Ponce Photography

(5) At the stall, the husband arranged the goods: several baskets of sago, a few dozen coconuts, and some bundles of bananas. It was their third day on the island and they hoped to sell out all these remaining goods within the day so they can go back to their village where other family members await for fresh supplies from Daru.

Jessie T. Ponce Photography

(6) Sometime later, a small crowd had gathered to check out the things they were selling. A few of them bought some items, many of them were just curious. The same pattern continued through the day.

Jessie T. Ponce Photography

(7) Meanwhile, at the houseboat, the kids were getting tired of playing in cramped space and impatiently waited for the tide to subside.

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(8) And when the tide had pulled back, it was time for the younger ones to be given a bath on the muddy shore.

Jessie T. Ponce Photography

(9) The day quickly passed and an afternoon rain kept the buyers away from the market. It was getting late and the other traders have packed up their goods but the wife stayed there, alone, cold and almost motionless, hoping that they’d still get sold out and be able to leave the island.

Jessie T. Ponce Photography

(10) The husband later replaced her but he was also losing hope of ever selling the remaining goods before the day ended. There wasn’t much left but they needed all the cash they can get so they can buy their much-needed supplies.

Jessie T. Ponce Photography

(11) At last a lone man ventured into the almost empty market and started asking about the remaining goods. But he was just curious and was not ready to buy so the lady started to carry the items back to their boat.

Jessie T. Ponce Photography

(12) Another day has ended as the tide started to rise and darkness was about to fall on the island. Maybe tomorrow they’d get sold out early and be able to head back home by mid-day. Maybe. Hopefully.

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