When the Fly Dries Out

Riverside Community, Kiunga

November 2013: A photo of the orange house with dry land and grass growing around the stilts

Jessie T. Ponce Photography

August 2012: The riverside community was still standing above subsiding river water

Kiunga, Western Province, Papua New Guinea / November 2013:  A brief lull in a ceremony I was attending in town gave me an opportunity to check out a favorite spot along the bank of the mighty Fly River just behind some of the major establishments of this remote mining frontier.  What attracts me to this spot is not only the Fly River but the small intrepid community that dares to live above the river’s treacherous waters by building their homes high up on stilts.  The stilts are of course strong magnets to my camera as their lines play illusions on the water.

Houses on stilts along the fly river

November 2013: A wide stretch of muddy sand occupies the front yard of this riverside house

houses on stilts along the fly river

August 2012: The house among the grove of trees looks isolated by a huge body of water

But the place was a different world this time of the year.  The river tributary has shrunk into just a small stream and all the houses stood on dry ground.  Even the house across the river which stood very close to the water the last time I visited now had several meters of dry land for its frontage.  The river’s dark sand and whatever debris or garbage its water left behind are now lying exposed under the sun or under the shade of the stilted houses. Ah, this time was apparently a different part of the cycle of life along the Fly River.

houses on stilts along the fly river

November 2013: A small dugout canoe plies along what’s left of the river tributary

houses on stilts along the fly river

November 2013: In some areas, other dugout canoes block the passage to the main river system

houses on stilts along the fly river

November 2013: The high stilts are away from the water, at least for now

houses on stilts along the fly river

November 2013: And the households have an extra space and functional ‘ground floor’ while they are on dry land

houses on stilts along the fly river

November 2013: But the river will soon swell again and the bridges and stilts that allow the families to survive from season to season continue to provide a vital lifeline to this community along the mighty Fly River

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