Daru Island: On Muddy Shores
Daru shore at sunset
May 2014: There I was again staring at this sunset from the balcony of an aging inn called New Century on Daru Island in the Gulf of Papua. I flew straight to this island just a few hours after arriving in Papua New Guinea’s capital, Port Moresby, to catch an appointment with some local leaders. Watching this view once again was exciting and it brought back memories of the many images I captured on this balcony two years ago.
The market on Daru Island is the center of economic activity in the region. Tribesmen from mainland villages, some as far as 6 days away via dinghy, sell their agricultural products and buy their supplies on the island.
The hotel balcony, which was getting a new paint when I arrived, conveniently hung over parts of the Daru shore and has provided a very good vantage point for me and my camera. Way back in 2012, from the very same spot, I documented a day in the life of the trader families who bring in their products (sago, bananas, coconuts, meat and fish) from their faraway villages in the mainland and then stay on the island in their houseboats for days until their goods have been sold out and they are able to buy fuel and supplies to bring back to their villages (see Daru Island 2).
The shores of Daru is teeming with activity not from beachgoers but from trader families whose livelihoods depend so much on the trading they do on the island.
The view this day was not so different from what I saw on my first visit. The place has not changed much. The muddy shore is still filled with boats of various shapes and sizes and people who always seem busy moving back and forth between their boats and the nearby market. This also kept my camera busy as I carefully observed the activity.
Boats of various shapes and sizes are the main modes of transport for the traders in Daru Island. Colorful tarpaulin sheets become the roof of the boats as they use it as their temporary home while on the island.
Those who come from villages less than a day away use the open fiberglass dinghies as their main mode of transport.
Before the end of the day, the traders start hauling and storing their goods and supplies inside their houseboats.
Smoke starts to float out of the boats as the traders start to prepare their dinner for the night.
The houseboat becomes the center of the family’s activities on late afternoons.
The kids’ only playground is the surrounding mud or the boats’ outriggers.
Other families prepare their meals and while away their time outside their small boats.
And then the night sets in and silence starts to envelope the shore.
When morning came, the tide has risen and has started to cover the muddy shore. The kids start playing in the now seemingly unspoiled water as their parents start preparing for another day at the market. Such is the cycle of life on the muddy shores of Daru Island.