The Mighty Fly River 2
Deceptively calm waters, a few motorized dinghies, and a lot of dugout canoes of various sizes are what mainly characterize the remote parts of the Fly River
November 2014: Perhaps it was meant to be this way. Ever since I saw the immensely dense rainforest of Western Province from above and the dark and huge body of water that slithered through it like a gigantic serpent, I started dreaming of sailing the whole stretch of the Fly River from Kiunga, the province’s ex-officio capital, to the island of Daru, its official capital. This “expedition” I was told, would take at least six days and a lot of courage to face whatever surprises each day or night would bring with each bend and turn of the mighty river’s mysterious current deep within Papua New Guinea’s densest jungle.
Part of the Fly River and the dense jungle around it as seen from above
The very first time I ever rode a boat on the Fly River and posted photos of it was in 2012 (see The Mighty Fly River) and, while it was a short trip then (we only cruised for two hours upstream for lack of time), it got me really excited. But now, just like then, we won’t make it even just a third of the way from Kiunga to Daru. Just like before, the trip was just intended for project visits among villages that were relatively close to Kiunga. Nevertheless, it was fun and my camera was just as busy as my eyes were. Here’s what I saw.
The River is busiest around Kiunga, a booming town where most government agencies and businesses hold office and where locals sell their goods and buy their supplies.
The Fly River Provincial Government (FRPG) headquarters (background) is located in Kiunga.
These small boats ferry passengers and cargo between Kiunga and Daru on a regular basis
Stockyards and warehouses dominate Kiunga’s riverbanks.
In Kiunga, dugout canoes share the river with cargo ships
Rubber (the round stone-like things are unprocessed rubber cakes) is a major agricultural product of the province. Some of these would eventually find their way to other countries.
But only a few minutes out of Kiunga and thick foliage start dominating the river banks. Men and women intensely paddle their dugout canoes towards unknown places within the river maze.
While some boaters stand still on their canoes waiting for the perfect time to cast their nets
And then the calm waters get stirred by the fully loaded passenger canoes
And another one zipping through as if in a hurry to deliver it passengers and cargo to the urban center
In Kiunga, these long boats will wait for hours and sometimes days to bring the passengers and their new cargo back to their villages
Along the river, an occasional hut tucked within thick vegetation can be found. Smoke oozing out indicates that it’s inhabited.
In some cases, it can be a whole family hunting, gathering or just having a picnic in the bush
Or a small boy silently watching as our dinghy passes by
Or a girl keeping her canoe by the bank lest it may capsize from the waves created by our dinghy
While a couple paddles their boatload of greens towards Kiunga
Our guide told us stories of crocs sunbathing on the riverbank in this part of the river and so I strained my eyes and my lens to make sure I get a photo of the first amphibian we’d encounter. The occasional pools and lagoons looked very calm and quiet but we were not so lucky in finding exotic wildlife except for some eagles and kites.
The clearing and debris along the river bank indicate that the place is a saw mill but the surrounding jungle appears to remain thick and healthy.
And then there was a first sign of a thriving village
Where a mother a her kids try their luck with the early fish
As another woman loads up her boat with goods for the market
And still another bathes her young in the fresh water
While the other kids play in the sand
And the older ones play a ball game
A man paddles his canoe towards his home across the river
The village is scenic, peaceful and enjoys a magnificent view of the surroundings. And I imagined myself living in this remote place for a while.
The village was inviting but our dinghy was waiting to quickly bring us back to Kiunga. And to reality.