Daru – Back on the Island
Sunset over Daru – Daru is one of the busiest of Papua New Gunea’s islands in the Gulf of Papua
05 September 2015, Papua New Guinea: A year after my last visit, there I was again, standing at the balcony of the New Century Hotel in Daru, watching houseboats, dugout canoes, and dinghies prepare to settle on the beach below as the tropic sun started to sink into the distant horizon. The island of Daru is the former capital of the Western Province of Papua New Guinea. It is a small dot in the Gulf of Papua just a few kilometers away from the mainland and very close to the border with Australia.
Daru Island is connected by domestic flights to the country’s capital, Port Moresby, to Kiunga, the political capital of Western Province, and to some nearby destinations by ‘missionary flights’.
I visited Daru for the first time in 2012 and I’ve been coming almost every year. In 2014, I posted a series of photos taken on this island. Nothing much has changed since then but, when standing on that hotel balcony, there is always something exciting — a photo opportunity posed by the boats as well as the men, women and children living parts of their somewhat unique and difficult lives on the beach below. The succeeding series (parallel to the “Faces of Goroka” series) is all about life in this small island in the Gulf of Papua.
These boats are always present on the eastern coast of the island
Big dug-out canoes turned into houseboats mostly came from the mainland, from the upstream villages along Oriomo and Fly rivers.
Motorized dinghies such as these mostly come from coastal villages just across the channel from Daru
Aside from the public offices, banks and hardware stores which are present in Daru but not in many places for hundreds of kilometers inland; the main thing that draws the boats from the mainland vilages to the island is this produce market.
Whole families arrive in boats
They bring with them produce from their farms and gardens such as coconuts, bananas and sago
Fish and other bounties of the sea such as mud crabs, crayfish and shrimps are also among the produce being delivered to Daru mostly by a seafaring, coast-dwelling tribe called Kiwai.
This man brings a sea turtle to the island market. Turtle stew is a local favorite.
Just like men, women also lead in carrying products to the market
Theystart displaying their products at the open market early in the morning
One section of the market displays sago (their staple food), and other agricultural products. Fish and other aquatic products are displayed in another section of the market
Garden products do not sell too quickly and so the families have to stay on the island for days.
While on the island, the boats become the family’s temporary home
A mother does her laundry while her husband sells bananas at the market
Small kids stay inside the boat all day…
… Or play on the boats’ outriggers
…Until the mother comes home
If they were lucky and their goods have been sold out, the mother comes home to the boat with fresh supplies for their village home
And more supplies are loaded until, when the tide comes up and the boat is filled with fresh supplies; the family will finally set sail towards their home village only to come back to this shore another day.