FINAL ISLANDS IN THE SUNChapter 3
Nathalie stood with her guests under the shed at Alotau’s Sanderson Bay station and watched the girls prepare the dinghy for the trip to Samarai. She enjoyed sending her guests to the island, relishing every moment of pleasure each trip had brought them. Both she and her guests knew that time spent in Milne Bay without a trip to the island was time wasted indeed. Every one of them knew and valued the island’s historical significance. Although run down in many ways, Samarai remained the island to visit; especially for those who treasured the note book, the diary or the camera. To the locals and tourists alike the island was a reminder of a certain monumental past such as in being the administrative centre for the entire province once upon a time, a brief stopover for foreign trading vessels and ocean liners, or a mooring isle for storm beaten vessels of those ancient mariners from far off shores…
As the girls prepared the dinghy, bailing out the previous day’s rain water and loading the luggage, the guests settled comfortably along the benches offshore, either reading books or looking out at the vast display of sailing vessels and the sea stretching out of the bay. A couple from Dover, Colorado Springs asked how long it would take to sail to the island.
“On my 22 footer, it will be just under an hour and a half. You should be there long before lunch time. The girls prepared mackerel sandwiches with a lot of salad for your lunch. In case you need that. But food at Samarai will be just as good, provided you get there before all goes stale.”
“Hey Doboro Fjords,” called out one of the girls from the dinghy, “this trip is more than your scuba diving lessons yesterday. You need to be ready.”
“Stop teasing our guests, Foroga, and finish loading the dinghy. We have to get them to Samarai before lunch today.”
“Gala bo kuwali,” said Foroga. “But tell the doboro from Norway to be ready. This ain’t peaceful Tufi, you know. Weather around here can be unpredictable at times. Look at the clouds overhead.”
“Then test the water, Foroga,” said Nathalie. “I want my guests back safe and sound by 4pm this afternoon.”
“Yam nuamaise, Numwaya…”
Foroga scooped up salt water in her palms and threw it into her mouth, letting her taste buds work. In a moment she gave the thumbs up sign and the other girls scurried to load the dinghy with luggage and supplies for the day.
“And where is that boy with the zooms?” asked Nathalie.
“Who knows?” chorused the girls.
Presently a boy with plastic containers walked up to them, panting heavily. Foroga ordered him to load the plastics quickly. He looked lethargic, if not plain lazy, and this annoyed the girls all the more.
“Did you go all the way to Sagarai to get the zooms?” scolded Nathalie.
“The service station was crowded, Numwaya,” said the boy apologetically as he loaded the plastic containers. “Holiday time. Peak period, remember?”
“Don’t you dare ask me to remember anything, young man,” muttered Nathalie under her breath, careful not to let the tourists overhear her. “If there’s anything worth remembering it’s the day I rescued you from your grandfather treating you as a slave in his yam gardens. Be thankful you have breakfast served you in time while you’re with me.”
“Yam nuamaise, Numwaya,” said the boy and looked as if he would not raise his head for a while yet.
At which point the girls had heaved the dinghy in, stationing it by its side along the wharf for the guests to board. The guests did so without difficulty, Doboro Fjords being the first. He was known as that for being a Norwegian who loved his sojourns at Tufi more than any other place in Papua New Guinea. He had happened by this province out of curiosity before travelling on to the Tufi fjords, he had explained upon arrival. But, explanations or not, the girls at the Numwaya Nathalie Lodge found him good company, especially in the way he would serenade them on a guitar with a Belafonte tune after a glass or two of red. The girls in turn would use the “five key” on the same guitar to sing him some Hetei Dickson tunes, telling him that Hetei Dickson was a better Belafonte for the Milne Bay Province than any other.
“O island in the sun…made for me by my father’s hand…” he would begin.
“No, no, no, Doboro Fjords!” they would scream at him like parakeets. “You sing, ‘I’m going back to the island… down Eastern Papua way’…”
When everyone was comfortably boarded the girls working on the dinghy alighted, leaving Foroga and Mimi manage the trip to Samarai. The boy who brought the plastic containers appeared distraught. The couple from Dover known as Mr. and Mrs. Goldberg, or Dan and Amie, realized his troubles before anyone else could.
“Let Diko come along, too, Nathalie dear,” said Amie Goldberg. “We need company.”
“All right,” said Nathalie, almost reluctantly. She turned to the boy. “Get on, then, Diko. And be kind to our guests. Don’t bother them with petty requests and stuff.”
“He never does,” said Dan.
Doboro Fjords moved to give Diko space as Foroga prepared to start the 40 horse power engine.
“Uncle Tomwaya should be home before we get back,” said Mimi.
“He’d better be,” said Nathalie. “Anyway, it’s not unusual for him to overnight along the north coast if he’s too tired to drive back.”
“He’ll be all right,” said Foroga. “Here, Diko, don’t sit idle. Distribute the life jackets. Have everyone wear them, please. Regulations.”
“Better be going, then,” said Nathalie. “Before the weather changes its mind.”
“See you later in the evening,” said the guests.
“Have a safe trip. Enjoy.”
The girls eased the dinghy out slowly, letting it weave among the other vessels, Mimi at the front with a bamboo pole, plodding at the tyre guards to gain clear passage. Diko held the sides of the bigger boats to push the dinghy along. The guests turned and waved to Nathalie.
Once clear and out in the open Foroga started the engine and directed everyone to sit where she thought would be the safest. She revved the engine, put it into gear. Mimi took up her station at the front and the dinghy tilted skywards. It was flying.
*All chapters subject to alteration or renaming as the novel progresses.