4 days on the river. I was tired, filthy and more than a little smelly. James’s stubble growing efforts were threatening beard-y success. We were down to our last packet of instant noodles and just the non-spicy tuna. Things were looking dire. Time to make a break for it.
Oh and we also a flight to catch.
We hatched a cunning but foolproof escape plan: overnight in Pagwe then catch a PMV into Wewak on Friday morning. Watches synchronized, we leapt from the canoe (hindered only slightly by the 10 kilos of sculptures we were by now carrying) into the throbbing by-lanes of Pagwe, alert and ready to go.
Instants later we successfully made contact with our friend in Pagwe, code name “Mike”, posing as the local guesthouse owner. Plan phase 1 successfully completed, we moved straight to “Mike”‘s Phase 2 briefing where our local contact immediately proved his value to the mission: there are no longer any PMVs to Wewak on Fridays.
We were stuck up the Sepik River without a paddle. Or indeed a canoe. We turned to Plan B, but cast it aside rapidly due to its fatal non-existence.
A brief consultation with “Mike” provided us with Plan C: ask anyone in town with a motorized or indeed semi motorized) vehicle if they’d take 2 smelly tourists plus 10 kilos of sculptures on the 3 hour journey to Wewak. Bribe where required. Use force if necessary.
We met some local counter-resistance: bare refusal to co-operate; outrageous pecuniary demands. We remained stalwart, but the truth was that our time was running out. Time to send in our chief negotiator. Trained in a ruthless London / New York investment banking operation he strikes fear into the hearts of snake oil salesmen worldwide. They call him James.
I don’t know what his tactics were, nor do I want to. Within 10 minutes of his deployment into the field, we were installed in a vehicle with an ex-missionary tour guide and 3 cowering colleagues. 3 hours later we arrived into Wewak, walked into the finest hotel in town and were immediately granted a 20% discount (we REALLY looked like we couldn’t afford it).