Before the early 80s, public transport in Papua New Guinea was very basic. On one occasion, I was travelling along the Ramu Valley and was awaiting my next-sector public transport to arrive. It turned out to be a truck carrying a “silent” cow – one that had deceased. I sat in the back using the animal as a leather seat par excellence. This was a great blessing as the road was not too even. As the dust engulfed us and the wind whistled by, I had an abundance of space and fresh air to compensate for other potential inconveniences. It certainly was a very creative journey. After an hour or so, I was thankful to reach a junction where I needed to catch transport on a different “route”. This time it would wind its way up through a 5,000 foot mountain pass that gave spectacular views at every fresh turn.
This vehicle was fairly standard, a small family pickup with the back tray full of colourful passengers from several areas in the highlands. Many carried with them the goods they had purchased in a coastal city – often food and other items not so readily available back at home in the highlands – if at all – in their mountain towns and villages.
However, there was another dimension to this trip, which I did not discover until safely aboard. The driver had been “hired” by a local election candidate to stop at strategic locations to enable the eager orator to launch into a pre-election speech. Of course, this would be preceded by cultural greetings, exchange of news and some sharing of food etc. I suddenly realised that my predicted journey-time needed a rapid re-calculation. However, it is always best to have a confirmed journey than to try and beat the system by switching vehicles. The folk onboard were very hospitable and shared a variety of food with me. Of course, I had not expected such delays but everyone else had and were enjoying the ride with normal acquiescence and peacefulness. One would get home safely – sampela taim – and hopefully the candidate would be re-elected.