Journal of the Kutubu trip by Crocodile Prize with MRDC, Day 2

Gretel Helicopter 17


By Gretel Matawan

I woke up to a cold and foggy morning and wonderful smells of nature. The air was clean, fresh and sweet. I felt like I was wrapped like a baby in soft gentle and lightly scented towel. I stuck my tongue out to taste the air. Port Moresby air is a far cry from this. I ignored the screams of my hungry tummy and wondered what time it was, as I had not heard my alarm go off. Its annoying shriek that I have come to love to hate every morning when I chose this love hate relationship with it (my terrible choice of alarm because it’s effective in waking up a non-morning person like myself). This morning I beat the alarm through and through. I saw the second hand rushing around the clock, screaming at the minute hand to move along.  The hour hand also asleep, occasionally looking up when the second hand came around the bend, huffing and puffing.   I smiled at myself, an achievement worth celebrating, did a small fist pump, more in my head and realised that for the first time in our relationship, I woke up before it could scream its ugly scream and watch me drag myself out of bed, usually louder and watch with scorn and a sense of pride. It was an achievement; in fact a great achievement and I thanked Kutubu, the spirits of this great place and all other energy around. This is historical.  I looked again at the clock, I swear the hour hand did say something to the minute hand and so did the minute hand. I also swear the second hand looked up to me with a sense of accepted defeat.

I had woken up an hour before my alarm. It was 3:30am in the morning! I looked up at the roof and noticed also the fluffy pillows and sighed. Why had I woken up so early? I lay there for a few minutes contemplating whether I should force myself back to sleep or start getting ready.

Iona and I had been informed by a friend that the helicopter to Kopi Camp would leave at 8am in the morning and we advised that it would be best if we got on the 6:00am shuttle bus down to Moro Airport to wait for our helicopter trip. With that in mind, we had both decided that we be ready by 5:00am in the morning, hence, why my alarm was set at 4:30am.

I decided against sleeping as the anticipation climbed and adrenaline gushed through my sleepy body and mind. This was to be my first helicopter trip. I had my shower and silently thanked Oil Search Limited (OSL) for the hot water. The hot showers deserved gratitude because of the drop in temperatures here, especially this time of the day. By 5:00 am I was ready and packed as I stepped out of my assigned room and got another wave of the fresh air. I felt a velvety and thicker air enveloping me rather gradually – I felt loved again by life.

Iona was up and waiting for me to head down to the mess. The Iagifu Ridge Camp was already awake and employees were busying themselves in preparing for their day’s tasks. I wondered in awe of all the employees as they moved about with ease and determination, mining life is different from normal day jobs in main centres. They wake up and start the day off so early while the majority of the country sleeps. I was ever so grateful to have a glimpse in their everyday life, so different to my own.

At the mining camp sites, hygiene is of utmost importance. We are required to wash our hands before entering the mess. As I stepped in, the smell of coffee hit me like the call of siren to a sailor. I walked closer to the hot buffet and looked across the variety of food. I chose the delicious green spinach to go with a hot serving of white fluffy scrambled eggs, finished with a hot cup of coffee. I have to admit, caffeine and I have a long history. I grew up as an only child with my Uncle and he loved coffee period. My uncle only drinks the best Goroka (PNG) coffee. I grew up with the smell. I took sips of his coffee when he was not looking which was almost every time.  So I believe I have good taste in coffee and the caffeine certainly connects mysteriously with me.

With 10 minutes to spare, we quickly carried our bags down from our rooms and returned the keys. 6:00am on the dot, our shuttle bus was waiting for the passengers going down to Moro Airport. The shuttle buses up here follow a schedule; a bus leaves every hour for Moro. We drove down with the headlights on full beam and the sky still dark blue heavily coated with the remaining colours of the night. I felt a tap on my shoulder and turned to Iona, as she pointed towards the oil head bellowing huge flames of fire like a proud mother Dragon. I stared, mesmerised until the mountains closed off my view and I realised later on that my mouth was still hanging open when we arrived at our destination.

We checked into the Helicopter terminal which is off to right side of the small airport, only to be advised that the helicopter to Kopi Camp is scheduled to fly at 12:30 pm in the afternoon. However, that didn’t dampen my spirits as that gave me time to take a few pictures here and there.

During this period of waiting I connected with the Crocodile Prize enthusiast from around the world. I answered all Facebook messages, emails and calls. I gave specific instructions to entrants querying about how to entre 2017 Crocodile prize Competition and chatted about Literature (writing and reading).  I also had chats about my trip and Crocodile Prize with several who came out and spoke to me.  Importantly, I had a very intense communication with several media outlets. We planned about the possibilities of using media to get Papua New Guineans to read and write.

In my reflections, I thought of the people in this area and how they could write about their amazing world. I looked at the clouds, the trees, the greenery, I felt the wind (tried to eat the wind again), heard the breeze and listened to the sounds of the nature.  The Heritage Writing Category sponsored by the Cleland Family should have like thousands of entries because PNG is truly an amazingly beautiful and culturally wealthy country in the world.  I was proud of my PNG Heritage. I smiled as I made my mental notes on my travel diary.

I also realised that due to my fulltime work and the intermittent focus or time for Crocodile Prize activities, I do not have proper reflections on where this competition is going. This competition is truly one of the best things thought about for Literature in PNG.

I took the time to respond to emails and queries, and watched the beautiful sunrise. Then I heard this loud beating in the sky and looked up and around because the noise was echoing all around Moro Camp. I looked across from the Haus Win and spotted a big yellow helicopter descend from the clouds. Excitement coursed through me as I walked closer and took my phone out for a quick pick before it took off. Such a beauty that helicopter was, it is called Bel H145.

We were called in for the safety induction at 11:00am. The safety induction was about the proper ways to approach a helicopter and its safety requirements. We are not allowed to carry carry-on bags into the helicopter. All luggages must be stored in the baggage area.

After lunch at Moro Camp, we headed back to the Helicopter Terminal and waited for another two hours only to be told that we had to overnight in Moro again because there were reports of bad weather in the Kopi area. Disappointed, Iona called to inform her team that we had been scheduled to fly out in the morning at 8am. Tired and exhausted, we headed back to Iagifu Ridge Camp on the 2:00pm shuttle bus with the sun shining bright down on us. As we neared the ridge camp, I noticed the fog setting into the camp, and it was very much cooler than down at Moro Camp. After settling back into our assigned rooms, the fog descended faster than when I first came and the camp was as cold as the night before even though was still the sun shining bright if you could see past the fog.

I settled in for another night in Iagifu Ridge Camp. Hopefully the weather in the Kopi area is good for us to travel tomorrow.


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