Thursday, October 25, 2007

Watam Village

This morning we visited Watam, a village near the mouth of the Sepik River. Watam is a village of 300 people consisting of 7 clans each with its own leader and one chieftain. The villagers give us a royal welcome right from the start. As our Zodiacs approach, a boat of villagers decked out in full ceremonial garb comes out to greet us. Dancers are waiting on shore as well. After we make a procession led by a dragon costume, we witness a flag raising ceremony with the local children reciting the Lords Prayer and singing the Papua New Guinea National Anthem. There is then an exchange of gifts. Tauck home office employees and Orion passengers have all donated clothing and school supplies to be given to the village of Watam. Robin Tauck presents the goods and is given some bilum bags and necklaces in return. Costumed dancing goes on for the entire time of our visit. Representatives from other villages have come to Watam and brought their handicrafts for sale. Based on all the carvings, bags and necklaces brought back to the ship it appears the Orion passengers have made a significant contribution to the local economy today. We sadly have to leave Watam feeling as though we have made some new friends.
In the afternoon we again embark the Zodiacs to enter the mouth of the Sepik River. The Sepik is one of the worlds great rivers running more than 800 miles from its origin in the mountain highlands. The Sepik has no delta and stains the sea brown for up to 30 miles. We can clearly see where the river water meets the sea. We spot several species of birds of prey along the river banks and in the trees. Also along the river banks grow the Sago Palm which is a food staple for the natives. The pulpy center of the tree is ground up and sifted through water to extract the starchy foodstuff.

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