PORT MORESBY - Riding in an old dugout canoe with a single outboard motor, Efrongawi is jokingly cautioned by his guide to keep his limbs and phalange’s well inside the confines of the vessel lest the crocodiles snap at him.
Keeping his head in the game and his limbs in the canoe, Efrongawi asks the fixer how long he has been giving tours along the Sepik River.
The man explains he’s been in the tourism industry for many years but that Efrondu is the most famous person he has had for a while.
Efrongawi, Efrongaindu, Efrondu, Chekarias Efroningi are just some of the local names that Sepik’s have bestowed on him as a way of relating, making him an honorary kin.
As they lose sight of the Pagwi waterfront they’ve just left, Efroningi wonders how he can kill himself on TV without actually killing himself in real life.
When they arrive at Kaminibit village, Efrongawi is overawed not just by the beauty of the village, its immaculate lawns, the intriguing architecture of residential and ritual houses, and by the hospitality shown to him.
The local people bring water to him for a bath, tell him about their lives and local issues, and bring him food to prepare dinner for him with rice and noodles brought from Wewak town.
He feels like he can be his true self without having to put on a show or a mask for prying paparazzi or overzealous fans.
That night lying safely under his bednet, lulled towards sleep by a riparian symphony of a million different insects and mosquitoes, he closes his eyes and feels like he could be absorbed by his new environment and lost to the world forever.
The sun rises and morning spits him out.
Chekarias sits atop the short step leading down from the guesthouse. Efrongawi watches as the villagers go about their chores, making breakfast, getting ready to go to their gardens, preparing for fishing….
He realises this is not a backwater, it’s not primitive, it’s hardly the “wild tribal village” ideal for his new TV series, ‘Killing Zac Efron’.
I’ll need to go further inland, he thinks, to the interior, to see if there is such a tribe.
He decides that after breakfast he’ll ask his guide to take him back to Pagwi waterfront.