SIMON PENTANU MP
KIETA - After spending most of Sunday at sea, the drive to South Nasioi on Monday was a welcome change, travelling past Marai as far as Darutue on the road to Kongara in the foothills of Mt Takuang, the second highest mountain on Bougainville.
The dirt road was rough, in parts atrociously so but still trafficable. Never mind, however, the scenery at slow pace more than made up for the bumpy ride.
There were a number of small roadside markets selling fruit, vegetables, green coconuts to quench the thirst and, of course, the ubiquitous betel nut with mustard.
On our stop at one small market by the Marai school and church, we bought some home oven-baked buns and stayed long enough to devour them.
Both sides of the road were lined with tall coconuts, patches of well-kept cocoa, food gardens on the hillsides and larger plantations.
We stopped near one of the colourful cocoa plots to pick up fern tree posts which I had ordered some weeks back.
As the boys stacked them in the back of a four-door Toyota, I wandered about under the cocoa trees admiring the multi-coloured pods thinking how it must be a labour of love harvesting them, going through fermentation and the different curing processes before finally selling the beans in bagfuls for hard cash.
I reminisced on the trip about how I had been through here as a primary school pupil on a mission tractor many years back visiting Marai Catholic mission which is now a parish.
At another time I recall a similar trip on the faithful tractor which the driver parked at the roadside and we walked up hills and along valleys until we reached the place where a small feast was being given.
On this trip, apart from being grateful for the fern tree posts I ordered, my mission was to meet and chat with Chief Oama, where we also bought some home baked buns.
I was some classes behind Oama at Tubiana Catholic primary school in the early 1960s. He is a manta’a (kokomo) clansman and told me he was still active representing the ward in his community government.
We spoke fondly about the good old mission days and about those of our school and age vintage who have passed on.
All in all it was a memorable three-hour visit just driving and looking around and coming into contact with the lush green scenery, as well as admiring the colourful cocoa pods hanging on trees at different stages of maturity.
There is so much on offer that beautifies and enriches Bougainville. There is so much to appreciate if we care to take time out to explore.