Significant rain had fallen the night before. As we headed to the airport that Tuesday, there were clouds all around. As the pilot prepped the helicopter, Gary and Sam discussed last minute details before they headed off in opposite directions. After pre-flight was completed, cargo and passengers were loaded on board. Backpacks were packed as lightly as possible because the guys knew they would get heavier with each passing day. Even with that in mind, certain things were needed – a mosquito net, sheet, towel, at least one additional change of clothes, a bit of medicine in case of injury or infection, a camera, and papers for gathering all the necessary data as well as giving each village particular details to take home with them. Armed with a water bottle, a pack of biscuits for each person for each day, a couple cans of peanuts for the two weeks, and little other food, they would rely on the host villages for the rest of their food.
Different than previous assessment trips, there was no airstrip nearby, so the guys would be deposited in an open space at Kobori by the helicopter. After being dropped off, Gavin headed to Yukilau to pick up the four Papua New Guineans who would act as guides for the trip. With low clouds and rain, it wasn’t a good day for picking them up, but after being patient for a bit, he was able to safely retrieve the four men and bring them back to meet Gary and Sam. Kabori had seen a fair bit of rain too, as they crossed the same river four times to get to a nearby village.
The teams knew that flexibility would be a key component of the trip. As they began that first day, they realized that their first stop was in a different location than shown on the map. Fortunately, the villages weren’t as spread apart as anticipated, but the steepness of the mountains was still like walking up and down stairs. Sam and his guides headed west toward Guriaso and Gary and his guys headed east toward Lumi.
As they now near the end of their hiking, they are relieved to be at this point. The big, but pleasant surprise, is that in spite of seeing fifteen to twenty villages each, the teams will both be done with at least three days to spare. As they come back next Tuesday, we look forward to hearing about all they have seen and heard and how SPES can begin to partner with these language groups to get God’s Word into a language that speaks to their hearts.