Saturday, October 06, 2018

The revival of Garaina


We arrived at remote Garaina on Independence Day 2018.

The closed down Garaina Tea Plantation now standing idle in thick kunai grass with no sign of life.~Pictures by SAMPSON BONAI

People  greeted us when we disembarked from chartered North Coast Aviation Britten Norman Islander aircraft and walked over to the airstrip hangar at Garaina station.

They welcomed us as we carried our bags to the small hangar.

The 20-minute flight from Wau on a fine day gave us an opportunity to glance down from the aircraft to see the mountains separating Waria Valley from Wau.

The towering Owen Stanley Range at Garaina

We flew over the Biangai mountains.

 We could see Lake Trist glittering under the mornng  sun.

Lake Trist as seen from our Britten Norman Islander.

We later flew over the Biaru and Waria mountains before we saw Waria Valley in front of us.

A local man and Grace Memorial Secondary School  principal,  Zukua Koito, who was sitting next to me excitedly pointed out of the window.

We flew over Onora airstrip near the two villages of Sikemu and Kapiso.

Garaina station was in front  of us.

The expatriate pilot steadied the plane as it slowly towards Garaina airstrip and landed safely on the grassy strip.

Locals came rushing to the airstrip and welcomed us in their local Gusamanie language that is widely spoken by the people from Waria Valley.

We grabbed our bags and returned their warm welcome by responding "dzobe".

Wau-based policemen and two local guides arrived and led us along the track towards the LLG headquarters and the soccer fields.

Forty-eight soccer teams participated in the weeklong Waria Valley  Unity Cup Soccer Tournament.

Arihe (men) and Au (women) took out the top accolades and K1000 prizemoney.

Major sponsor and PNG Cocoa Board chief executive officer Boto Gaupu congratulated the winning teams.

PNG Cocoa Board CEO Boto Gaupu (right) with Arihe men's soccer team which took out the 2018 Unity Cup Soccer Tournament

He said next year's event would be even  bigger and better.

"We will launch the Waria Valley cocoa project next year," he said.

"Agriculture Minister Benny Allan and other senior Goverment officers from Waigani will be in Garaina to witness the launching programme."

At Garaina, one other track leads to the primary school, shops, health centre and the closed Department of Agriculture and Livestock office.

Garaina Health Centre which provides  services to the people of Waria Valley

Two shops with Bank South Pacific Eftpos machines, owned by locals and located near the health centre,  continue to provide public servants and local people with basic store goods.

One of the two shops in Garaina that serves public servants and the local people

The goods are flown in by air.

 It's very costly to buy a packet of sugar or rice.

The track then connects further down the road and leads to the local government council area.

The old road that connected Garasa and Bapi villages is now closed and had been turned into bush tracks.

The power line and the generator that used to supply electrocity to the station had also broken down and stands idle.

The people still mention the name of former council manager, John Orebut, who served in Waria in the 1990s.

They described him as the "best council manager of Waria LLG".

The towering Owen Stanley Range right in front us at Garaina runs from Waria all the way to Northern and Milne Bay provinces.

The lawn around the Waria LLG headquarters,  council manager's house, two patrol officers' houses, police barracks area and deteriorating RSL Club house are kept clean at all times.

Waria LLG Manager Pagau Arubidza with his son standing in front of his house at Garaina Station

Waria LLG headquarters lawn is kept clean and the office block is always manned

The cool climate and fertile soil makes Waria Valley one of the best areas to grow cash crops such as coffee, cocoa and tea.

The Garaina tea plantation now covered in tall bushes

The area is an tourist destination.

More guest houses need to be set up at Garaina and surrounding villages.

The local people are very friendly and always look after visitors and government officers passing through their villages with accommodation and food.

Waria Valley will soon transform into one of the biggest cocoa-producing area in Bulolo and Morobe.

A cocoa nursery in Bulolo

More local people will venture into various business activities to sustain their lives when cocoa production begins.

Tourism will be one area the local people can venture into.

They can build guest houses in the villages for tourists visiting their area for trekking, birdwatching and various other activities.

Finally the day arrived for us to return back to Wau.

I packed my bag, said goodbye to my new friends and walked to the airstrip to the rest of our team travelling back to Wau.

"Aipo",  all my new-found Garaina friends.

 See all of you again next year for a bigger and better soccer tournament to coincide with  launching of Waria Valley Cocoa Project.

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