Monday, June 6, 2011

The Big Loop - Sick to the Simbu

As we have no photos I will give you a brief dialogue of our trip up to Mt Hagen and back. About four hours on the back of the land-cruiser put us in Mt Hagen, where we stopped at the first store/hot food stand and brought some lamb flaps... the same cut as pork strips off a sheep but just bone and fat. We ate those and headed to the police station, much to our dismay. But fortunately we done this as we were advised to NOT travel to the Enga Province, which is where the Lai and Baiyer Rivers were. Civil unrest, a recent kidnapping and a lack of police presence there (due to them focusing on the main centres of the Easter weekend) were all just reasons for deciding against travelling up there. So we decided to chill out for the evening, watch some publicly distributed pirated DVD's and come up with a plan in the morning. Well about 2.50am our plan started to come into being with Barny charging out of the tent, making it to the out-house before spewing and shitting simultaneously. I only woke up for about 6 of his 12+ quick exits from the tent and by the morning Barny was actually broken. When we all got up we found that Shan we under the weather too, he had been feeling a little rough but his dose of the runs were more frequent and violent than they had been. The to make things worse, Bonny's sister who had returned from the Enga Province said that we would be fine going there... Although it was tempting, we had to listen to the warming of the local cops and the boys bodies. So we elected to drive back down to Kundiawa so they boys could get some rest at Mama Josephines. Some sleep, fluids and then a good feed in the evening brought the boys back to life and ready for the next day... Back to the Simbu!

Barny scouting (p. Jordy)

Before committing to the Simbu we figured that we better give it a proper scout so figured we might spend the morning trying to scout from the gorge rim and then paddle it in the afternoon. No need! Once we arrived above the rim we were told by a local lady that there was a track down to the gorge. After cautiously making our way down the grassy/slippery/muddy track we got right into the gorge... right above where the whole river went underground! Fortunately there was a pool above it to portage if the rest of the gorge was good to go. As we walked up river left we noticed a drop that would go if you missed the eddy but we'd rather portage if we could as 70% of the water pumped straight into an undercut. Above that was some class IV and then a class V drop below a massive waterfall coming in on river left. We could see that falls from the mouth of the gorge which indicated to us that it was good to go. We hastily made our way up to the truck and then down to an area where we would put in at Benebi Corner.

Shan scouting the Sikewage Gorge (p. Jordy)

Looks good from here (p. Jordy)

Although we pretty much knew what was in the gorge there was an hint of apprehension among us. After Barny won r-p-s again he was first to commit, first to experience the surreal feeling of going through the gorges gates first. Shan and I followed and then much to our surprise, we noticed some village kids inside the gorge shooting bats with home-made slingshots... and actually getting them! This was PNG, amazing box gorge, 60+foot waterfall crashing in on river right and kid killing bats! Back to business, Shan and I got out to scout/photo/video the class V drop we had seen from below earlier. Shan gave Barny a line, I reaffirmed it and we set up to watch Barny fire it... Well coming in blind Barny got on the perfect line but as he got whited out by a big wave missed the last stroke and didn't quite clear the hole, get recirced and straight into a side surf. He then pretty much surfed out of the hole but then got stopped by a large buffer and crammed into a shitty pocket eddy. After holding on for ages he finally pulled and subbed out for an eternity. Briefly surfacing, I lauched a bag but it went taunt and fell short, Shan then moved and bagged Barny, albeit from upstream. Barny regathered himself quickly on a rock before washing down into the rapid we thought we'd portage if we could. After I ran around through the bush I found Barny chillng out in the eddy, a bit exhausted but all good. Then I asked the golden question, "where's your boat bro?", knowing below the eddy Barny was in the river went underground. He didnt know, I didnt know, Shan didnt know and the local bat-killers didnt know. After having a quick scour around, being lowered into the cave where the river was flowing and some thinking we pretty much figured that it was in that 70% undercut. Several attempts to locate the boat failed so Barny and I just waited.

Barny entering Sikewage Gorge (p. Jordy)

Stoked! (p. Jordy)

A gorge that rivals all gorges (p. Barny)

Sheer-walled, amazing. (p. Barny)

Barny ready to fire (p. Jordy)

Sikewage Gorge (p. Jordy)

Barny on the perfect line... but not to be (p. Jordy)

Shannon and the crew carried our boats up the grassy/slippery/muddy hill, and we continued to wait. Five hours past to no avail so we decided to pull the pin, Barny's boat and the gear inside it (camera and everything) were gone, but we gave the local's our contact detail incase it flushed out sometime. Offering a 100kina reward for the blue bag (watershed) that was in the kayak. This was the second time the Simbu had broken us and we arrived back to Mama Josephines spent and in need of a good feed and sleep. Looks like the next day it would just be Shan and myself...

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