Late in the night of 7th June Samuel put us in contact with a guy called Aaron who has a brand-new 60 horse motor and a 23 foot banana boat. We bought 2 cartons of mineral water because Samuel told us that we would find it hard to get any good drinking water along the way. Also bought rice, tin goods plus biscuits etc. On the 8th of June around 10am we took off on a journey that would take us 3 nights and 4 days on the 850km down to the mouth of the biggest river in PNG and the first capital of the Western Province Daru.
With two 44 drums of petrol to start with and the bags from us nine  people, we have to get it off one seat and the timber to make it a little lighter. Samuel our contact couldn’t go with us, as he is standing for the PNG national election. We say grace in our own hearts as we took off filming the Steamer at the main wharf in Kiunga loading copper and gold.
Along the way we saw houses under water and people standing on canoes. In my mind I was wondering how long they would live like this if the rain continues and who will help them? This is the area where it’s mainly swampy and isolated in many ways from the rest of PNG.
Aaron’s skipper knows many shorts cuts and it makes it quicker for us to cover more distance. One thing I noticed and told my team members is, I haven’t seen any birds like ducks and other birds you normally find along the rivers. Don’t know maybe from the effects of the mine or birds don’t like this area.
Last year I followed the Bruce Perry Documentary “Down the Amazon” and this one is similar on top on it all I am in it and part of it. As the river crosses into West Papua or Indonesia we stopped at a village with West Papuans. Very lately they have become citizens of PNG and were ready to cast their votes for the first time. The people thought they live without much service from the Government. They were doing well living with the nature. The biggest threat to their environment and food is from the Ok Tedi mine waste. All the villagers told us that since the mine started their staple food sago can’t give as much food as before the mine and they walk long distances and many days to get enough food.
Finally the sun nearly set and we came to a village called Manda. The villagers ran to the riverside when they saw us. Aaron talked and explained to them who we are and what we are doing. Casper a tall guy invited us to his brother’s house who is away and told us to sleep there. The rest of the villagers came to Caspers area, so we talked to them and introduced ourselves to the people.
Casper is an active guy who told us many stories about the mine’s effect and benefits. All along the people told us that when there are no Government services Ok Tedi is their Government, though the compensation package is just under PNG K300 per year. They count Ok Tedi as their only saviour. On the other end the stories of destruction overweigh the benefits but they still want the extension of the mine life.
In the night Casper told us a funny but emotional story about the Ok Tedi’s environment test, done with the river system. The mines employee is my Island man, who told Casper and his people that the water is safe to drink and to use. With his local knowledge Casper told him: if you think its safe to drink the water from the river, you should drink it while we watch you. The mine’s employee couldn’t drink it, because deep inside he knows it’s polluted, but he is saying it for the sake of the company.