THE QUEST FOR WAKONAI!
This is the true story of a recent botanical search on the islands of Papua New Guinea.
In August 2014, a French gentleman, known as Sylvain, set off to track down the little-known PNG native citrus varieties.
He has recorded his adventures on the forum AgrumesPassion, and has given me permission to reproduce them here.
Originally written in French, I have here translated as best I can - but apologise in advance for any errors! The copyright of all photos and videos remains with Sylvain. Nearly all photos are clickable to enlarge.
It was just a year ago that I became interested in Citrus wakonai. See the following sources of information:
French citrus forum discussion about Citrus wakonai http://www.agrumes-passion.com/agrumes-oceanie-f90/topic4172.html
Botanical description of Citrus wakonai http://pafranceparamoteur.free.fr/datas/perso/Agrumes/Wakonai.pdf
This is Mike's site - alias 'Citrange' http://www.homecitrusgrowers.co.uk/australiannativecitrus/citruswakonai.html
USA citrus forum discussion about Citrus wakonai http://citrus.forumup.org/viewtopic.php?t=8675&highlight=wakonai&mforum=citrus
On the American citrus forum shown above, we had the following discussion:
- Citrange: Yes, that's another very interesting species that I would love to add to my collection.
- Sylvain: I am too very, very interested to have few viable seeds.
And after reading the website: http://helenasadventuresintropicalpng.wordpress.com/2013/02/11/was-it-goodenough/
- Citrange said: Anyone feel in need of some adventure?
And as a joke, I said
- Sylvain: If someone pays the plane ticket, this summer I go there and send you seeds. This is exactly the situations I love.
- Citrange: Really? More malaria? (this is a reference to my search in Africa for the species Citropsis http://www.agrumes-passion.com/experimentations-agrumes-f70/topic3693.html)
I'd go myself, but I'm not sure they've got enough supplies of soft toilet-paper!
So instead, I'll sponsor your trip for €200. Another 9 sponsors should cover your fares.
- Sylvain: I swear, this time I'll take my malaria pills. :)
So it was like this, with a joke, that the project started. We worked on this journey for almost a year. Principally myself and Mike, but with the help of several others.
It was quickly realised that Papua New Guinea (PNG) is also the home of C. Wintersii, C. Warburgiana, and the Papuan Citron and, even more fascinating, of Clymenia polyandra which has just rejoined citrus in a new classification.
Mike said: To find C. wakonai will be a real challenge. To find all of them in one trip would be almost impossible. But prove me wrong!!!
And so this joking was transformed into a challenge!
The following months were occupied with preparing equipment, with putting the locations where citrus had been seen on the GPS map (on my Galaxy S2 smartphone), with downloading detailed maps of PNG to the phone, with collecting information on plants and on PNG, and with learning the basics of Tok Pisin, the local pidgin language.
On 4th May 2014 I bought the tickets: Departing Bordeaux 26th August, changing in Paris and Hong Kong and arriving Port Moresby (capital of PNG) 28th August.
Tuesday, 26th August Martine took me to Bordeaux.
By bad luck the Bordeaux-Paris flight was delayed. Missed the connection to Hong Kong. Re-routed via Singapore. Spent hours wandering the halls of the airport which was completely closed (including shuttles and escalators). Five hours of sleep in the Ibis hotel.
Meal at the Ibis hotel.
Page created 6th December 2014
Wednesday, 27th August.
Depart for Singapore.They assured me my luggage would follow.
Thursday, 28th August
I arrived in Singapore. Clearly my luggage hadn't followed!
At 8.20pm I departed for POM (Port Moresby). Arrived in PNG on the morning of 29th August.
I immediately went to buy a flight ticket to Goroka for the 8th September, so leaving a good week free.
I go to the university stop. I find a quiet place to settle. I fall asleep and hear strange and repetitive songs close to where I am. In the middle of the night I am woken by security guards who are the university guards. They explain that it is too dangerous to sleep out here because there are "settlements" (in fact, shanty towns) nearby.They take me to their offices where I can sleep in a large hall, although I prefer to sleep outside because the breeze repels the mosquitoes.
The first 3 nights 'encampment':
Saturday, August 30th 8am, I visit the botanical garden alongside the university. There are no citrus.
Click pictures to enlarge!
At 11am I go out and find a university group preparing for a 'sing-sing':
Everyone climbs into lorries and leaves for the sing-sing. Once there, I now understood that the singing I had heard in the night had been a practice.
This was the first sing-sing of this group of students representing a new province - the province of Jiwaka.
A panoramic view - click to enlarge photos!
So, that was my first day in Papua New Guinea. A cultural shock! Two faces to end the day:
Sing-sing is a gathering of a few tribes or villages in Papua New Guinea. People arrive to show their distinct culture, dance and music. The aim of these gatherings is to peacefully share traditions. Villagers paint and decorate themselves for sing-sings.
(Note that for me these videos only work when using Internet Explorer browser)
Selfie in the airport.
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