Wednesday, 1st October.
Eric gives me a lift to the airport. I fly to Port Moresby. I go to sleep near the university with the Sédé family as usual. Each trip is an opportunity to change clothes, to prepare what I will carry for the next section of the journey, and to spend the evenings in stimulating discussions. In addition, every time I copy all my files on to Murphy's computer. He is one of the boys in the family, and a university student. Should any misfortune happen to my hard drive, I have a backup.
Mike had put me in touch with Nathalie who works for SIL (Originally the 'Summer Institite for Linguistics'). She intends to grow any citrus I find in the SIL gardens in Lae and Goroka. So I decide to go back to the Brown River to find her some seeds of Citrus wintersii.
Thursday, 2nd October .
I'm off to find my Brown River buddies. The atmosphere has changed because the young men of another tribe have been extorting people who use the bridge at night. When night falls everyone is on their guard. This does not prevent me going to get my beer on the other side every night despite the warnings not to go. The store is on the other side ...
Friday, 3rd October.
A boy carrying something to eat from the river.
A hunter with a catapult.
Click on photos to zoom in!
I go back into the bush to take the GPS readings that I had not been able to do a month earlier because my smartphone had been stolen. The fruits that had been left as tests have not turned yellow. I dig up some young seedlings because they wanted to grow them in the concession.
Saturday, 4th October.
The owner of the shop has just cleared some ground for a new garden a few miles away and found two new citrus:
One with leaves like Citrus warburgiana but without any thorns.
The other with willow shaped leaves.
If the first one is Citrus warburgiana, it would be the first time it has been found north of Port Moresby, but the lack of spines makes one think it is some other species.
While the second one is (for me) a completely new species. This is certainly the most interesting thing so far in this journey.
I ask where the trees are, and the answer is "Well, we were clearing the ground, so we cut them down, but do not worry, there must be others in the vicinity."
The leaves on the branches brought to us were half dry, so I did not think it useful to take samples. We organize a survey for the next day.
Sunday, 5th October.
We go to the area of the cleared land. We search and search, but it is impossible to find the citrus with leaves like warburgiana. We find a tiny example of the one with willow leaves.
I pick the minimum possible. We wrap the branches in banana leaves and return home where I prepare the samples.
I go to look behind the house for the branches of the warburgiana-leaf citrus I had thrown away yesterday. I put them to rehydrate in water with a few drops of alcohol. The only water available here is the water of the Brown River.
Monday, 6th October.
I prepare the rehydrated samples of the warburgiana-leaf citrus and I leave for Port Moresby to post the samples. There are neither flowers nor fruits, so no seeds. Local say these citrus grow in the mountains and that the rivers, floods and birds carry the seeds to the plain. The plants grow but end up dying because of the relative dryness and they do not fruit here.
I take this opportunity to switch my smartphone from 3G to 4G . Yes, there is 4G in Papua!
The introduction and sale of betel nuts is forbidden in Port Moresby which results in a lot of smuggling.
To fight this, checkpoints are located at the entrances of the city. This is the quantity seized in two weeks.
Tuesday, 7th October.
Back to The Brown River. I was told about a place where there were "near-citrus" plants and maybe another variety. So I organized an outing. We had to go to the foot of the mountains. We start at two (translate?time/with two?) to reach a hamlet near the mountains and the people of the village will take us to the place.
Click on any photo to zoom in!
We have to cross the Brown River to reach the mountains you can see in the distance. We call a smuggler (?ferry?) and a child takes us across.
The house and the family of the smuggler (?ferry-boy?).
We arrive at the village at the foot of the mountains which are really only hills at this point. We wait for the village chief or one of his sons. These are the only people who know where to go. Notice the 'de-lousing' - a constant activity in PNG!
We leave when the son arrives. Very quickly we find the small-leaved near citrus, the one which I already knew about.
Young fruit just formed. The leaves are between 1 and 2 cm.
(In the following pictures, my fingers should give a sense of scale.)
Then close by is the other variety.
The leaves are between 4 and 5 cm.
An unopened flower.
Fruit. Note the oil glands which are characteristic of citrus.
Fruit cut open. The structure is that of citrus, but there are no vesicles. Seeds are immersed in a gelatinous liquid as with other near-citrus.
Leaves like holly are a characteristic of this plant.
The resemblance between the two plants gives me an idea, and by searching hard we find there is a mid-sized plant that carries both kinds of leaves, small and large from bottom to top.
This is the same plant that makes small leaves up to one meter in height and large leaves thereafter. In contrast, the fruit is always the same size.
(Note that an abrupt change of leaf size or shape is a common feature of several Australian plant species, including those citrus formerly classified as 'microcitrus')
We start on the way home and find the village chief in the hamlet. He has his little girl between his legs, a branch of the plant in one hand and a local tobacco cigarette rolled in plain paper in the other. Note the red marks from betel juice on the cigarette and on his lips.
A house on the way home. There is a hammock which is rare in PNG, and a very rustic "ladder".
We return by another track in order to see some new places. It has been a long, eventful day!
The Quest for Wakonai!
part 14 of Sylvain's adventures in Papua New Guinea
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