Mi Ripota Nicole Joannes from West New Britain sent this story of her recent experience. She wrote;
“For the love of West New Britain and her people when duty calls, risks and challenges are for the overcomers. The accomplishment brings contentment and satisfaction that you have done your part to contribute in your sphere as a team player to service delivery. Such was our weekend adventurous trip to Kokopo for the court case between West New Britain Provincial Government (defendant) and Nivani (plaintiff – The contractor that was engaged to build the sporting infrastructures for the 7th PNG Games).
“Our team of seven departed on Thursday (April 5) night. The team included Mr Dacca Wagai, Deputy Chairman of the Host Organizing Committee for the 7th PNG Games, WNBPG Legal Officer Mr Walters Mallo, four of our handy boys and me. By 5am we were at Pandi River but waited until 6am to cross over.
“WNBPG’s Legal Officer Walters was notified on Thursday around midday that the decision was to be handed down on Friday morning 9:30am. Walters asked for the case to be adjourned to 1:30 pm to give us enough time to travel the highway as flying over was also not possible. To access government funds takes time and both Air Niugini and Airlines PNG flights were in the afternoon.
“At Pandi we ran into our first hiccup. We got stuck in the river but fortunately it was closer to the shore. Sheer determination by the team got us back to the riverside. A decision was then to be made, should we continue or should we turn back. Turning back was not an option because the case was important and our Legal Officer had to be there. The Lawyer that stands in for Walters was not in Kokopo; he was in Port Moresby and would not return in time for the case.
“We then piled JIL (vehicle’s name) with big stones as we had been traveling light and this time we made it safely across Pandi. The rain had increased the water levels and the current flow. We offloaded the stones and travelled smooth until we came to the cement crossing of River Sai. We decided not to cross there which we were later told by the locals that we had made the right decision because we could have been swept away by the fast flowing current.
“We took a detour and ended up at New Camp where we asked if there was another route which we could follow. The friendly locals showed us the route with two of them getting on with us as they were going to Open Bay.
“We crossed a few rivers including Namba-tu Sai without any incident. All these river outlets flowed into the River Sai which is the one on the main New Britain Highway, which we were not able to cross.
“When we arrived at Sai Namba Wan, although the two locals confidently asked us to cross, we did not get through to the other side. It was a bit deep and the currents were strong forcing the engine to a stop with the water immediately filling JIL up. The four young guys climbed out the windows and two made it to the river side while two were on the vehicle top. I passed our bags and other stuff to the two on the vehicle top who threw them onto the dry ground.”
“Then I climbed out the window and was assisted by the boys across leaving only Walters and Deputy Chairman in JIL who had to follow suit a bit later. Walters and Allan with the two local boys went seeking help while we watched over JIL praying that it would not rain because if it did, JIL would be washed away. And we prayed for God’s divine intervention in the case as we were not going to make it. They had to walk four hours before they came across a logging company vehicle and travelled back to Watu to seek the assistance of a TSL Logging Company forklift to help us out around 5pm.
“While we were there waiting, an Open Bay Timber company vehicle came and dropped its employees and promised to send help when it got back to Open Bay. Around 5pm both the forklift and a dump truck arrived on the scene. The forklift had JIL out by 6pm, having been in the river since 8am (10 hours). We were taken to Open Bay in the dump truck while three of our guys stayed at the River Sai watching over JIL. By then we were the main topic of discussion among the community there with those angels of Open Bay going out of their way to assist us.
“Early Saturday morning the Workshop Manager of Open Bay with his mechanic having being instructed by their big boss drove us back to River Sai where JIL was fixed. Amazingly JIL had no big damage on her just a change of oil and off course the draining out of the water.
“When the lawyer friend tried calling Walters and could not get through he knew something was not right, so he rang the Judge’s associate and asked if the case could be further adjourned to 3pm. He flew to Kokopo and appeared for the WNBPG. Nivani took the WNBPG to court following the termination of its contract. The case has been dismissed with the plaintiff to meet costs. The victory was extra sweet after our ordeal.
1. When crossing Rivers during the wet weather make sure the vehicle has weight.
2. Test out the river before crossing, if the water is above waist level do not attempt to cross by vehicle
3. Use local Knowledge but also assess the situation for yourself.
4. Greet people along the way
The lessons learnt maybe helpful for travellers of the New Britain Highway.”