11 December 2010 | ambunti, upper spepik river, papua new guinea
With my condition worsening I woke up to the realization that I needed to get to a hospital – fast. I went to land and tried to line up a medical plane, but when that didnt work I knew I had to get down river to Pagwi where I could catch a truck to Wewak. On the walk back to the boat accompanied by Mr. Mobo (our police officer boat security) and Frank (Reed’s croc guide) I noticed something strange. I smiled and said hello to a couple guys and didn’t get the friendly response back I had received everywhere else in PNG. Then the two guys stopped and started whispering with Frank even though it was in a language I didn’t understand. One look towards Mr. Mobo who quickly looked down let me know that something fishy was going on.
When I got back to the boat I alerted Reed of the situation. He told me he had a bad feeling about Mr. Mobo from the get go and we promptly searched his bag. Confirmation of our suspicion was revealed as we found our batteries, headlamps, wiring, screwdrivers, emergency flares, glue, and cds (including my ‘spring break 2009’, a personal favorite) all tucked away in his backpack. They all knew that I was in bad shape and planning to head to the hospital as well as that Reed and Ben were heading up river to got croc hunting which would leave Mr. Mobo to watch the boat. It didn’t come as much of a surprise that natives would try to rob us (they all thought we were super rich seeing such luxury items of towels and bug spray in our possession) but that a police officer who was living with us and being paid would collude with them did. About the time we were discussing our options a canoe full of guys (not your friendly native neighborly type) with Mr. Mobo showed up wanting to see the boat. This confirmed our fears and with no one to trust in Ambunti we knew we had to get out of there fast but at the same time didn’t want to tip Mr. Mobo off that we were on to him for fear he might turn on us with the raskals (png name for thieves).
I sent Mr. Mobo to land to set up a canoe to Pagwi while Reed told Frank to pick him up at 6 for croc hunting so they all thought everything was still on as planned. When Mr. Mobo returned I informed him that we got a message from the US embassy in Port Moresby ordering us to take the boat to Pagwi and so we picked up anchor and headed down river. Mr. Mobo had also stolen my phone (which we knew) and was using it to communicate with the raskals so one of us stayed with him at all times so he couldnt give out our position. Now moving with the current instead of against it our speed doubled and we were in Pagwi in just four hours. We knew we had to get Mobo off the boat but without letting him know we were onto him so I told him I needed an escort to Wewak. As soon as Mobo and I were on land Ben and Reed pulled hook and continued downstream. It was the first time Bubbles was on the move and I wasn’t with her.