In case it wasn’t clear from the trek of getting to the north, it is not in fact a day’s walk away. We figured we’d go the other direction and see how far we could walk before it was boat time. Catching a speed boat is a bit expensive, so the more we could walk the better.
We started out with Alex and Lucas as our guides. After about two hours of walking, they turned back. We continued on for awhile on our own. Then it started raining. We walked along a nice, wide truck road in the rain. This wasn’t a problem. The truck roads make off-roading look like a two-lane highway, but are still entirely walkable. Sometime before noon, we got to the first large village. We found out from a woman on the road that her brother is a teacher in Melsisi and would be heading back to Melsisi that day. We figured we’d look for him and see about splitting a boat.
The first person told us he was at the Catholic Mission. The next few didn’t have a clue. The one after that said he’d already gone to Melsisi. The one after that told us he was at the Mission. We decided to try the Mission. We got there and found a lot of people. More than a Wednesday church gathering would merit. Because we are white, we got attention immediately and someone came over to ask us what we were doing there. We asked about the teacher and were told he had left already.
It started to down pour. This is how Jason and I crashed a wedding. We hung out for awhile, sitting in the two of the three chairs while the priest had the other one. We eventually figured out that there had been not one, but three weddings. (This is how Jason and I came to crash three weddings.) They often do multiple weddings at once here, I guess it saves on travel for the families.
When it stopped raining and Jason and I had had our water re-filled and made a great story for the entire area for months, we decided to head out. We got about forty feet away from the gate before they decided to give us a guide. The guide was a young man in his early twenties. All his friends couldn’t let him have the glory so we got a pack of guides. The pack of guides decided to follow us and direct from the rear.
After another half hour or so, the pack left and we walked on with just the one guide. He told us we were going to go on a “short cut.” Never trust that phrase. Our “short cut” last for the next three hours and all of it was up and down paths that were mud-slick, overgrown and had never been wider than a goat’s feet to begin with. We both mostly kept our feet, but there were some near misses.
By the time we got to the village with the wedding, we were happy to go back to the main road. From there, it was only 45 minutes more hiking to the ocean where we got a speed boat back to Melsisi. We still had to walk to Vansemakul, but at least it was a familiar road wide enough for three people to walk abreast and mostly groomed with gravel.
We made it home in time for Jason to get a fever and spend the next two days in bed. He’s better now.