Pidia Village – One Night in a Village in Bougainville
“ When you are travelling in the canoe at night, you have to slap the side of the canoe with the paddle every time you bring it out of the water, so the dugongs know that you are approaching,” the young man explained to me.
Apparently, if you paddle your canoe around here in the coral waters of Pidia village, Arawa, you could hit a big dugong and end up in the water.
I had no plans on ending up in the water with my cameras so declined the offer of the canoe ride, instead choosing to walk along the beach from the main village to the small guest house where I was spending the night at.
Pidia is a beautiful little village on the coast of Arawa, Bougainville.
It is in a small bay, hidden behind the rock and limestone cliffs that rise suddenly out of the sea to form the hills that separate Arawa and Kieta.
I was staying at a small two bedroom guest house set on high posts. The house belonged to Carmelita Tibola and her family.
They lived in another house.
I arrived there a day after spending a night up at Panguna.
I met Carmelita and her twin daughters in Arawa a few hours before.
Carmelita is quite a dark person, a bit shy but not timid, with a radiant smile and clever eyes and hands that look like they have done a lot of work over the years.
She and her daughters were shopping in Arawa for stock for their house, for me as a guest and also for their little canteen at Pidia.
From Arawa we caught a K2 PMV to Kieta.
Seven to 10 minutes after leaving Arawa and just before the hills rise to Kieta, Carmelita stopped the PMV along a long grey sandy shoreline in a sheltered cove and we hopped off.
Her fiberglass banana boat was waiting for us. A few minutes later, with all our cargo on board, we set off for Pidia.
We travelled south close to the shoreline.
All around us was thick jungle marked by the sudden prominence of large white and grey rocks on steep hills over looking the sea.
About 7 minutes later, after going around a point, canoes could be seen.
People paddling on canoes loaded with cargo or firewood or just fishing. People either paddling towards or away from Pidia village which was now visable just below the hills.
We beached at the far end of the village, where I was shown to the guest house and left my bags.
We then headed back to the main village where Carmelita house was.
We refueled and headed out to see some of the nearby islands including Arovo and then returned, where I had the opportunity to poke my head around the village.
The houses are organized in two rows, with a sandy center strip in the middle for village people to walk or gather.
House are built in the traditional way but use many modern elements such as sheet metal and plywood walls.
While wandering around this community, I was delighted to find a community church, expertly built by themselves.
It was Catholic Church built in the style reminiscent of PNG Catholic Churches of the late 1960’s, with main entrance with archway and a community notice board, large sitting area with wooden pews, well lit with large windows and raised alter at the front. It reminded me of my childhood, going to Sunday service in Churches like this one.
Pidia is a very tight knit community. They all seem be from the same family or clan.
They made me feel very welcome, coming up to tell stories with me or just say hello.
While I was there I was shown how ‘Tamatama’ a traditional Bougainville dish of mashed taro or banana was made, watched the youths engage in a fun but very intense game of volleyball and I also had oil rubbed on my forehead, a ritual to let the spirits know I was here.
As the sun began to set, the village people gathered in the village center. To the sound of bamboo pipes and singing, I watched them teach the young children of the village traditional dances. It was quite a loud and boisterous event where everyone was involved.
The people of this village are very spiritual people. On the boat trip to the nearby islands, Carmelita showed me sites that are sacred to her people and the people of Arawa –Keita.
According to their beliefs, the souls of the dead enter these sites when people die. The male souls enter the place where there are rocks colored red and the female souls enter the place where there are white rocks.
I also learnt from the youths about the spirits in the cliffs and the jungles around here and how they must be respected. If you are new there and wandered around, the spirits could affect you and make you ill, even kill you.
That’s why I had oil rubbed on my head, so the spirits would know me and not affect me. (strange thing happened, when I left Pidia Village, my digital camera, with no warning, stopped working. Coincidence?)
Later that night I had a chat with Joel, Carmelita’s husband, who was an electrician and worked in Arawa.
I won’t elaborate on our conversation only that it made me realize that this whole village had seen some trying times over the years, but with strength and determination have rebuilt their lives so much so that you can’t imagine how bad it may have been for them.
Later that night, after declining the canoe ride, I walked back to the guest house.
I strongly recommend Pidia village and the Carmelita’s family guest house there for anyone interested in a Bougainville Village stay experience.
If you are in Arawa, get intouch with Zhon Bosco of Bougainville Experience Tours. He is the contact for the Pidia Village stay.
It costs around K30 per night, K10 per meal and K10 per boat ride to and from Arawa. I suggest a budget of K100 per night for the village stay experience will cover everything.
I must say this. They do not do this for a living. It is not their main income.
They offer up their little house because they would like people to visit them and stay with them and experience their culture and become friends with them and their families in the village.
Many New Zealander VSA volunteers have stayed at Pidia and can attest to this.
They are very polite people and so, if you try to bargain or do things cheaply, you may offend them or make them feel uncomfortable.
So after saying all that, K100 per night is MY recommendation. This will also assist you with great boat rides to the nearby islands.
Hope you go there. Enjoy the pictures and post your comments below.