The Waiap Orchid Lodge – A Dreamer’s Legacy
What happens when a dreamer dies in Papua New Guinea? What happens when the shining light of a rural village, the person with the dreams and ideas, the one with the spark, the one who learns from elsewhere and starts a project to teach his people about science and botany, passes away?
If you visit the Waiap Orchid Lodge in Enga, about 1 hour of Wabag, between Surunki and Laiagam along the Highlands Highway, you will find the Waiap Orchid Lodge. Behind the house is a hill, fenced all the way to the top. The fence protects a beautiful forest garden filled with orchids, trees and shrubs, and alive with the sound of birds.
This lodge consists of a small guest house, built out of traditional material yet well furnished inside with nice bedrooms, a furnished living room with a central fire place, running water and a modern bathroom facilities. It’s around K80 per night per person.
Behind the house is a hill, fenced all the way to the top. It is a perfect garden filled with orchids and shrubs.
For several years, this garden was the passion of a local man called Ipi Kal. He was a botanist who worked with the National Forestry Department.
He took everything he learned and applied it to his garden of orchids. It was said to be a spectacular, with orchids and all kinds of flowers planted all over the hills, each plant meticulously labeled with their scientific name.
It was also a bird sanctuary as birds flocked to feed on all the flowering plants that he had planted or preserved on this hill. He had also built traditional male and female initiation houses here in this secluded garden of his for his tribes use.
He taught what he had learned to his fellow tribesman, creating a school of sorts, bridging their traditional knowledge of plants with the science and methods of botany.
Sadly in 2009 Ipi passed away. In keeping with tradition and the aching sadness of the loss of a special man, the tribe and his family left his beautiful garden alone.
This year (2011) I had the chance to visit his garden. A local business man from a nearby tribe, Yoso Komo took me there. Ipi’s widow, his children and his tribesman have ended the two years of mourning and are rebuilding Ipi’s dream.
Orchids he planted on the hill and which had become hidden by the overgrowth of vines and other shrub since the day he died are now back in the sun. The colors are flooding back to the jungle floor as wild bushes are trimmed and his treasured forest plants greet the sun with splendid colors.
Trees have been planted in various places and his old nursery is a hive of activity as the local tribesmen grow plants for the garden as well as conifers and pines to sell to other villages who need to plant trees on their treeless plots.
The traditional initiation houses have been rebuilt.
Birds can be heard in the sanctuary calling out to each other.
Though the villagers miss his technical expertise and almost all the plants are missing their scientific labels, they are working hard, rebuilding it day by day.
Ipi Kal’s dream is still alive.
Standing in his garden, I think I felt his spirit, walking between the plants and the trees, touching the leaves and the moss, stopping to admire an orchid bloom – before slowly disappearing into the mist, happy that his people understood what he wanted to show them.
Thank you so much for reading this story. If you want to learn more about Enga, please visit here. Enjoy the images below.