Resting Up in Korido

Klaus Hympendahl
Tue 16 Dec 2008 12:08
Resting up in Korido
We left the little safe haven of Korido this morning riding our first, long overdue, northwest monsoon winds. Our arrival in the tiny port a couple of days ago, after 5 long days and nights bobbing around in the Pacific swell caused quite a stir. The
local police and three guys from the tourist office turned up and told us we
were the first yachties ever to arrive there. It felt like we were the first
tourists too. Those boys have a job on their hands kick-starting tourism in
northwest Biak.

But Korido is a nice little place to rest up. It had a whacky-looking new
church that lit up at night with neon lights, a karaoke shop and a small
market where we ate rice and fish twice a day, with sweet chilli sauce and
gritty Indonesian coffee. It cost about a Euro. On the second day we found a
little shop down one of the back streets selling great shortbread and peanut
brittle, which constituted desert until a large, jolly woman started turning
up with donuts sprinkled with chocolate 100s and 1000s. But there was no
fruit to be had anywhere. Our diet has not been great.

Staying put for a few days gave me the chance to do a little work for a
research project run by Keith Dobney and Greger Larson at Durham University.
They hope to gain fresh insight into the colonization of the Pacific by
looking at the DNA of pigs, chickens and dogs we manage to wrangle and
sample along our route into Polynesia. By looking at genes of these domestic
animals (from the hairs and feathers we gather) Keith and Greger can
establish where their ancestors came from and therefore where their human
masters probably originated. So a humble, mangy hound from Korido can be one
piece in the huge puzzle that's human colonization of the Pacific.

Sampling dogs I'm pretty good at, but I soon discovered that chasing
chickens and pigs is not my bag. I'm not quick or wily enough and tend to
look ridiculous. It gives the locals a laugh, but it's much easier and
quicker to pay young boys to do it for you. The complexities of DNA
sequencing and Polynesian migration tend to go over their heads, but you can't
beat a gang of financially motivated 10-year-olds when it comes to capturing
pigs and chickens.

Now with three, great new crew (Philip Son of Klaus, Peter and Rüdiger) we
head to Biak en route to Jayapura on the border with PNG. We got off to a
good start. Anchored next to us in the neat little harbour was a big
Indonesian fishing boat (they are called burka I think). She was plank
built, with a raised poop deck like British sailing ship from the 1500s, but
with a dirty great diesel engine and sails made out of cheap plastic
tarpaulins. In between trying to sell us fish the men were fixing her up for
another long stint at sea, but stopped and gave us a round of applause when
we raised sail this morning and glided safely out past the reef into the
bay. Things like that put wind in your sails.
Matt Fletcher