Koneya Ko - Impressions
Weather: overcast, cool, rain and drizzle
Koneya Ko lies under tall steep hillsides. It is a small town (I
think I managed to walk most of it yesterday afternoon) whose size must be
strictly limited by the limited extent to which it can spread. The only way
in and out appears to be the coast road to the east and west. To the north
lies the hillsides, some of which have been reinforced with concrete gridded
girdles, presumably to stabilise them, and two of which are actively being
worked upon by heavy earth moving machinery.
With no map or other knowledge of the town I set off for my afternoon walk
in no particular direction and with no particular aim in mind other than to
get a feel for the place. I randomly chose to head east along the
waterfront. The feel was quite eerie, for all was unaccountably quiet. The
streets were narrow, the ocean, as with Wadamari and Kametuko, mostly
hidden from view by a ten foot high massive thick concrete wall. The
buildings consisted mostly of apartment blocks and small houses; dwellings
buttressed up close by each other, with nary but a narrow lane way between
them, gardens but small buckets of herbs perched precariously on the
pavements. In the initial hour of my walk I encountered maybe three people;
two aging ladies, deeply wrinkled, dark, short, stooped, walking intently on
business mysterious, no glance for the stranger in their midst; and one
younger woman who smiled at me, and uttered what seemed to be a welcoming
salutation as she passed me by.
So far what I had seen was all accommodation, but bizarrely quiet. Where
was everyone, what did they all do? As I continued to meander east through
the grids of narrow streets I came to the edge of town, marked by what
seemed to be the town's library, closed and quiet like everything else,
behind it the hills came down to the sea.
I walked north and in short order came to the main road leading out of town.
I ascended its upward slope out of curiosity, a colourful sign advertising I
know not what luring me on. But when I arrived at the sign all I could see
was an unassuming cream coloured three story building surrounded by a black
asphalt car park. I think it might have been a hospital.
Returning to the town I followed the main road which swept along the
boundary where the narrow coastal plain meets the steep slopes. Signs of
industry were scattered along its margins; a couple of timber mills, small
cottage industry affairs, with lengths of timber of assorted sizes stacked
up under rickety factory roofs, and some ornate short sections of trunks,
and large beautiful thick slabs stacked in their own piles. The slabs I
took to be intended for decorative signs. I walked into a couple of these
factories, just into the threshold, out of curiosity, as natural unadorned
timber is a beauty in itself. Again all was quiet, not a soul was to be
seen. I was starting to feel like I had arrived just after the apocalypse.
Adding to the bizarreness of the atmosphere was an ethereal music whose
source I could not determine. It emanated from closer in towards the centre
of town. A woman's voice overlaid the music, sweet, enchanting, rhythmic
and repetitive. Of course I could not understand what it was she was
saying, but when it seemed to get closer I could make out “konnichiwa”, then
the monologue, then konnichiwa again, and presumably the same cycle over
again. Where was this sound coming from? What was its purpose? Why does a
township tolerate this cyclical repetitive chant?
As I was inspecting one of the timber factories, all open for me to walk
into, but no one in sight, I heard some sounds of human activity. I walked
on. Right next door was a another large factory shed, not a timber yard
however, but a truck service centre. Someone was spray painting a panel and
somewhere else someone unseen was beating something into shape. This symbol
of mechanical toil seemed an anachronism in what I had witnessed thus far.
I was now walking back past where Sylph was berthed, but slightly inland,
against the hillside. Several rows of houses lay between me and, not far
away, the northern edge of one of the boat harbours, a wide concrete ramp
gently sloping into the waters, numerous small fishing boats, and the
occasional open runabout, lined up on rusty wheeled cradles, Yamaha outboard
motors in one neat line abreast that a Chief Quarter Master Gunner could
have been proud of.
Climbing the hillside was the cemetery. The town was surrounded by the
dead. I walked up amongst the hilly maze of tombstones. As in Wadamari
each grave was marked out with its own small stone fenced yard. Beautiful
clean black and grey slabs of marble with hieroglyphs marked out in gold
upon their upright surfaces formed small crypt like structures, with two
ornate decorative pillars, one on either side. The near wild vegetation
swept over it all from above. I noticed the numerous fresh water taps
spaced at regular intervals, more dense than any other space I have come
across, hoses rolled up in the little yards, the yards mostly immaculately
clean and well cared for. From my vantage point a little way up in the
hills amongst the graves, looking out over the quiet town, it was tranquil,
peaceful, and serene.
I made my way carefully down the wet slippery pathways, spotting a couple of
older graves tucked up in almost inaccessible corners of the cemetery, their
overgrown, moss covered surfaces glistening damp and green in the lowering,
near horizontal rays of the late afternoon sun.
Back on the ground, for so I felt having descended from what was clearly a
spiritual place, even to an heathen such as I, I continued to follow the
earthly tarmac west. I crossed some bridges over narrow streams, no doubt
once quite natural but now looking more like large open drains, though not
so ugly. Small rocks and boulders loosely lined their beds, and a small
shoal of grassy gravel tried to reclaim something natural from the man made
featureless concrete which lined their sides. We were now clearly
approaching the market centre of town. Shops, people, and activity started
to make a marked change in the atmosphere of the still narrow streets.
Traffic lights, and a light but steady stream of traffic broke the mystery
of the eastern side of town. Here the mystery of the source of the ethereal
sound was also discovered. A small unmarked white vehicle with two large
speakers atop its roof was driving slowly through all the back streets,
occasionally coming out into the more open main roads. It was from these
large speakers that the seeming ethereal message was emanating, no doubt
made more so by its wanderings. What it was promoting, whether commercial
and material, or religious and spiritual, or political and worldly, I have
no idea, but I doubt that it would have been tolerated in many other parts
of the world.
I found some supermarkets, bought some fresh vegetables, made my way back to
Sylph, and enjoyed dinner. Thus endeth the first day in Koneya Ko.
Today, the second day, has been wet, not a good day for more walking, so I
found a couple of down below jobs to keep me busy. I transferred some
diesel from two twenty litre containers, one of which has been taking up a
lot of room lashed to the after bulkhead in the heads since Cairns, to the
main fuel tanks. I also cleaned the diesel heater up and I am pleased to
say that it is now burbling away (yes, it burbles) warm and comfortable
behind me. Robinson Crusoe is perched on the edge of the V-berth making the
most of it.
This afternoon, the showers having eased somewhat, I went in search of the
world wide web. First I tried what I thought to be the library on the
eastern side of town. When I got there the lights were on but the doors
were locked. I put my face to the glass, shelves of books met my gaze.
Clearly there some people inside but presumably the library was closed for
business. A lady walked past, stopped at the doorway, looked in, looked at
the notices stuck to the panes of glass, then continued on around the side
of the building. Perhaps there was another entrance. I followed her,
careful to keep my distance so as not to alarm her, though it occurred to me
that in doing so I perhaps only looked more suspicious. Behind the building
was a car park. She got in her car and drove off. There was not other
entrance, but I could see someone inside, sitting at a desk close by the
window facing outwards. I looked at her, and made a cross with my arms, to
ask if the library was closed. She clearly understood, for she returned
the sign smilingly.
I walked back to the main entrance and looked at the sign taped to the large
glass window beside the door. Written in kanji I could not make out what it
meant, but it looked a lot like a calendar, with yesterday, today, and the
next two weeks all marked out in orange. Bother, I thought. I could only
assume that the library was going to be closed for the short time I was in
town. I stood under the cover of the arched entrance way for several
moments thinking what next. I had seen a “Docomo” shop, a phone and
internet company, in my walk yesterday. I would go and inquire of them
whether there was an internet service of some sort in town.
Thirty minutes later, a little damp and bedraggled I stepped in through its
doorway and was greeted by two young ladies, immaculately attired in black
suits. I shed my damp skin of red plastic and brought forth my netbook from
my backpack and proceeded to try to make my desires understood. Predictably
they understood the words wi-fi and internet, which was definitely a start,
but that was about it. I think that, eventually, they were going to allow
me to use the office wifi connection to the internet, but it turned out
neither of them knew the access code so that didn't work. We then tried to
communicate more effectively using a smart phone as interpreter. Initially
it only produced some very strange, ungrammatical and unintelligible string
of words, though admittedly they were English words.
I thought of giving up and leaving them in peace, but knew if I did this and
I still wanted to find somewhere I could access that most necessary of
modern conveniences, than I would only have to start from scratch and annoy
someone else. At least they were being paid to put up with me. I sat still
in the chair they had offered me for quite some time, both sides
occasionally making an attempt at making some headway in the impasse. With
persistence, between the three of us, we managed to extract some sense out
of the not so smart phone, and one of the young ladies held the small screen
to my face, “Want me to show where internet?” I said a very emphatic and
joyful yes. She got up and walked towards the door. I thought she was
going to point me down the street but rather she crossed the street,
beckoning me to follow, to where her car was parked, and, getting in, she
drove me several blocks to an unmarked nondescript building. I followed her
inside a glass door into a rather bare room. Two trestle type tables ran
parallel each other at which sat some children looking like they were doing
school work. A tall lanky young man sat at a long desk (you can assume
everyone's hair is neat, straight, and black, unless otherwise stated),
teacher like at a computer screen.
OK, unlike my heater, I have undoubtedly burbled on more than long enough. I
could no doubt draw this encounter out even more, but it is getting late and
I am sure you, as I, have more interesting things to do. But it was fun.
With communications assisted by more marvels of the twenty first century,
this time a smart phone that translated one's spoken word, surprisingly
well I might add, though unsurprisingly “days” in my Australian accent came
out as “dais”. It turns out this small room is a community centre for young
and old to gather. It has nothing in it but tables, a supervisor who I
think might be a volunteer, the computer, and the wi-fi. It took some time
to sort all this out, and to get my netbook connected, because the young man
did not know the passwords and we had to wait until a young woman came in
who did. (They were written in big bold letters on a piece of paper stuck to
the front of the desk where we were sitting; even I would have recognised
them for what they were if I had seen them.) Unfortunately I did not get a
lot done before the centre was closing, but it opens again at eight tomorrow
morning, so, in all, given the challenges, I think I have actually achieved
quite a bit.
(You know, I think my days are rarely more exciting than most everyone
else's, but sometimes writing it all down seems to make it so. Thank
goodness the world is not cluttered more than it is with the likes of me.)
All is well.