May 25, 2014 by farbolino
5:00pm- Just an hour before the sunsets and darkness falls, passengers on the bus said hours ago that we would have reached Tari by now. I’m hopeful that we’ll arrive soon, but we continue to pick up passengers, some carrying large machetes.
5:25pm- We pass Warali Lodge which I had heard was a 45 minute drive from Tari, so I now know for sure that we must be close. We start making our way down the mountain and the PMV picks up speed as it slides around corners. The landscape is starting to look more populated again. We’re passing village after village and my fear of a Raskol hold up is subsiding. I still need a place to sleep though, and I ask the man next to me if he knows of any cheap guesthouses. He says he does, there’s one next to the police station (sounds good!) and that he can walk me there. He thinks it’s around 50-60 kina, but I’m pretty sure I heard from someone in Mt. Hagen that it was 150kina. I struggled to find any evidence anywhere of something cheaper than that, which is worrisome for someone on a tight budget.
The man behind me (the one who gave me the headband) says something to the man next to me in Huli, and suddenly I’m in his care now. He’ll take me to a cheap guesthouse., one for 50 kina a night. We introduce ourselves, and his name is Willy.
5:45pm- Another man on the bus who I talked to briefly before starts a conversation again. He asks where I’m from, etc. Then, asks where I’m staying in Tari and I told him I’d find a guesthouse when I arrive. Then came the most awkward cultural discrepancy. He asked if he could sleep with me. I asked him to repeat what he has said. He said he wanted to get a room together and swap stories over the night. I just didn’t feel comfortable, or safe sharing a room with a man I had just met on PMV who seemed very eager to know me. I told him I couldn’t and that I was very tired. Maybe we could meet up the next day and walk around and tell stories I suggested. He looked disappointed, but took my phone number. Willy from behind me whispered “Don’t give your phone number to anyone.” Well, that’s a little creepy, and it’s too late.
6:05pm- We arrive to the outskirts of Tari, or so I think. Willy says “Let’s go.” And I instantly had a bad feeling. It was already quite dim in the sky and I felt quite far from the center of Tari. My instincts were right. Willy knocked on a dented and rusted corrugated metal door with holes on it. There was no sign of a guesthouse here. A man opened the door and seemed to be quite friendly, apparently the security. We enter through the small metal gate, ducking not to hit our heads. I felt uncomfortable, but even more so once I had a look at the room. There was no way to lock the door, you could see through the slates of wood into the room, you had to duck beneath the doorframe to enter and a sad little bed sat in the corner with sheets that had been used over and over without being washed, and they had stains all over them. Willy and the man he introduced to me as his ‘brother’ came into the room with me and closed the door behind them. Was I being robbed again? No, just awkwardly stared at. I had no way out, no where to go, I had to sleep here. Willy told me to give his ‘brother’ the 50 kina, but I didn’t exactly feel comfortable reaching into my money belt right in front of them. I asked to see the bathroom first.
The single toilet and bucket shower were outside, and while I’ve seen a more disgusting squat toilet at a bus station in Myanmar, I’d never seen something with this much human feces on it in a hotel or guesthouse. While in the toilet I opened my money belt and put the 50 kina in my pocket. I handed it to the man as we went back to the room. I said I was tired and was going to go to sleep very early. Willy said he was going to stay with me. I told him I preferred if he didn’t. I wanted to sleep alone, not to mention there was only one extra thin mattress. I closed the door behind me after Willy left, and sat on the bed with my head in my hands. What the fuck am I going to do?
6:45pm- Only a few minutes after Willy left he was knocking on my door again. “What?” I asked. He said I had to switch rooms. I opened the door and the owner of the guesthouse was with him. He said he wanted me move to his office where he normally sleeps. I instantly had a better vibe from this man, and I agreed. He took me into another building where his office sat in a corner and at least the door had a lock in it; even if you could still see through the wooden beams. He handed me his only key and said “You’ll be safe in here.” While I felt much better about this, I still had to deal with Willy, who was still following me around and not taking the clue to leave me alone. I had to ask him directly to leave and let me sleep. Before he left he made me agree to walk around with him and ‘see Tari’. Well, tomorrow should be a fun day I thought to myself, and laid down in the bed even though I was no longer tired. It wasn’t the best nights sleep I’ve ever had…