Chapter 7: Meliawi Moves Inland and Meets Yəhələgɨr

Meliawi called his son over, shed his tears with him, and informed him of the cruelty of his uncles. He told his son that they would leave and seek refuge with friends and relatives in the inland region of Woginara.

Now at this time, Banak and Kwangen villages had firmly established links with the people to the southwest, known now as the Woginara people, as well as with the Bogumatai people and other near neighbours like the Hogis, the Humunduos, the Dogurs, the Walanduoms, and the Kotais. Wautogig did not yet exist then as a village.

So Meliawi and his son collected all their belongings along with their pet dog and made the journey inland. The exact route they traveled is not known, but they would have followed Banak River as far as where it meets Meibək creek. . There, in the Kwangen land, they would have climbed Ɲerim Mountain to the top.

From the top of Ɲerim they would have tracked up Yeiyep-Sasama ridge until they reached Kʷiɲgara top in the land owned by Sakangu family, the ancestors of my wife Regina, and which has now been given to my daughter, Justina Parisingien Narokobi.

From there they would have walked past what is now the common cemetery for Wautogig at Kʷiɲgara, along Hurainbo saddle, up to Urumih along the present site of Wautogig village, along the weimog or ridge, past Udit hamlet where my late father Anton Narokobi is now buried. My eldest sister, Veronica Hombuai, has a house there. She was asked by my father to care for his grave until her death.1

They would have reached the site where the new church frame stands and tracked down to Urieb River at a place called Urumih. From Urumih they would have climbed another mountain until they reached the top at Bai. From the top, they would have walked another plateau, through Horonin and Wɔrewabʉr. All of the land they tracked at the time was uninhabited, only available for hunting, gathering, collecting firewood, and a limited amount of gardening.

At this point, they were well and truly inland. They could not see the sea nor hear the sound of waves. As they walked up another hill to the top and followed the track of another plateau, they heard some sounds of human activity. Meliawi peeked through the thick tropical forest but saw nothing. It was getting dark.

He placed his fingers on his lips and told his son to observe silence. He whistled and signaled to their dog. It came to Meleiawi’s feet and coiled its tail between its legs. Together father, son, and dog tiptoed closer to the site of the human sounds. They saw smoke rising at Kunichuaɲ.

As they moved closer they found a large granite rock that had grown out of the ground and bent over, forming a shelter. Meliawi left his son, all his belongings, and the dog in hiding and walked to the spot where the smoke was rising. He heard tap-tapping sounds.

There he found a man cooking some urukwip, a native yam that grows on vines. The man was also busy scraping wood with his stone axe. He was making wooden bowls. The man he saw was Yəhələgɨr and the location where he found him was Dagububu, where Yəhələgɨr had settled after leaving his home following the conflict with his brother Suonu.

Yəhələgɨr was frightened when he saw Meliawi and made for his spear. But Meliawi was unarmed. He raised his arms and shook his head against any armed attacked. Yəhələgɨr saw that Meliawi came in peace, so he put down his spear. The two men did not share a language so they communicated by hand signs. Meliawi touched his stomach to show that he was hungry. Yəhələgɨr signaled to Meliawi to come closer and sit down with him by the fire. Yəhələgɨr gave Meliawi some cooked yams to eat.

Meliawi ate one yam and tucked several into his basket. Yəhələgɨr noticed what Meliawi was doing and questioned him by raising his eyebrows inquiringly. Meliawi informed Yəhələgɨr by sign language that he had a dog hidden in the bush and he needed the extra yams for the dog.

Yəhələgɨr informed Meliawi that he should bring the dog along. Noticing that Yəhələgɨr was very friendly and it was getting dark, Meliawi went to the rock where his son was hiding and brought out him, the dog, and their belongings. Yəhələgɨr, who was homesteading at the time on his own, needed company. He encouraged Meliawi to overnight with him and his wife. Meliawi and his son gladly accepted the invitation.


1 Veronica died in 2012. Her last-born daughter Cathy now lives at Udit and looks after his grave.

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