Chapter 14.


This was more good news!  We were pleased to see that this village was on our map.  We had proved the Dutch party wrong and were on the right track, but with still a long way to go.  From Lereh we calculated, as the crow flies, it was at least another sixty or seventy miles to Hollandia.

We were surprised to see the village consisted of a couple of native huts in a sad state of repair and only a few males.  There were no women or children and we thought they would be in the bush hiding and wouldn't appear until it was safe to do so.  Although the natives called the village Lereh we were doubtful as we had expected something a little bigger to warrant a name on the map.

With a lot of talk, and distribution of trade goods in the form of beads and a little cloth, we eventually convinced the natives we meant no harm and gradually a few more emerged from the bush until there were ten males but still no women or children, which was puzzling.

They were very interested in the trade goods, especially the salt and brightly coloured beads and bangles.  The salt turned out to be the major attraction, as Bob knew it would be.  Before leaving base he had insisted on including a five pound tin of cooking salt with the trade goods and this proved to be a real winner!  He knew that salt was almost unknown by inland natives and that it would be much in demand once they had a taste.  It was curious to see them, from a distance of some yards, trying to suck the salt from the container!

A couple of the new arrivals, who also spoke a little pidgin Malay, had been in contact with Japanese soldiers.  They were able to assure us that while they had been visited, from time to time, there were no Japs in the immediate vicinity at present.  We were also told that the real village of Lereh was some ten miles to the northwest with another small village named Hiwagen in between.  These men had come from the real Lereh and were in the habit of visiting and staying in the ramshackle huts while looking for food in their garden by the creek.

Our police boys were greatly puzzled there were no 'wun toks' among the natives.  'Wun toks' or 'one talks,' in the Mandated Territory, are local natives who are able to speak pidgin English.  They have usually been to mission school where they learned to speak the language.  On returning to their village they become someone of importance because of their ability to converse with visiting "kiaps' (government officers) and native policemen.  In their country it was the normal thing, for a policeman, or for that matter, a patrol officer, when entering a new village to ask for a 'wun tok.' But, here, because of the different language, 'one talks' did not exist or to be strictly correct they talked pidgin Malay. It took our policemen some time to realise that pidgin English was not spoken in this country even though the inhabitants looked the same as those over the border.

Later that afternoon Capt. Van der Vien's party straggled into the village.  They had found our tracks and followed them to the village and apparently had finally decided that, after all, we had been going in the right direction!

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