Was that most exciting moment of the expedition?
Actually, no. About a month in, we were waiting for the helicopter to arrive with the kayaks in Tuke, a remote Kol village in the Nakanai Mountains where we had based the expedition. The weather had been bad all morning. Three hours off schedule, the helicopter arrived—I was so stoked to see the kayaks swinging from a tow-line from beneath the helicopter. We were finally going kayaking on this kayaking expedition.
But that feeling only lasted until the helicopter turned around, and I realized why the villagers had brought their machetes to watch a helicopter land. They surrounded us and this one guy stepped forward and started demanding 3,000 kina ($1,000 U.S.) for us to kayak the Pandi. That was 2,000 more than we had. We spent the next tense hour in broken negotiation drawing on a mix of English, the national language Tok Pison, and plenty of hand gestures. After convincing them that we really didn't have more money, we gave them everything we had. If we hadn't, the Pandi would still be un-run.
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