Bougainville is truly blessed and has abundance resources ranging from the minerals to the tropical rainforests and the inhabitants of them. Within these thick jungles whether it be in the mountains or in the lowlands there are big fast flowing rivers adding beautification and admiration to the forests for visitors and tourists.
These rivers home to fish, eels and prawns which play an important role in providing protein for local people. They are also said to be home to spirits and along these riverbanks there are certain taboo places where people are restricted from fishing or bathing except the elders of a specific clan who own the place.
The Robiai River in Buin district which flows down from Lake Loloru is a river with so much mystery related to it and there are traditional legends related to it which are passed down the generations.
The river is about 10-12 meters wide and runs out of Lake Loloru finding its way down to the sea. The blue of the deep waters of Robiai is totally different than the other rivers and means that fish cannot be easily spotted in deep areas. The blue color is believed to be from the presence of minerals either along the river or at its source.
The river is simultaneously a threat and a helper to the locals. It provides the local people with fresh water for drinking alongside its banks and is used for bathing. Fishing for prawns, fish and eels in little pools of water the river leaves behind or runs in a different direction is the locals’ hobby during dry seasons.
However, the local people are cautious with the destruction it brings. When it floods it swipes everything in its path and can last for three to four days. Within this period mothers and small children are never allowed to go anywhere near the river.
In its history Robiai has taken the lives of so many young and old people. My Dad’s sister was swept away by the current when trying to cross t just as it was starting to flood. Newly married, but without any children, she died. Her body was found stuck on a huge uprooted tree which the flooded river carried and dumped some kilometers away from the sea.
Gardens made and villages built beside the river are usually swept away by the mighty Robiai when it floods. So many lessons have been learnt, thus villages have been built further away from the river and locals’ have specific timings on when it’s the best time to go fishing or picnicking along the river banks.
Robiai continues to be the source of food and money for the local people. Hearing so many legends and tales about this river, I have grown up and came to experience what I used to hear when I was small.
The mighty Robiai is a blessing; however security and safety precautions are up to individuals.