Wednesday, November 01, 2017

LET THE PORT MORESBY ADVENTURES BEGIN...CHAPTER FIVE.... (Last chapter of this tale...the tale-ender).



Above are self-explanatory images of Bomana Cemetery, Papua New Guinea

Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels During World War 11


Still in relaxed, celebratory mode, and not wanting the evening to come to a close, after we left the hotel restaurant, a couple of members of our merry band of tourism “experts”, as well as the PNG Avis host, David and his wife, returned to my hotel room for a “night cap” rather than head to the cocktail bar.

Perhaps the knowledge in my room I had an unopened bottle of Johnnie Walker Black Label I’d purchased at the Cairns’ Duty Free Shop, rather than my inspirational company, was the bait!  Whatever the reason, no arm-twisting or urging was necessary.  Mr. Walker Black was enticement enough.

Once ensconced in my room, everyone settled comfortably as if we were all friends of old.  Taking no prisoners, we did damage to that bottle, the soda, ice and cold water from my bar fridge.

My initial intentions had been to take the duty-free, unopened, full bottle of JW Black back to Hinchinbrook Island for my personal use – for me to leisurely sip, at will, if and when I felt like doing so after a long day and night’s work. However, that plan was thwarted, rapidly.  All that was left of Johnnie after my guests left was a depleted, empty bottle...a "dead marine".

Over animated, friendly conversation and much laughter, the bottle and its individual accompaniments had been demolished.

We visitors to Papua New Guinea did learn a lot about the lifestyle of ex-pats in Port Moresby that evening and early morning.

Life in Moresby wasn’t a glamorous life. It was an existence surrounded by danger and alertness.

Lyn, the wife of David, Avis’ Area Manager, explained, even though she was “accepted” among the Nationals’- the womenfolk, she felt an underlying animosity at all times.  She and her fellow ex-pats learned to recognise they would never be completely accepted.  They acted politely, knowing there was a demarcation line, one over which they never stepped.

It had been a very pleasant evening, spent with great company, both in the restaurant, and back in my hotel room draining the Scotch bottle. 

An early morning was ahead for us, as was a long day.  Finally, somewhat reluctantly, we called it “a night”. 

Knowing the next day we had planned trip to the start of the Kokoda Trail, as well as our return flight to Cairns later in the afternoon, we broke up our little party about 3 am.

Rising early, a little heavy with the effects of the previous evening, I was feeling very dehydrated. Raiding my bar fridge produced no results as all the water, ice and soda had disappeared, a result of our late-night frivolities.

Deciding a long cold or lukewarm shower would restore my sensibilities, I relished the thought of standing under the shower nozzle, allowing the water rush over my weary body in an attempt at restoration.

No such luck!


The water pouring forth from the shower was boiling hot.  It was impossible to stand under it. I tried everything, but there was not a drop of cold water flowed, or trickled, from the taps or nozzle!  Nothing!  Nought! Zilch!  Water, water, everywhere...but not a drop of cold water!

After our shenanigans of the previous evening, I didn’t even have any cold water in my fridge to splash on my face.

Darting my hands back and forth under the boiling water in the shower, I somehow managed, with great difficulty, to have a “spot” wash. I was by no mean refreshed, but I think the shock of the steaming water managed to wake me up a little.

Dressing quickly, I hurried down to the lobby to meet up with my fellow motley crew, who were milling around with rather strained looks.

Everyone, I discovered, had suffered the same problem as I had.

The whole hotel had no cold water! No cold water! I’d heard of running out of hot water, but never cold water!

Have you ever tried to shower under boiling water?  From personal experience, I can assure you it is impossible to do!  Take my word for it...

So, there we were…a hung-over, bedraggled, bleary-eyed, unwashed band of banditos (well, we were from south of the border)...kind of ready for the day ahead.

Once we were gathered together, and saw the funny side of it, we decided nothing was going to faze us.  We would not be beaten or defeated!  We remembered our “one for all, all for one” mantra.

Breakfast was a hurried affair. Soon thereafte we were on board the “Avis Bus”, headed for the hills/mountains behind Port Moresby.

Driving through the city it appeared everyone and his dog, aunt, uncle, grandmother, grandfather and neighbours were out and about.  Old, rusted, battered Toyota utes were filled with smiling, black faces.  People were hanging out the vehicles’ windows and off the rear trays, waving at us as they went by.  After all...it was a public holiday.    

The crowds were making the most of the special day....Remembrance Day, 23rd July...

Before we left Moresby, our host took us to the historic Bomana War Cemetery, just outside the city limits on the road to Sogeri, our destination 46 kilometres (28.5 miles) away.

Arriving and disembarking at the war cemetery, our high spirits immediately lulled. An atmosphere of deep respect and sorrow took overtook our little party of visitors.

As we wandered sombrely throughout the beautifully maintained cemetery, I was not alone in my reverie. The Bomana War Cemetery is magnificent memorial to those who lost their lives fighting for the freedom and lifestyle we enjoy today.

Not one of us had dry eyes. It’s difficult to describe how I felt. Probably the best description is...it was an “out of body” experience. To this day I still become misty-eyed when I recall that memorable visit to Bomana Cemetery.
 
We didn’t talk among each other. We broke away to wander alone, to be with our own thoughts.  No words needed to be spoken. Words would be redundant.

A rotunda stands proudly and serenely on a hill behind the cemetery. It is the memorial to the men of the Australian Army and the Papua New Guinea forces, the Australian Merchant Navy and the Royal Australian Air Force who lost their lives during the Papuan operations; the brave men who have no graves.

The total number of burials at Bomana Cemetery is 3,779.  This war cemetery commenced in 1942.

Bomana War Cemetery is a credit to those who lovingly, respectfully and carefully tend to it.

I feel honoured to this very day to have experienced the unexpected time I spent at Bomana War Cemetery – time spent among the spirits of those brave men.

Climbing up the winding range, the views around us were stunning - awesome.

Down low behind us to the south was the dry, dusty savannah of Port Moresby.

In the valleys immediately below us on either side on the winding road, were deep crevices covered in dense foliage.  The shadows formed dark, metallic blues in their hidden ravines.

It’s only forty-six kilometers from Port Moresby to the Sogeri Plateau, around 800 metres above sea level, (I think!), but it seemed much longer. It was definitely cooler than down below.  

As mentioned previously, Sogeri is the starting point of the Kokoda Trail.

Halfway up the range, we noticed a Papua New Guinea “warrior” in all his decorative glory standing out on a small escarpment to our left.

Pulling our Toyota Hiace off the road, we climbed out and went over to him.

Standing there in his make-up and colourful, feathered head-dress, the New Guinea National told us we could take his photograph for 5 kinas. (Don’t ask me what the exchange rate was, as I haven’t got a clue now –it was probably equivalent to about two Aussie dollars).

Each of us paid him 5 kinas, per his rate, and had our photo taken standing beside him. 

The trick was, we used our own cameras and our films (the days before digital cameras).  The accordingly-garbed “warrior” had no expenses other than his vibrant regalia!   

(I have my photo here somewhere...and I must, when I find spare moment or two go in search of it).

With a broad smile on his face, the fellow waved as we drove off. We waved back, cheerfully. We mused it was no wonder he had a broad smile on his face, he was probably thinking, “Sucker tourists!”

One of our astute members said, “Did you notice his watch? It was a Rolex! He’s probably got his BMW parked around the corner hidden in the scrub!”

Never a truer statement had been made!

Of course the colourful “warrior” had a big smile on his face! All he had to do was stand there on the outcrop looking “pretty gruesome”, at no cost to him, while he reaped in the kinas!  A very enterprising young man....

Onward and upwards we continued, awed by the stunning magnificence of the scenery surrounding us.

Finally, we reached the “Kokoda Inn”.   We alighted our van immediately upon arrival. We were, naturally, pretty thirsty, so we headed post haste to the bar for a cold, cold beer!

Stuck or pinned to the wall behind the very primitive, rustic, but atmospheric bar were hundreds of paper monetary notes from throughout the years. As well as local paper currency were notes from other countries, including Australia, the UK and the United States of America.

The display became the hub of our conversation, as did our myriad questions about Kokoda and its history.

Outside the main building was a primitive zoo holding a large variety of bird and animal life, most of which I’d never seen before.

By this time, our merry band of wanderers was hungry. The after-effects of the previous evening had given us a hunger, as well as a thirst, both of which needed to be sated, and quickly!

Finding a long, wooden outdoor table, we promptly accommodated.  We ordered from the luncheon menu that consisted of steak and salad - and steak and salad.

Our chatter around the table was lively.  There was much to discuss as we’d enjoyed a most interesting trip up to our destination. We were also enthralled by our destination, where the air was crisp, clean and refreshing.

Our meals arrived without delay. The steak (?) was the toughest meat I, and the others had ever eaten! We didn't know what animal it derived from, and we dared not ask.
However, our high spirits weren’t going to be dampened by a piece of “meat”! We made no complaints as we chewed and chewed our way through whatever beast it represented. The salad was garden-fresh.  The company was great; lunch was fun. The history surrounding the area was almost palpable.

Finally, as all good things do, our happy jaunt came to its end. It was time to descend the range, en route back to Port Moresby and to our hotel.

There we gathered up our belongings and headed out to the airport for our return flight to Cairns.

Who would have guessed? Once more we had a two-hour wait for our delayed flight!

At the duty-free shop, I purchased a PNG wooden artifact, and I also bought another bottle of Johnnie Walker Black to take with me to my island home, this time intending to take longer to savour its mellow contents...alone, and over a period of time...not in one sitting only!

I think not one of us minded the delay in our flight, because it gave us time to come together as one as we happily discussed the events and the laughter we had shared over the past couple of days and nights.  We’d spent a unique, fun time; we’d been treated most hospitably.  

The people we’d met in Port Moresby, and up at the Kokoda Inn at the start of the Kokoda Trail, our decorated “warrior” and those in over-crowded Toyota utes had all welcomed us with beaming smiles and a ton load of goodwill.  

 “Manuel’s” innocent, well-intentioned antics would never be forgotten, not be me, anyway.

I never did see Graeme, our self-appointed expert tour leader again during my time in Papua New Guinea.  I shed no tears.  While I think of it, I can’t remember ever seeing him again...at any other tourism event.  Perhaps he’s still up in the Highlands somewhere, arrogantly bellowing at some poor body!  Or he's in a cannibal's pot....

My trip to and from Port Moresby, the short period of time I spent in Papua New Guinea will always remain fondly in my memory. I remember the fun and the laughter; the camaraderie, the bond we quickly formed. I will always remember the emotions I felt when I visited Bomana War Cemetery.  The people of Papua New Guinea deserve high praise for what they’ve achieved there.

The “mañana” attitude continued on our return flight to Cairns. Again, my silly sense of the ridiculous came into play.  And I spent most of the trip trying to conceal my amusement. I confess to being a people-watcher.  Why not?  People are interesting subject, to say the least.  

When a passenger asked for a drink, the flight stewardess would return to the service area...pick up the ONE drink, return to the passenger who had requested it.  Then, the action would be repeated – one person, one drink at a time.   The flight is only 1 hour 25 minutes in duration (the wait at either airport, in our case, both ways, was longer than our actual flights).  


I purposely make a point of the length of time spent in the air...because at the rate of knots the stewardess was taking to serve each passenger on board our flight a drink, someone, somewhere along the line was going to miss out!  Need I go on?  
There is humour everywhere, in everything, if you’re prepared to look for it.

My three day trip to Port Moresby was, in the best of ways, memorable, indeed.  Also, I’m very glad I was given the opportunity.

I can’t finish this story without sharing with you the poem written by Australian digger, Bert Beros.

At 4 am one morning, on the Kokoda Track, after having been in a stand-to with the enemy, the Japanese, Bert Beros wrote his poem in honour of the wonderful “Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels” who helped and guided our brave young men on the Kokoda Track during that horrendous battle.  As described in my previous chapter, the New Guinea “Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels” were answers to the prayers of the mothers of our diggers.

It is recorded that an officer sent a copy of the poem to his mother.

Impressed by the poem, at the time, she had it published in the Brisbane “Courier Mail”.

The Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels

Many a mother in Australia,
When the busy day is done,
Sends a prayer to the Almighty
For the keeping of her son,
Asking that an Angel guide him
And bring him safely back
Now we see those prayers are answered
On the Owen Stanley track,
For they haven’t any halos,
Only holes slashed in the ears,
And with faces worked by tattoos,
With scratch pins in their hair,
Bringing back the wounded,
Just as steady as a hearse,
Using leaves to keep the rain off
And as gentle as a nurse.
Slow and careful in bad places,
On the awful mountain track,
And the look upon their faces,
Makes us think that Christ was black.
Not a move to hurt the carried,
As they treat him like a Saint,
It’s a picture worth recording,
That an Artist’s yet to paint.
Many a lad will see his Mother,
And the Husbands, Weans and Wives,
Just because the Fuzzy Wuzzy
Carried them to save their lives.
From mortar or machine gun fire,
Or a chance surprise attack,
To safety and the care of Doctors,
At the bottom of the track.
May the Mothers in Australia,
When they offer up a prayer,
Mention those impromptu Angels,
With the Fuzzy Wuzzy hair.


Sapper H "Bert" Beros
- Bert Beros...1942


The End


27 comments:

  1. Your Johnny Walker would be safe with (or do I mean from) me. I can't bear the stuff. I have been in a hotel which only had hot water. I stayed grimy.
    The poem is a beauty. And no doubt changed many people's minds about the Papua New Guineans.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. G'day, EC. I've always liked Scotch. However, I drink very little of anything these days. I've a bottle of Black Label that's only got about two nips taken out of it...it's been sitting on the shelf for over six years. And I've an unopened, still in its box bottle of Chivas Regal that I bought in early December last year. I might open it and have a couple of drops for my birthday next week...and, then again...I may not. It'll depend on my mood. I'll take the day as it comes. :)

      It's interesting to know you struck a similar only hot water problem. I never had before, nor have I done so since that time.

      Thanks for coming by. :)

      Delete
  2. The last chapter of your story is the 'raisin' on the cake - beautifully narrated, covering all the aspects of the 3-day visit to PNG.

    It seems, the australians have fought everywhere. In March, I wrote a post named The Red South, where I mentioned (with photos) the war memorial ANZAC, near the Gaza strip, erected in honor of the australian and new zeelander soldiers that fell in battles of Palestine in World War1 . Good people and good soldiers,RIP!











    ReplyDelete
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    1. G'day, DUTA...thank you. Our Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull has been visiting Israel this week in honour of the centenary of the Battle of Beersheba...see articles below....

      http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2017/10/29/battle-beersheba-should-be-cornerstone-australias-identity

      http://www.smh.com.au/world/malcolm-turnbull-praises-departed-anzac-soldiers-on-100year-anniversary-of-beersheba-20171031-gzc7ua.html

      The Aussie and Kiwi (New Zealand) soldiers share much history. They fought proudly side by side...and still do. We are "Brothers in Arms"...and always will be.

      Thank you for coming by; your comments are appreciated. :)

      Delete
  3. I see one cannot climb Ayers rock in a few years. Never wanted to but wonder how one climbs sandstone anyway?? Howdy to ye.

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    1. Hey there, goatman...as always it great to see you. I don't see you often enough!! I hope all is well with you and yours up your way. :)

      I tend to be in agreement re the cessation of the climbing the rock. It's an awesome sight (and site). As you point out...it is sandstone...and surely through the years much damage would be caused by the climbers...one would think.

      http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-11-01/uluru-climbs-banned-after-unanimous-board-decision/9103512


      I've only seen The Rock from above...I flew over it back in early 1987 (in a plane...not under my own steam...*smile* I'd left my broomstick at home). It took my breath away.

      Thanks for coming by...I look forward to seeing you again soon. :)

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  4. New Guinea is not a place that I would think of visiting. My father-in law and uncle were there during the war and both came back with Malaria and other battle scars. It sounds like you had a nice adventure there and bonded with nice people and have wonderful memories. That’s what life should be all about.

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    1. Hi Arleen...PNG wasn't on my list of places to visit, either...but I am so glad I had that opportunity to do so. Those three days have always remained fondly in my mind and heart.

      Our troops and those of the US faced unimaginable hurdles...but together, with the help of the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels, they overcame them...and came out the winners. :)

      Thanks for coming by. :)

      Thanks for coming by. :)

      Delete
  5. How interesting is your story of what happened back then :) loved it Lee.
    No hot water, oh dear not quite as bad as no water at all.
    The poem is lovely - and it reminded me of the Fuzzy Wuzzy Dr. how attended my late mum for the last week of her life. Fuzzy Wuzzy were held in high esteem from my late dad.
    The graveyard looks so well kept.

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    1. Hi Margaret...we had loads of boiling hot water....just no cold water to cool it down. Showering was impossible. At least with cold water, you can manage to shower...but boiling water...no way! lol

      The Bomana Cemetery is beautifully maintained...and revered by the people of PNG. They take good care of it...and are rightly proud.

      Thanks for coming by, Margaret. :)

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  6. Oh, the heroes who have never been known by the outside world! Such an amazing trip, you must have been awestruck all the time. (Johnny Walker Black Label exluded). The poem is exquisite, again unknown by outside world.
    What an experience!

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    1. Hey Susan....the quiet heroes, mostly unsung...but in many instances here in Aus and in PNG The Angels are still held in high regard.

      It was a fun trip...and an emotional one in many ways, too.

      Thanks for coming by. :)

      Delete
  7. Port Moresby. Sounds familiar, perhaps because it was mentioned in one of my favorite sci-fi movies, "On the Beach". My nephew paid money to have his kids' picture taken with someone dressed up as a scary voodoo priest when he was down in the Caribbean. Your fellow would have been scary enough for me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. G'day, Dave. "On the Beach" - the book was written by Neville Shute, and movie starred Gregory Peck, Fred Astaire (in a non-dancing, serious role) and Ava Gardner - filmed here in Aus. The story scared me when I was a kid...because it was so real and I feared it could actually happen...which it could.

      Thanks for coming by. :)

      Delete
  8. I've enjoyed reading and following these Port Moresby posts ... thanks.
    I'm so pleased you included the poem.

    All the best Jan

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    1. Hi Jan...I'm glad you enjoyed my reminiscing. It was a memorable, pleasant time...one I'm happy to share.

      Thanks for coming by. :)

      Delete
  9. What a beautiful poem. A fitting tribute.
    The cemetery is lovely. The serenity comes through the pictures.
    Wonderful memories. Wonderful adventures. Thanks for sharing them:)

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    1. Yes, Sandra, it is beautiful...simple, pure and beautiful...and as you say, a fitting tribute.

      Bomana is certainly a very special place...

      Thanks for coming by. :)

      Delete
  10. I am not sure whether that is a great tourist destination but it did give you a good holiday.

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    1. G'day Mr. Ad-Man...it wasn't a holiday as such. Our visit was a business-related trip. That we had the one free day was not of our planning. Those who organised the trade/tourism-based trip failed to realise a public holiday was thrown into the mix of dates.

      We were promoting our various "products", not the other way around.

      Thanks for coming by. :)

      Delete
  11. You have recalled those three days from way back in time with incredible detail and much warmth. They clearly left a big impression upon you and it all made for a great read. I award you The Yorkshire Pudding Medal for Excellence in Blogging (Gold Category).

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    1. G'day, Yorkie...yes the short period of time I spend in PNG did leave a lasting impression upon me. I was interesting...and it was lots of fun.

      Mr. Pudding I humbly accept your medal while doing a Snoopy dance of joy!! :)

      Thanks for coming by. :)

      Delete
  12. A memorable trip, indeed! I have never heard of running out of cold water like that. What a thing to deal with and with a bit of a hangover, to boot!

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    1. Hey Lynn..Take it from me...having no cold water is the pits when the water gushing forth from the taps and shower heads is boiling! And the water was boiling, I do not lie!! lol

      Thanks for coming by. :)

      Delete
  13. Those photos, esp the last ones are stunning and powerful. Thanks for sharing them.

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    Replies
    1. Hey there, Lux....They are...and they're fitting reminders of our own Armistice Day/Remembrance Day...11th November.

      Thanks for coming by. :)

      Delete
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    ReplyDelete