For some reason, which I’ve since forgotten, a couple of my merry band of tourism “experts”, together with the PNG Avis host and his wife, returned to my hotel room after we completed dinner, a dinner during which we had been treated like royalty and one we had thoroughly enjoyed. Perhaps the knowledge that I had an unopened bottle of Johnnie Walker Black Label that I’d purchased at the
We visitors to the far north, however, did learn a lot about the lifestyle of ex-pats in
Rising early, 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 and letting 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 to be had the taps or nozzle! 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 managed somehow, 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. Quickly dressing, I hurried down to the lobby to meet up with my fellow motley crew. 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! So, there we were…a hung-over, bedraggled, bleary-eyed, unwashed band of banditos, sort of ready for the day ahead. Once we were all together, and saw the funny side of it, we decided nothing was going to faze us! We remembered our “one for all, all for one” creed! Breakfast was a hurried affair and soon we were on board the “Avis Bus”, headed for the hills/mountains behind
But before we left Moresby, our host took us to the historic
Arriving and disembarking at the war cemetery, our high spirits immediately lulled. An atmosphere of deep respect and sorrow took over. I was not alone in my reverie as we wandered somberly throughout the beautifully maintained cemetery, a 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. The best probably is to say, it was an “out of body” experience. We didn’t talk amongst each other. We broke away and wandered alone with our own thoughts. There were no words 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
I feel honoured to this very day to have experienced the unexpected time I spent at
Climbing up the winding range, the views all around us were stunning. Down low behind us was the dry, dusty savannah of
Halfway up the range, we noticed a
With a broad smile on his face, he waved as we drove off. We waved back, cheerfully. We were feeling no pain, a result of the previous evening. No wonder he had a broad smile on his face, he was probably thinking, “Sucker tourists!”
One of our astute passengers 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 probably! No wonder the “warrior” had a big smile on his face! All he had to do was stand there looking “pretty gruesome”, at no cost to him, while he reaped in the kinas!
We continued up the range, awed by the stunning, magnificence of the scenery surrounding us. Finally, we reached the “Kokoda Inn”. There we, naturally, after all, we were pretty thirsty, headed 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 and from many countries, mainly local, Australian, British and the
Outside was a primitive zoo holding all forms of bird and animal life, most of which I’d never seen before.
By this time, our merry band of wanderers was hungry, that included me. The after-effects of the previous evening had given us a hunger, which needed to be sated, and quickly! Finding a long, wooden outdoor table, we promptly sat ourselves at it and ordered from the luncheon menu that consisted of steak and salad and steak and salad. Our chatter around the table was lively as we’d enjoyed a most interesting trip up to our destination. We were also enjoying our destination, where the air was crisp, clean and refreshing.
Our meals arrived without much 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 and lunch was fun.
Finally, as all good things do, our happy jaunt came to its end. It was time to return back down the range to
I never did see Graeme, our self-appointed expert tour leader, again during my time in
My trip to and from Port Moresby, the short period of time I spent in Papua New Guinea will always remain in my memory. I remember the fun and laughter, the camaraderie, the bond we all formed and felt equally. I will never forget “Manuel”! I will always remember the emotions I felt when I visited
I can’t finish this story without sharing with you the poem written by Australian digger, Bert Beros at one morning, on the Kokoda Track, after having been in a stand-to. 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. The
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.
- Bert Beros...1942