Sunday, September 10, 2017

PNG Hunters into historic first grand final

THE PNG Hunters have made Intrust Super Cup history, after they advanced to their first grand final with a gritty 6-4 victory over Redcliffe today.

Michael Marum’s side put on a defensive masterclass in Port Moresby, denying the Dolphins the chance to score any tries in front of a packed stadium with more than 14,000 people.

All of Redcliffe’s points came from penalty goals, while PNG skipper Ase Boas scored the only four-pointer of the game to send the Dolphins back to Queensland without the much-needed win.

The massive effort from the Hunters will see them play in their first grand final on September 24 at Suncorp Stadium.

Redcliffe meanwhile will host the Sunshine Coast in a preliminary final next Sunday, with the two teams to battle it out for the other spot in the grand final.

Monday, September 04, 2017

A Father's Day gift

My babies gave me this today
And bring tears to my eyes
They are my strength
My inspiration
The wind beneath my wings

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Laying the red carpet for our visitors

I got up early and took a Saturday morning stroll from my home at 8-Mile to the main highway.
The entire pavement was painted red with betel nut (buai) spit.

There is nothing wrong with betel nut growing and selling, just the chewing and spitting. 

This is not only happening in Port Moresby but all over the country.
It's a disgusting and insidious habit.
People - even those highly educated ones holding big jobs - spit everywhere without a care in the world.
We talk about corruption, crime, homebrew and marijuana, but the spitting of buai is just as bad.
Shame on you if you are one of these serial spitters painting the town red.
Port Moresby and Papua New Guinea will host APEC 2018 in a few month's time.
We are already laying the red carpet for our visitors.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Salamaua: The rising phoenix

This article first appeared in The National newspaper on Friday, Feb 17, 2017

My recent trip to beautiful and historical Salamaua, Morobe, the capital of New Guinea ahead of Lae and Rabaul before being destroyed by WWII,  brings back so many bittersweet memories.
Back in July 2003, I walked the trail from Salamaua to Wau with Morobe tourism officer Heni Dembis and two local boys Lionel Aigilo and Solomon Jawing, an event which put this icon of the Morobe gold rush days and WWII back on the tourism map.

The word-famous Salamaua Point, scene of some of the heaviest fighting of WWII, with the narrow isthmus in between.-All pictures by MILEN STILIYANOV

Our dream was to make the Black Cat popular again, to help put back Salamaua and Wau back on the map, and to help the local people make money.
The Black Cat makes the Kokoda Trail seem like a Sunday arvo stroll in the park.
This is because it is not an established trail like Kokoda, on which hundreds of trekkers regularly tread, but a forgotten course that passes through some of the toughest and most-hazardous terrain in the world.
Leech and snake -infested jungle, moss-covered rocks and fallen tree stumps, precarious cliff crossings, and potentially-dangerous river crossings make the Black Cat arguably one of the toughest tracks in PNG and the world.
After walking from Salamaua from Wau over five days,  from July 22 to 26 in 2003, I can only say know that I do not know how I survived.
To cut a long story short, thanks to our groundbreaking trek, the Black Cat was opened and the trekking industry thrived until the sad incident of Sept 2013 in which a trekking party was attacked near Wau in Sept 2013 and several porters either maimed or killed.
One of those who succumbed to injuries was my good friend, Lionel Aigilo, who walked with me on the track back in 2003.
Trekkers from Australia and New Zealand managed to get out unharmed and walked back to Wau.
The track has since been closed and a major revenue-earner for the people has gone.
That aside, Salamaua has played a pivotal role in the history of Papua New Guinea, and my research into this place from Australian military archives and other sources,  reveals so much.
Expatriate-owned houses at Salamaua.
What many do not know is that the Japanese launched their attack on Port Moresby over the Kokoda Trail from Salamaua, and when the attack failed, turned the port into a major supply base.
It was eventually attacked by Australian troops flown into Wau.
Japanese reinforcements failed to arrive and the town was taken in September 1943 in what has become known as the Battle of Salamaua.
Salamaua – the “town of gold”- has never regained its shine.
The Australians recaptured Salamaua in September 1943 but by then, it was too late, as places like Lae and Port Moresby had taken its glory.
It was the main port and airstrip for the goldfields of Wau and Bulolo during the gold rush days of the 1920s and 1930s.
Salamaua was headquarters for the all-powerful New Guinea Goldfields Ltd, had its own shops liked the famed Burns Philp, New South Wales and Commonwealth banks, named streets, hospital, bakery, theatre, bars where characters like the legendary Errol Flynn once strutted his stuff before becoming a Hollywood legend, and was a famed port of call for swashbuckling gold miners from all over the world.
It was here that expeditions into the undiscovered hinterland – including the famous exploration into the Highlands of New Guinea by the Leahy brothers and Jim Taylor – were launched.
Rivalry between Salamaua and Lae for the capital of New Guinea following the demise of Rabaul in the 1937 volcanic eruption was legendary.
But for all that Salamaua has contributed to the development of PNG and the world – through the millions in gold that was taken out - it is one of the greatest ironies that it is now a forgotten backwater, left to the mercy of the vast Huon Gulf which threatens to swamp its narrow isthmus any moment, despite repeated calls for a seawall to be built.
Never mind that these days its beautiful bathing beach and coral reefs are havens for people from Lae – mainly the expatriate community - who have built weekend houses on the peninsula to get away from the traffic, phones, and bustle of the city.
The discovery of gold at Edie Creek above Wau in 1926 sparked off a gold rush of massive proportions, which led to the development of Salamaua as capital of the Morobe District.
The rigorous walk between Salamaua and Wau took up to a week, the flamboyant Errol Flynn writing of how the gold fields had to be approached from Salamaua by 10 days’ march through leech-infested jungle, in constant fear of ambush, and at night wondering “whether that crawly sound you heard a few feet away might be a snake, a cassowary or maybe only a wild board razorback…I have seen Central Africa, but it was never anything like the jungle of New Guinea”.
Lae was but a “company” town and was very much a satellite of Salamaua.
Salamaua sprang up before Lae and because it was the administrative and commercial centre of the District and also the port for the goldfields, it continued to dominate its sister across the Huon Gulf right up till WW11.
Shipping interests refused Lae as a port, probably because they had already established themselves at Salamaua before Lae developed.
Salamaua as it is today
The powerful New Guinea Goldfields Ltd – following a dispute with Guinea Airways – purchased its own plane and established its own aerodrome on Salamaua in 1929.
The government also resisted pressure to have Lae built up as the chief town of Morobe District, and at times, even affirmed its preference for Salamaua by stubbornly refusing to use either the aviation or shopping facilities at Lae.
Following the disastrous volcanic eruption in Rabaul in May 1937, a protracted and bitter debate over the merits of Salamaua and Lae ensued, when Australian minister for territories W.M. Hughes – who in his days as prime minister had been responsible for New Guinea coming under Australia’s mandate - chose Salamaua as both port and capital.
Hughes was accused of being bribed by Burns Philp and New Guinea Goldfields, the Australian government was accused of apathy and irresponsibility in its attitude towards New Guinea affairs, and the Pacific Islands Monthly and Rabaul Times led the anti-Hughes and anti-government debate.
It became a matter of great controversy that that Canberra press corps, which had been faithfully reporting new developments for six months, in December 1938 produced a satirical newspaper Hangover containing a parody of the controversy under the title “Lae off Salamaua: Capital crisis causes crater cabinet confusion”.
The article reads: “A new crisis has arisen overshadowing the budget, the coal strike, and Hitler. Alarming tensions were created when the Prime Minister received the following urgent message from Mr Hairbrain, M.H.R: ‘Lae off Salamaua, Joe! Natives hostile!’Mr Hairbrain’s message has created the profoundest sensations in Federal political circles. It is feared that the natives may try to make capital out of it. The situation is fraught with grave possibilities and impossibilities. Mr Lyons summoned cabinet immediately. ‘Wow!’ said the Prime Minister as he staggered from the cabinet room after the tenth day with the problem apparently nearer no solution. ‘That’s it!’ yelled a chorus of weary ministers. ‘Why the hell didn’t we think of Wau before?’ Mr Hughes collapsed. The crisis had passed.”
Rabaul, however, continued to remain as capital of New Guinea until 1941 when renewed volcanic forced the transfer to Lae in October 1941 right up to the Japanese invasion in January 1942.
War, however, had begun in the Pacific with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour on December 7, 1941.
Sea shell on the sea shore at Salamaua
Rabaul was bombed on January 4, 1942 followed by Lae, Salamaua, and Bulolo on January 21.
This was the beginning of the end of Salamaua’s ephemeral reign as the “town of gold”.
It is my dream that one day Salamaua, like the phoenix, will rise again and take its place in the sun.


Sunday, January 15, 2017

The allure of second-hand bookshops

I love second-hand book shops.
Yesterday I wandered through two second-hand shops along Waigani Drive in Port Moresby, hunting for books, while the place was chock-a-block with people looking for clothes.
Books on virtually anything are available at second-hand bookshops.

Such a treasure trove of information and English at a time when our  literacy levels have reached alarmingly-low levels. 
They are literally a gold mine.
You can look no further than Facebook to see how low the level of English in this country has stooped to.
The books and magazines at second-hand shops are so cheap too.
Good to see people interested in books.

Sometimes you find the latest bestsellers.
From Shakespeare to Twain to Hemingway to Fitzgerald to Hunter S Thompson to do-it-yourself to children's books.
A second-hand book does more to help our children than a buai, smoke or a beer.
 I read profusely as a child (and even to this day) and this has has shaped (and continues to shape) my life.
I bought a couple of books for my kids and myself.
Some of the books I bought.

I believe strongly that "development is yourself", whether it be buying and reading a book, or stopping buai, smoking and alcohol.
Development does not come from politicians or government as we in Papua New Guinea like to think.
Reading is development.

Sunday, January 01, 2017

The first day of 2017

Today was a time for me to spend time with family, read, write, take pictures, as well as think about the potential for agriculture in this country.
This is before I resume work tomorrow in what promises to be a busy year with the 2017 national election.
A green invasion...I see it as a good augury for 2017...a blessing...
More Papua New Guinean than those slimy, toxic brown Queensland cane my hands and I don't get poisoned...
Lae pineapples for New Year's Day brunch...

My three amigos are cooking up a feast...
My tribe on New Year's Day...
She's now busy writing a travel piece on her tablet about our travels to Lae, Salamaua, Highlands Highway,  Markham Valley and Goroka...soon to be published...PS: She's only 12 but can write better than many of our "journalists"...
More power to our farmers in 2017...including us backyard farmers...

Keith and friend.
Evening along Sir Hubert Murray Highway, 8-Mile.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

The last day of 2016

Today is the last day of 2016 and my daughter and I travelled back to Port Moresby after a wonderful two weeks of vacation.
Thank you all for being part of an amazing journey with my daughter and I over the last two weeks from Port Moresby to Lae, across the Huon Gulf to beautiful Salamaua, over the plains of the great Markham Valley to the cold, misty mountains of Goroka.
It's been a wonderful journey. Thank you God for keeping us safe and taking us safely back to Port Moresby. Thank you for all the wonderful family and friends in Lae, Salamaua, Markham Valley, Goroka and all over Papua New Guinea. We pray for your blessings on this country in 2017.
I have rekindled family ties and old friendships.
My daughter with her grand aunt, Elizabeth Nagong, who turned 91 on December 26 at Butibam Village. She is the wife of the great Lutheran evangelist Gejambec Nagong.

 I have come to realise what a beautiful country this is, despite all the negativity.
Bloom at our Butibam  home in Lae this morning.
 I have seen the massive potential for agriculture, fisheries and tourism.
 I have seen the role the church can play in curbing many of our social ills.
The Lutheran Church building at the beautiful seaside village of Laukanu, Salamaua, which was opened on December 18. 

I have seen the damage done to our young people by alcohol and drugs.
 I have seen the neglect of the Highlands Highway - the lifeline of this country.
Dangerous. Highlands Highway near Yonki, Eastern Highlands, on Boxing Day.
Roads are a far cry from what they were on Kassam Pass.

 I have seen how we in the mainstream media have failed to report on many critical  issues affecting this country.
 I have seen how Digicel (despite all the criticism) has brought telephone and Internet access to our rural people.
 I hear the call of this great country.
Let us all arise, sons and daughters of this great land, and save our country.
Never has the need been greater.
A Happy New Year 2017 to one and all.
Just in time for 2017...