KELA KAPKORA SIL BOLKIN
An entry in The Crocodile Prize
PNG Chamber of Mines & Petroleum Award
for Essays & Journalism
I flew to Goroka on 12 December and was to jump on a PMV bus later in the afternoon when I heard talk on the street that there was a landslip below the Kingstar limestone knoll and the travelling public were stranded.
I didn’t want to be caught up on the road in the evening, so I decided to overnight at Fishwara settlement in East Goroka.
At dawn I rose with the cicadas and arrived at the Simbu bus stop. Some 14 passengers and I jumped on the first 15-seater bus that was heading Simbu way. We left Goroka town at 7 am and the passengers chewed betel nut and smoked cigars for breakfast and happily chatted as we sped west into the morning clouds.
The clouds were still embracing us as we crept through Daulo Pass and entered Simbu country. We drove past Chuave market and ascended, only to come upon a long line of trucks at the landslip below Kingstar.
The bus crew returned one-third of our bus fares at the site of the landslip and we were asked to walk through and jump on another PMV bound for Kundiawa. As we walked, we went through seven road blocks that were just five metres apart.
The perplexed passengers and PMV owners were given orders by four or five different thugs. There was no one with the authority to keep the situation under control because the police were chewing betel nut and had no desire to control the situation.
That gave the thugs a good opportunity to enrich themselves. The men had five road blocks and two were mounted by a few women. The ‘owners’ of these road blocks were shouting, scolding and demanding that the travelling public pay a K2 fee for trespassing on their land.
I had to fork out K14 to thread my way through them. The travelling public, who had bags of betel nuts, were made to pay K10 for each bag. The boys who helped carry cargo to the other side also demanded K10 for each bag of betel nuts or peanuts carried.
The traditional Simbu way of inviting a visitor for a meal and cutting sugar cane to show courtesy has been lost to the vicissitudes of time.
What surprised me most was that the women tending the road blocks were as aggressive as the men and swore at will. That was something of a new experience for me. I had never seen my mothers and sisters swearing in any gathering in Simbu.
There are many good mothers and sisters in Chuave and I cannot smear mud on them because of those few sluts, but I now know there are a few thugs among the noble Chuave mothers and sisters.
There was a policeman with a loaded AR15 rifle in one of the groups blocking the road making sure each passenger paid the thugs as they walked through. The policeman had turned himself into a thug and was no longer the noble policeman he swore to be when passing out at Bomana Police College.
He probably joined the thugs in the pub in the evening to muse over the day’s takings. Well, that is the norm nowadays with most cops, so it wasn’t a surprise.
There was a concurrent landslip in the Mindima section of highway to the west that also stopped tourists coming down to see the Simbu Kuakumba cultural show. The duty bearers were not prompt in responding to this disaster and were still procrastinating when the show started.
The Simbu cultural show was on and now the only way for tourists to enter Simbu was on one maiden flight to Kundiawa after years of hibernation. The next flight was scheduled for after the show. Another planning blunder on the part of duty bearers.
When I finally made it to show I was overwhelmed by what my senses detected. The sounds of drum beats, euphoria, vernacular, serenades and traditional costumes gave me a feeling of security and acceptance.
A few of the dances, singings and traditional regalia displayed were foreign and not traditional Simbu, but most were true to the core and they gave me a feeling that all is not yet lost to the cultural imperialism perpetuated by cultural terrorist sects, biblical fundamentalists and spongy politicians as the Post-Courier calls them all. My camera had the best moment of its life too; it was busy over the three days of the show.
All good things come to an end and I was on my way back to Goroka to catch the Air Niugini flight to Port Moresby when the 25-seater PMV bus I was travelling on got a punctured tyre at Magiro, where some people were recently buried by the landslip. While the crew and driver were changing the tyre the passengers crept into the nearby shrubbery to answer the call of nature.
Thugs then converged on the PMV bus and started yelling abuse. They demanded compensation for using their bushes as rest rooms. We had no choice but to contribute and pay them. While we were contributing more thugs, including women, converged and started calling the women passengers sluts and virus carriers.
The government does not provide rest rooms for the travelling public anywhere along the entire Okuk Highway. Thirst, hunger and nature calls are programed by anatomy and people have a right to basic dignity that the road parasites and the government have to respect. Get the pedestal politicians to provide rest rooms along Okuk Highway because the most affected are our mothers and sisters.
In particular we ask Hon Julie Soso to build rest rooms at the summits of Daulo and Kassam passes. She will then surely become a Dame and make herself immortal. The highway thugs are a problem that need immediate remedy.
The government, through the National Cultural Commission, should document and fund cultural groups in the provinces to keep up knowledge, totems and artefacts. PNG has a huge potential to make tourism dollars with its 850 different cultures, lands and seascapes.
Rest rooms will make life better for tourists as well as other people travelling the highways. Thugs and lazy buggers along the Okuk highway have to be collected and sent to a faraway place where there is no sound of air, rain or other humans.
These brainless mongrels are a disease in society and serve as obstacles to a huge tourism potential, not to mention the safety of the general public.