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31 December 2016


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In 1984 the Inu Morobi Ltd workers and their boss MP for Koroba-Kopiago Aruru Matiabe were so proud of their buying the old Pasuwe Ltd. store in Tari.

Under my management we would soon be giving Huli Traders owned by ex-MP Matiabe Yuwi a run for its trading dominance in the township.

Adjoining our boundary was yet another political business. It was owned by sitting Tari MP Harulai Mai and was a much smaller store unable to provide any major challenge to us or Huli Traders.

If you were a real supporter of any of these three men then you should only be buying something in your preferred candidate’s shop. Even meant going without if they had run out of stock of your prospective purchase.

Mind can only imagine the Huli using some subterfuge to get what he wanted, when he wanted even if he had to get a small unremarked child to do the buying for him.

One day Harulai made a remarkable one-upmanship move. Earlier we had seen some of his supporters gathering outside his small establishment and then came the joyful shouts and cries of “Haiwei ikam nau!!!”

Coming along the road from the Mendi road we saw this huge highway truck coming slowly along road towards us.

It stopped outside Harulai’s store and I think he jumped down from the cab to be raucously greeted by his supporters. After some photos had been taken; it then did a slow triumphal procession past the airstrip.

Then it returned to the owner’s shop and unloaded its cargo. So many goods that it was almost too much to be placed in the small store setup he had.

My young Koroba Kopiago workers were gutted; after all we had was bashed up old one and half tonner where even the driver’s window had long gone to be replaced by a piece of plywood. Don’t know how Matiabe Yuwi felt.

My staff used as spokesman ex-Pasuwe Ltd.’s Pastor Iragali the oldest member of staff to tell me how ashamed they all were to be outdone by the Memba’s ‘Haiwei’ and when would we buying one for our much busier store?

They would certainly make known their shame to our boss Education Minister Aruru when he next came to town from Waigani.

We carried on with getting our stock using a seven tonner owned by Papa Laka an old-time trucker used from Pasuwe days. Often I had gone to bed only to be awoken by the sound of his truck as it reversed into the unloading area of the store.

Always anxious to be on their way back to Hagen they almost demanded I empty the vehicle, pay cash to them for the load and then send them off with the next order.

Occasionally I’s send them down to Lae for a special purchase and that pleased my wife and her coastal mates because she did deals with his workers to buy buai and daka from there to supply the hunger most coastal felt in the 80s for their chewing habits.

One day I was asked by Iragali to meet with him and two shareholders of the company. Out it came, “Boss yumi mas gat Haiwei!”

They explained in no uncertain terms the very pressing need they and their people shared for Inu Morobi to have its own big truck.

They then told me of one such vehicle at bargain price available now in Lae - this was pre-mobile phones so I guess wantoks had passed the word from the port.

Can’t recall exact amount needed to buy it but was around K40,000. I was expected to participate in the deal and each of us was going to come up with ten grand.

Imagine my surprise when the one with dreadlocks and scruffy khaki trousers said, “Look,” and he opened his bush material basket. Under some tobacco leaves and old newspaper he revealed many thousands of kina notes.

“That’s my ten thousand. Now you guys must make an effort too and find the same amount.” The other two local men seemed unfazed and nodded encouragement which left just me a poor whitey unable to match their enthusiasm knowing the current state of my bank account.

Other events would overtake our enterprise and I was soon back on the coast ashamedly leaving the battered Inu Morobi truck for someone else to replace.

My last remembered journey in it was when a nurse rang from the hospital across the airstrip.

“Come and take your wife and new baby home.” I did so in a cold Tari morning, trying to keep the chill wind off my daughter by holding the plywood window shut.

My wife told me she had been scared to stay in the so-called maternity section because there was a murdered clansman on a trolley nearby and the wailing made it impossible to sleep. Tari life!

Oh, the Memba’s Haiwei didn’t last long because it was just too big for him to use economically for his small store and was apparently repossessed.

If only he had been around when Hela LNG started perhaps he would have made his competitors even more ashamed.

In 2007 on my ill-fated trip to find work in Craig’s Coffee Connections our group including two W Coast USA coffee blenders had taken about 25 minutes to be flown in by Governor Kela Smith himself in one of his helicopters to the Porosa Valley.

However our return trip would be by pickup trucks and take three days and I would experience some of the worst roads I had ever travelled.

The highland drivers told me, “Hilux is the best for these conditions. However it must be the older version because there is more clearance under the chassis on them than the newer models.”

After a good nights sleep in the Porosa I awoke to hear sawing and hammering. Looking out I saw mechanics making a temporary spring for what would be the vehicle I travelled in.

The sawing I had heard was because they were constructing the spring from a large piece or may have been several pieces of wood.

It would serve us well as we had no further problem with the spring even if the next few days of the road to Okapa and Goroka would be pretty hard on our backsides. An interesting hint of Highland’s life were several bullet holes in the vehicles.

Happy new year.

William - I met Norma Camps many times in the early seventies but never met Neptune Blood (as far as I remember).

Neptune Blood is also remembered for discovering the Sepik Blue Orchid.

Bob Bates is now running Bensbach Lodge.

Phil - yes I think the Hilux followed the Stout.

The Toyota Stout was a great vehicle.

I think it was the forerunner to the Hilux, which is a very tough and capable vehicle.

Garry - Knew Norm Camps well, met Neptune Blood in Madang in 1970 where he was, as I recall the Government Quarantine Officer and ran the SP bookie.

With Norm Camps, Neptune also got Bensback Lodge up and running in the Western Provence. He was a good friend of that other redoubtable Irishman, Cunning Bill Cunningham of coastal shipping fame.

Those were the days.

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