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27 February 2012

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Hi Keith - Being also at Boku patrol post, I was on my first patrol from headquarters at Sohano and (stayed at the Wong You Hilton Buka) when we walked for two months from Kokopo, at the tip of the large island, to Boku through the centre of Bougainville island.

We did census and all administrative matters, as a kiap did. There were two kiaps, seven police, an education officer, a health officer, a didiman, a mission doctor and 110 carriers and also the regional malariologist, Fritz Hockenbrink from Rabaul.

The carriers heaved 70 200 litre drums of DDT to eradicate malaria in the villages. Crazy - it was sprayed into people's hair at times as well as village houses and so on, all to eradicate malaria.

Nothing was mentioned about health even though a lot of small village chickens ducks etc would get sick from the spraying. Mosquitoes were certainly less but the health of people and animals was also seriously affected.

After two months we arrived at Boku's beautiful patrol post. Bob Hoad was there and the new stone office was brilliant. We could see the burning lava coming out of Mt Bagana and down the slopes towards Korovi and Tengeriepaia villages.

Boku was special to me as I was OIC for two years and we managed to build the road through the jungle to the Jaba River. My daughter was born at Moratona Catholic Mission while I was on patrol.

We spent eight months with hundreds of villagers and Kiwi, the best jungle road builder ever, could build any road anywhere.

We would walk through the Nagovis to Panguna to get fuel and supplies. Lots to tell.

All kiaps worked hard and it's still difficult to talk to the average person when they ask what is a kiap.

I knew Andrew Phillips from Happy Valley in Kieta and also worked with Sir Paul Lapun MP on the Panguna mine issue under Bill Brown, a great guy.

Enough said, we could go on. Keith, you should get a good book writer and get all the great stories at one of our tribal gatherings at Kawana. Bamahuta.
________

Gee thanks Gus. Need a bloke like you around to give me a few more projects. But great memories - KJ

I want to clear up any misconceptions in my memoir of my time at Boku patrol post in 1969 where Bob Hoad was in charge.

I had great admiration for him having read his reports of patrols in western Papua. He was a legend.

My description was as I experienced those days. Perhaps I should have employed creative non-fiction devices and changed names.

When I arrived Bob was engaged in a substantial building project - a new office with river stones set in cement. It was quite something and Bob did the majority of the work himself. It seemed to reach the level of an art project.

One day I electrocuted one of the helpers on the project. I stupidly rewired a circular saw, earth to green. Pow! I looked up from my desk out through the grass shutters propped open and saw the man gyrating on the ground still clutching the saw.

I leapt down the stairs and across the grass to the generator house to throw the switch. Slowly the engine died and the man lay still. Fortunately he soon revived and lived. But I thought I'd killed him.

I remember Bob was calm all through the drama and I learned a fearsome lesson. Looking back now, I see how remote we were out there. At times there was something of Conrad's "Heart of Darkness" about it.

I have a growing compilation of writings at http://andrewsnotebooks.blogspot.com/

Having walked down the Strickland River to Nomad River and then back to Koroba via Mt. Bosavi and Komo in late 1972, with Bill van Rikxoort's patrol, I know that Bob Hoad had done the trip, in reverse, in 1966. Big bush stuff.

I can well believe Bob's shorts. He has the best developed set of athlete's legs around, even as an old fellah, and is probably rightly proud of them.

I have always found him to be one of nature's gentlemen.

I came across Andrew Phillips’ article by chance and was instantly transported back to his time on Bougainville.

I worked on the road construction as a surveyor and can vividly remember the fun, the frustrations, and the trials we all faced on a daily basis.

His descriptions of life and events around Boku came crowding back into my mind and I could see the place once again.

1. The mad kiap (his boss?) who rafted across the flooding river alongside our camp on a tyre tube to have a drink with the construction crew then, much the worse for wear, return the same way but clutching a carton of SP(?) to his sodden, and no doubt, heaving chest. We cheered as he disappeared around a corner of the creek, spinning in the current. Next day he appeared right as, except for the odd headache…

2. Assisting two ‘dozer operators to rescue one broken down ‘dozer from the banks of the soon to be raging Puriata River, just below Boku village, in the worst storm of my life. As the storm built up around and above us you could hear the lightening sizzle as it flashed across the cliff face below the village. The thunder was almost continuous, and horrendous. A single big dead tree stood proud in the clearing we had made for the (Upai) bridge approach and it was this tree that we expected the lightening to strike. Each time it came I would throw myself down onto the rough ground until a ‘dozer operator screamed at me to quit it (or words to that effect!) as it was frightening the life out of him, expecting each time to be struck on his ‘dozer…

3. Watching the biggest, reddest moon ever rise over the tree tops when the smoke from the Tasmanian fires arrived east of us a couple of weeks or so after they had destroyed so much…

4. Coming up behind a tractor towing a trailer and wondering what could be moving so in the trailer. Turned out to be meat for a village sing sing and absolutely buzzing with flies…

5. Watching the river in full flood and feeling a thumping, then seeing rocks the size of small cars leap out of the waters…

6. Sitting in a Land Rover with a wonky clutch plate in the same river pumping the pedal like mad to get the clutch to engage while the water flowed over my thighs. The other heroes always had places to go…

7. Enjoying the afternoons as storms built up around us, then the coolness of the night after they passed…

8. Visiting the local villages to buy fresh fruit and vegetables...

9. Finding about 150 locals sitting behind the sheet we erected as a screen for our 16mm movies – not a sound from them and watching the images in reverse – once discovered however their howls of mirth at the “backward movies” often drowned out the audio …

10. Forever awed by the rain falls in “just a little shower”…

11. The feeling of dread when thrown an old rusted Australian WW11 hand grenade and told “catch Masta!”…

12. Having a communal evening bath under the hut downpipes in a light shower when three mission nuns walked into the camp (“Evening all”!) – and no towels handy…

13. Watching workmates depart on leave in a light twin engined plane as a raging storm chased them down the grass Boku airstrip with lightening striking banana trees on the sides…

14. Sitting in the cockpit of a DC-3 flying from Buin to Rabaul with neither pilot at the controls (won’t be a moment/going for a chat with the hostie/coffee down the back) and a big red sign screaming “…controls not to be left un-attended at any time”…

15. Then there was the time …Ahh hell…!

Thank you, Andrew. A small slice of time, with a big chunk of memories.

Andrew Phillips seems to have forgotten that there were three very well stocked stores in Buin whilst he was posted to Boku working with Bob Hoad.

All stores were well stocked with European goods including freezer and beer/spirits, and most Kiaps posted to south Bougainville purchased their supplies from these stores with the occasional airfreighted freezer from Rabaul.

Don't know that many got their supplies direct by ship. I know, because I owned one of the stores in Buin.

I came close to choking on my Swan lager after reading your take on Bob Hoad after all this time. Give the guy a break...

I briefly worked with him when i was relief District Clerk at Lae in late 1971 and I'm sure we both would have cast a discerning eye over the lovely ladies working with us in the office.

Your comments will no doubt give Bob and his fellow kiaps something to talk about at their next Kawana Waters reunion. Pity you wont be there to join in the discussion.

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