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17 November 2016


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Does anyone have any information about Pat and Erica Russell from PNG around 1970?

Pat was a patrol officer/district officer. Erica, of Japanese heritage, used to sing at the Gateway Hotel and worked for Ansett Airways around 1972 .

The information is for a book I am writing.

William Dunlop - thanks for the correction, - I should have known.

It makes you really wonder.

Even the tiny hotels and guesthouses in the most remote places in PNG are generally comfortable, safe and secure and the staff very friendly. Places like the Kikori Lodge for instance.

For a country with such a great asset you wonder why tourism isn't flourishing.

It's the law and order problem of course, coupled with the bad press from the Australian media.

Garry - Actually TAA.

A Skyvan en route from Minj to Mendi crashed near Mt Giluwe in September 1972 killing all on board. If I remember correctly the plane was transporting a patrol officer and cargo from Minj to Mendi.

I have dined several times at the Airways and always enjoyed it and stayed there once, also enjoyable. At the same time, lest POM get all the attention, it may be worth mentioning that for the past several years Lae International Hotel was named as PNG’s Leading Hotel by World Travel Awards.

Lae Inter grew out of Lae Lodge which in turn also had Airline connections - as the original buildings were used to house Airline personnel (Ansett?)

I'm not sure when the Airways opened. I think it might have been in the 1980s. Does anyone know?

It was built by Hebou Constructions at about the same time they were working on the Hiritano Highway.

It opened in 1987 and the deck from which I watched the 727's depart south while sipping on a cold greenie was, of course, the Gateway, just down the road - KJ

Philip, I too liked the Skyvan—until I had to fly in the bloody thing. It was 1969 and I was returning to POM from Hagen in, I think, a Navajo.

Just after take-off from Mendi an engine shut down and we had to go back. While waiting for a replacement aircraft, I spent a few pleasant hours with John Wallis of DASF, but the only replacement was a Skyvan in which they’d fixed a few seats.

It was the nosiest thing I’ve ever been in, and when the pilot dropped it into Kerema, I suffered terrible ear ache. Got to POM and had to see Jacobi and couldn’t hear properly for several days. I reckon it would have given the cargo a headache.

Chris, I too have fond memories of Bert and Wally Kienzle, even though I only met them a couple of times in 1970/71. I was working for Peter MacNab, then with Minjur Mines but better known for discovering Lihir, and we were walking into the old gold fields on the Aikora River, several days walk from Kokoda.

When at Kokoda we were always invited over to Mamba for lunch. I found them to be pleasant company and gracious hosts.

William Dunlop's reference to the Gateway Hotel and the sale of Papuan Airlines to Sir Reginald Ansett reminded me that I was actually present at Bert Keinzle's house when he sold his interest in the airline.

I was posted to Kokoda in 1972 as an Assistant District Officer, with Frank Sabin, ADC, as my immediate boss. During my time there I became a friend of Bert's son, Soc (an abbreviation of Soccer, a nickname which he was given before his birth, but that is another story).

Together with the self proclaimed most cowardly and hopeless Assistant Patrol Officer in PNG, the marvellously entertaining Jack Banbury, we spent many happy hours chatting over a quiet beer, playing cards, fishing and taking gumi rides down the Mambare River.

Anyway, on the day in question, Bert had invited Soc, Jack and me to a barbeque at Mamba Estate. During the course of the day we saw a large helicopter land at the estate, which Soc casually informed us was Sir Reginald arriving to finalise the sale of Bert's shares in Papuan Airlines.

That evening, after the helicopter had departed, we were all standing around the barbeque, where Bert was presiding as chief cook, assisted by his brother, Wallace.

Soc asked his father about how the meeting with Sir Reg had gone, to which Bert replied that it had worked out pretty well. "Did you get a good price", inquired Soc.

Bert put down his tongs and began to search his pockets for something. After a moment or two he drew out a cheque, which he then scrutinised closely before stuffing it in the top pocket of his shirt. "Three and a half million" he said, before resuming turning the sausages.

This was a huge sum at that time, yet Bert's bald statement merely drew a nod of acknowledgement from Soc and no comment whatsoever from anyone else.

The Keinzle family were, I think, not unduly concerned about money as such. Their beloved Mamba Estate was where their hearts lay and any money they made, while obviously welcome, was clearly subordinate the joys of living in the beautiful Mambare Valley.

The Keinzle's were very kind to me and I remember them fondly. They all worked hard on what was, so far as I can recall, a 2,000 acre property, where they ran a large herd of beef cattle and operated a well established rubber plantation as well.

Even though they could easily have afforded to leave the business in the hands of a manager, they all preferred to live and work there. They cherished Mamba Estate and Kokoda far too much to leave it to someone else to run.

I understand that Mamba Estate was bought by the government of PNG a few years after independence and is now mainly devoted to producing oil palm. There are, so far as I know, no links to the Kienzle family any more.

This is rather sad really, especially given the significant roles both Herbert and Wallace played in organising the so-called "Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels" during the epic battles fought along the Kokoda Track in 1941 and 1942.

Different hotel William.

The Gateway is still there in all her glory. The Airways is a bit further down the road.

The security guard who sits at the entrance to the Airways has a very classy stainless steel shotgun - only the best!

I always liked the Skyvan, a kind of flying furniture truck made in Belfast.

The original hotel, The Gateway, was developed by the late Captain Bert Keinzle and his wife, the then owners of Papuan Airlines which was later sold Reginald Ansett of Ansett Airlines and later still to Steamships.

I still have fond memories of Ansett Airlines, particularly the milk run on the Italian Piaggio aeroplane in the late 1960s: Lae, Kainantu, Goroka, Kundiawa and Mt Hagen. It was known colloquially as the flying pig.

KJ, you would have been familiar with this lady.

Knew her well. A stocky aircraft with stern facing props and plenty of cabin noise. There was a famous occasion when she landed at Chimbu wheels up. It was not a planned manoeuvre and we all looked away and headed to Dick Kelaart's nearby pub when we saw the grown man in the left hand seat weep - KJ

There are indeed some excellent hotels in Papua New Guinea, including Port Moresby. It is something the country does extremely well.

My financial resources have only ever been stretched to the Crown Plaza but that's a nice hotel too.

But what about the Weigh Inn, surely that deserves an award, even if it's just for friendliness.

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