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26 May 2013

Another day in Paradise?


Remember when they ran a competition just before Independence to find the most suitable name for the new nation of Papua New Guinea?

"Paradise" was a hot favourite. They should have stuck with it because it has certainly become a pradise for all sorts of crooks - read more at PNGexposedBlog


25 May 2013

Need a Plan B ?

Horst Berger's VILLA MAMANA

At last! An email - by courtesy of another island-dweller in Pangai on the neighbouring island of Lifuka - from my Austrian friend Horst Berger who many years ago made the Kingdom of Tonga his home. The photos show his new 'fale Tonga' native abode on remote Uiha Island. It has one solar panel to run one single lightbulb, his CD-player and a blender for the occasional 'banana-shakes, but no fridge and no phone. "What else do I need?", he muses.

It's right out of Boys Own! Beats living in suburbia, doesn't it?

Here is Horst's description of his 'Place in Paradise' (loosely translated by me):

"My 6 x 3.8m 'fale Tonga' is not waterproof but water-resistant and made entirely with local material using traditional methods: the floor is beach sand, the framework coconut palmtree trunks, walls and roof coconut palmtree fronds. The only concession to modernity is the use of 100 iron nails. The 'furniture' consists of a bed, a cupboard and two small tables, all made from old wooden boxes, and a small gas stove. Under the bed is a wooden box which contains my 'power station': a 12V-battery and a 500W inverter which feeds my 10W-12V Halogen light.

Outside, on the northside, is the all-important solar panel. Next to it is a small space to wash and dry my laundry and a few steps along my small workshop which contains tools and fishing gear. To the left is the toilet and outdoor shower. On the westside of the house, next to the entrance door, is my 'kitchen' as I normally cook outside (the gas stove is for rainy days or when it is too windy or to bake bread with)."

However, even Horst has to admit that "natürlich sehe ich auch Nachteile in einem 'natürlichen Haus' zu wohnen aber auch damit kann man leben." (of course, there are disadvantages to living in a 'strawhut' I can put up with it).

There, but for good wine, Camembert, Pavarotti, private health insurance, and a few other million things, go I.

As one old Tonga hand emailed after seeing the pictures: "Thank you for putting the photos of Horst's 'Villa Mamana' on the Internet. I love that solar cell panel on its stand. He seems to have his private beach too. It looks like he has finally fully settled into the Tongan environment. I would say he will end his days there. Not a bad choice for someone who has been hurt in our type of environment. Funny if one considers that the Tongans nowadays keep their pigs in that sort of houses. Even on Uiha most people now live in wooden or even stone houses. I wonder if they respect him for his way of life which for the Tongans is a thing of the past. After I got married I lived in very similar fashion in Ha'apai, but only for holidays. I am not sure if I would like to give up my house and join him there. It gets uncomfortable when you get old."

If you want to write to Horst, here's his mailing address:

When I write to him, I always enclose a small (and sometimes not so small) banknote to help him with the return postage and let him share a beer with me ☺

More on Horst here and here and here.


For all those who want to dream a bit



Tom Neale's book AN ISLAND TO ONESELF is one of my favourite books:

I was fifty when I went to live alone on Suvarov, after thirty years of roaming the Pacific, and in this story I will try to describe my feelings, try to put into words what was, for me, the most remarkable and worthwhile experience of my whole life.I chose to live in the Pacific islands because life there moves at the sort of pace which you feel God must have had in mind originally when He made the sun to keep us warm and provided the fruits of the earth for the taking; but though I came to know most of the islands, for the life of me I sometimes wonder what it was in my blood that had brought me to live among them. There was no history of wanderlust in my family that I knew of-other than the enterprise which had brought my father, who was born in Wellington, though while I was still a baby we moved to Greymouth in New Zealand's South Island, where my father was appointed paymaster to the state coal mines. Here we remained until I was about seven, when the family-I had two brothers and three sisters-moved to Timaru on the opposite side of South Island.

It was a change for the better. My maternal grandmother owned twenty acres of land only five miles out of Timaru and here we settled down, my father commuting to his new office either by bicycle, trap or on horseback, while I went to the local school where (with all due modesty) I was good enough in reading, geography and arithmetic to merit a rapid move from Standard One to Standard Three.

Looking back, I imagine the real clue to my future aspirations lay in the fact that it always seemed absolutely natural that I should go to sea. I cannot remember ever contemplating any other way of life and there was no opposition from my parents when I announced I would like to join the New Zealand Navy. My real ambition was to become a skilled navigator, but when my father took me to Auckland Naval Base to sign on, I was dismayed to discover that already I was too old at eighteen and a half to be apprenticed as a seaman. It was a bitter disappointment, but I had set my heart on a seafaring career and did the next best thing. Signing on as an apprentice engineer meant starting right at the bottom-and I mean at the bottom-as a stoker, although I didn't mind because the job, however menial, would give me a chance to see something of the Pacific.

I spent four years in the New Zealand Navy before buying myself out, and I only left because of a nagging desire to see more of the world than the brief glimpses we obtained beyond the confining, narrow streets of the ports where we docked. And our visits were dictated by naval necessity-simple things like routine patrols or defective boilers-so that I saw Papeete but never Tahiti; Apia but never Samoa; Nukualofa but never Tonga. It was the islands I always longed to see, not a vista of dock cranes nor the sleazy bars which one can find in every maritime corner of the world.

For the next few years I wandered from island to island. Sometimes I would take a job for a few months as a fireman on one of the slow, old, inter-island tramps. When I tired of this, I would settle down for a spell, clearing bush or planting bananas. There was always work, and there was always food. And it was only now that I really came to know and love the islands strung like pearls across the South Pacific-Manihiki at dawn as the schooner threads its way through the pass in the reef; Papeete at sunset with the Pacific lapping up against the main street; the haze on the coconut palms of Puka Puka; the clouds above Moorea with its jagged silhouette of extinct volcanoes; Pago Pago, where Somerset Maugham created the character of Sadie Thompson, and where you can still find the Rainmaker's Hotel; Apia, where I was later told, Michener was inspired to create Blood Mary and where Aggie Grey's Hotel welcomes guests with a large whisky and soda.

Want to continue? Click here.


22 May 2013

Gillard Obituary

Condolences Fred Simon

Fred and Marilyn with young Richard and Karyn arrived amongst us in Arawa in 1976. Little Nicole came to them while they lived there, in Section 19. For some 6 years, Fred worked in the Technical Services design office in Panguna.

Those of you who frequented the Kieta Sailing Club will well remember Fred. He and the family were there on many enjoyable weekends.

On their departure from Bougainville the Simons moved to Comalco, Weipa where they completed another 6 years prior to settling in Brisbane in 1988.

The funeral details are;

11.00 am Thursday 23rd May 2013 at Centenary Memorial Gardens, 353 Wacol Station Rd, Sumner Park.

“Fred, old mate, you will remain in our thoughts for a very long time. You will be missed so much by your family and a multitude of long time friends.”

13 May 2013

Donna Holmes emails from Singapore:

Dear Peter,

I really enjoyed reading your comments about Loloho. I can remember Loloho, even though I was only eleven years old. I went to Tupukas State School.

I was thrilled to see the photo on page 5 where you are sitting on the beach and behind you is a ketch. That was where I lived with my Mum and little sister. My Dad worked up at the mine and on some weekends he used to take a group of people over to - what was its name? - Pig Island.

The name of our ketch was Tauree. Dad and our family sailed her back to Brisbane in 1972, where Dad swapped her for an opal mine in Emerald.

I can remember the time when a tidal wave was headed for the island. Dad came down from Panguna and he sent us kids off to stay with some friends, somewhere up the mountain. Then he took the boat out to sea. Thankfully, the tidal wave didn’t come.

Recollections... The thunderstorms in the afternoon – the rain came down in curtains! The old projector that used to run the film on movie night – I could thread it! The small coral reef just off the beach at Loloho – and Mum scraping the dinghy on it one night when we were returning to the boat – the tide was really low that night! The gummy sharks that used to live under our boat – and would eat up the dinner scraps that Mum threw out after our meals. When the weather was calm and clear, the water at nighttime looked as smooth as glass and the big moon overhead throwing little fairy lights towards our boat (or so it seemed to me)!

I now live on another tropical island – Singapore! My husband and I have been here for ten years.

Bye bye,
Donna Holmes née Freer (Dad was Bob Freer, my Mum Del and sister Deborah.)

6 May 2013

Arovo Island

Arovo Island was a well-known resort before the Bougainville crisis. Now an old jetty and seawalls are the only reminders that once there was a resort. But it's still beautiful, with white, sandy beaches, jungle, and lots of birds.

Panguna Mine Visit in November 2010

Read more here.