The tides of life wash larger than life characters into far flung places on our Earth, one of these places was Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea, during the early ’70’s

I, (Steve K), wandered in to play Rugby League, and being a country yokel from Australia, was mesmerised by the unbelievable diversity of people who lived there. Short thick set Chimbus from the highlands; elegant coastal Mekeos; Kerima folk with remarkably Semitic facial features; jet black Bukas; light brown Tolais; and even fierce little Kuka-Kukas with Asiatic faces.

At this time PNG was still under Australian Government, and while there was never any black white stuff, some of the Aussie Bureaucrats were a bit up themselves.

However the locals, always had the last laugh .. and here’s one classic.

My Public Service job took me to lodge some forms one day – ahead of me was a local bloke who spoke gently to a pompous git behind the counter, who replied ..

“When you talk to me, call me Tarbada”

I burred up, but the local guy just smiled, and called him “Tarbada” five or six times.

He was in our footy side, so at training next night I asked him why he did that ?

He laughed, and said ..

“In Motu language Taubada means big man .. that’s what he wanted me to call him .. but he has the pronunciation wrong. Tarbada means big one.. as in big shit!”

Anyway, there were no end of characters .. Bernie was working for a road building company, and here are two of his true stories ..

Young Bernie

“Struth you wouldn’t believe what the boys out at Gerahu have been up to now. It’s an old Plantation house where they live ..and they’re always happy. Why shouldn’t they be, the boss feeds them on fillet steak and free beer. They’ve got a pool table and even a monopoly set. What more could you possibly want in life ? “

“Anyway, when we got out there this morning, they’ve all got black eyes, and no one is talking to each other.”

“What happened was they were playing Monopoly last night, and someone forced Matey Bob to give up Regent Street. Now Bobs got a bit of status, he’s the Foreman and all that, then someone has the nerve to make him give up Regent Street !


Like bloody hell I will he’s said, and thrown the whole set through the window.“


“Can you imagine it .. a beautiful old house in the moonlight, surrounded with coconut palms swaying in a peaceful breeze .. and six white guys inside belting the hell out of each other.. all over who owns Regent Street in a game pf Monopoly ! “




Bob Rogers left last week, so Collins says to me ..

“Do you want to be the new Powder Monkey ?”

“Oh yeah.”

“What do you know about explosives ?”

“Stuff all, but I did have a few firecracker nights as a kid.

“You’ll do.”

He took me to the Motor Club, we met some public Servant in long white socks, and he gave me a piece of paper to say I was qualified.

Next day the boys are drilling a pattern of holes, so I start filling them up with Nitro, and then stick some Gelignite in each one. I wasn’t real sure how it worked, so just to be right I really gave it some, bunged three or four sticks of Geli in each hole.

Now one thing I did know was that you had make sure the area was safe, so we sent blokes off in each direction.

The Goilala fellow I sent to the south scrambled up to the top of the cut – from where he was asked to go a few hundred yards further south – but he must have thought this white man’s crazy, who’s going to come out of this jungle – so lay down and went to sleep right on top of the cut. An hour or so later we set the bastard off.

There were something like two hundred holes full of Nitro and Gelignite. In a confined area you can imagine the noise. Anyway she’s gone off. There were rocks landing over the other side of us, and we were half a mile away. After all the dust settled we went back with a truckload of locals ..

.. and here’s this Goilala walking down the side of the hill !


He’s covered from head to foot in white dust; he’d have to be stone deaf; and he can’t bend his knees. He’s walking in a funny stiff legged jerky action like one of those mechanical dolls; his mouth is frozen open; and his eyes are sticking about two ffeet out of his head ! 

Well the locals thought he was ghostly Purri Purri spirit. There were about fifteen in the back of the truck .. but when I looked around they’re all gone.

They’ve taken one look at this weird apparition lurching and jerking down towards them .. and whoosh .. they’ve cleared out into the scrub and didn’t come back for three days.