Friday, December 31, 2004

Lock in.

Currently we are locked in in our camp. The reason is that we refused to transfer the body of the young man that died on our helicopter to the village where he is to be buried. (The body doesn't fit and is badly decomposing by now). It's a bit of a Mexican stand off we'll see how it develops.

Update 2

The tension is easing we have agreed to helicopter in some cement and plywood to assist with the burial arrangements and the body is currently being moved out of the compound and will be driven to the nearest road head for the village from where it will be carried down. As an aside our work force is refusing to go back to work until the funeral has taken place as they are worried about being attacked if they start work any earlier. We can however move freely in and out of our compound again.

Update 1

Our security guards at the gate just bolted so now we have a dead body in front of our office.  We have locked the doors so they can't carry it in. I'll keep you posted.


Dave who co-ordinates our helicopters as well as the bush cutting crews in the field got a radio call from one of his supervisors saying "I need a helicopter NOW!". Luckily he reacted quickly and diverted a machine that was in the air already and in the nick of time rescued a man shaking as a leaf from a crowd of axe wielding marauders. Turned out the guys sister had killed somebody in a car accident and this was to be a payback killing. Now how am I going to explain that in the monthly report?

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

House cry.

An ambulance just turned up in the compound with the body of one of the young man that worked in the workshop here. He was taken to hospital in Mendi with Malaria on Monday and passed away there last night. Now the body is brought back here and currently carried around his place of work so his spirit can return to it. There are several hundred people both inside and outside the fence wailing and crying and as it's pitch black here with the exception of our office it's rather spooky. From here the body will be taken to the house cry for a funeral some time tomorrow

Saturday, December 11, 2004

The best laid plans of mice and man

Just to show that not all are dramas are caused by our personnel or the people that live around us here is a summary of the disasters that have befallen us over the last few days.

  • On Thursday afternoon it became clear that nobody in the Brisbane office that is supposed to coordinate all projects had realised that if one job runs late and the other starts early you will end up having to accommodate a great more people in your camps then previously planned. Needles to say there is no room in the inn for all the new starters so on my insistence a call was placed to the project manager who was most indignant that I queried him on his lack of planning. Funnily enough in another call later that evening he agreed to an emergency mobilisation of extra resources in an attempt to build a 160 men camp by the end of January. As our camp at 5/7 has been three months in the making and is still not finished I would say fat change.

  • Also on Thursday. We were supposed to use the Chinook to lift five loads of approximately seven to eight tons each from Moro to South East Mananda. The first three loads went fine but then the weather closed in. I can understand that no one wants to fly in the mountains with a heavy load dangling two hundred feet under the helicopter when you can't see where you are going so the operation closed down with half an excavator sitting on the airstrip and the other half in the middle of the jungle. A few hours later the weather cleared enough to have another attempt.  The chopper went up the load was hooked on and then the governor on the engine failed and over speeded. They were pretty lucky that the load was still on the ground and they managed to land safely. As it was the mechanics spent most of the night working on it, Friday morning we had glorious weather, the Chinook work perfectly and we lifted our last two loads in. I slept pretty badly that night though.

  • Friday afternoon four o'clock my computer dies as do the office lights and all things electrical in general. The generator has shutdown for reasons unknown. No panic it's happened before and it only took ten minutes to get it going again. Six O'clock it's hot muggy the sun is going down and the genset still ain't working. Spoke to the cooks who tell me they were planning for steak tonight so once the power is up they can have meals on in fifteen minutes. Six thirty John is trying to get the services department on the ridge to assist us if we can't restore power. I am helping to carry water to the kitchen and we are putting buckets with water in the ablution blocks so people can wash their hands. Seven o'clock our cooks have managed to use the one gas stove we have to pan fry the steaks and everybody shovels in one by one to get their meal. Our cooks are doing a fantastic job under the circumstances. I retire to my room and try to get to sleep, not much else to do really. Eight thirty congratulations to the mechanics the genset is up and running again.

I wonder what is going to happen today.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Armed Hold up.

Things are never dull out here and everyday brings new surprises and a great many challenges. As a matter of fact the message below just came in this moment. (A PMV is a public Motor Vehicle, basically a small truck with benches for people to sit on in the back)


We are working on the other side of Moro so this will probably not affect us very much.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004


One of our supervisors has come down with Malaria. While that isn't terribly unusual out here the worry is that he has spent most of his time on site within the confines of the camp where we live and is taking his malaria tablets. While everybody knows that malaria prophylaxis are not a hundred percent effective this does call into question the vector control methods we have in place. It'll be interesting to see what the doctors report and our Health and safety department have to say on it.

Sunday, December 05, 2004


Yesterday the labour (Huli tribesmen) from one landowner company was on strike over a pay dispute today it's the other (Fasu tribe) groups turn. The thing I don't like about today's strike is that most of them are milling around in our compound while our security people are dealing to a problem further up the line. I am having our Community Affairs people trying to reduce tension in the crowd and it looks like that is having some result.

We have managed to separate the Huli from the Fasu and get one group of them back to work while the other group has retreated to their accommodation block waiting to be addressed by their company manager. In the mean time I have spoken to the security manager at the Ridge who will send one of his supervisors down. He is also sending a mobile squad but I have told him that they can not enter the camp as this will only inflate tensions out here.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Witch craft

I still have to write a general update about all the things that have happened in the last week or so but this one just can't wait.

We were informed this morning that we can't proceed with our pipe bending operation as a witch doctor from one of the villages came around  last night and put a curse on our bending machine. And no matter how much talking we do none of our labourers will go even close to it.

Anyone out there who knows how to solve this one?

Thursday, November 18, 2004


5.55 Have been informed that we have a security situation on NWM
6.07 Helicopter pilot is briefed and will fly to Iagufu to pick up a complement of armed police then fly to NWM, insert the police and extract our personnel.

6.23 Weather has cleared enough for helicopter to take off.
7.06 Personnel returns safely to base. Helicopter to Moro to refuel and then extract police force.

The following transpired after our crew returned. About 16.30 yesterday a group of men from the Toma clan arrived on site and demanded that we vacate the project. The workforce then returned to their camp at the NWM well head and locked the security gates. The men from the Toma clan set up camp outside the fence, nothing unusual so far. Then at two o'clock on the morning a raiding party dug it's way underneath the fence and confronted our workforce yet again. This party was made up from people not related to Toma (i.e. from Tari and Komo). In this area confrontations during night time are virtually always violent, if you have a gripe with someone you confront them during the day, if you want to murder them you go during the night, so our men were obviously on edge. Luckily discussion although heated continued until daylight and at that time we were alerted and the evacuation took place.

At present the party from the Toma clan and various others is camped outside the fence and one of our policeman is staying inside the fence to protect our camp although our supplies of food and camping equipment must now be considered lost.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Interesting travels.

Monty our regular helicopter pilot is a Vietnam veteran and flies like it. I went out for a quick look at the North West Moran line clearing today and we skimmed across tree tops over ridges and through valleys. Then we came to helicopter pad "Bravo" A clearing amongst the trees you can hardly turn a car around in let alone land a helicopter the size of a small truck in, or at least that's what I thought. "A bit tricky, the wind is coming from the wrong direction"  Monty said and then we plunged down into the hole in a sideways motion, a whirlwind of wood chips engulfed the machine a few bounces and we were down. Dave and I spend about twenty minutes talking to the bush cutting crew, who have ended their strike and are back at work, then had them cut down a few trees so we could get enough room to take of again.

Never a dull day out here!

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Blogging in times of stress.

Right outside my window a riot is brewing. The issue believe it or not is the quality of people their ID cards. Voices are raised on all sides and our security people are moving into strategic positions. Because all arguments are in rapid pidgin it is pretty difficult for me to follow it but the gist of the matter is that they are not second class citizens and they want "proper" ID cards.

It's a bit later now and the situation has died down with a promise that we will review the quality of the ID cards. While to anyone this would seem like a totally laughable situation to our work force it's utterly serious and their status depends on it.

About ten in the morning now and the mobile squad has arrived. I don't like seeing them here as their solution to any situation is to beat people up and burn a few houses down. A definite case of the cure being worse then the disease. So I guess now we have to negotiate with them as well. "We will give you a meal and cigarettes if you don't kill anyone"

The joy of working in PNG.

Friday, November 12, 2004

'T is the season of Industrial Action.

Our bush cutters have gone on strike again but this time the machinations behind it became a bit more clear. As we already suspected it is all tied in with a promise the government made to the Toma clan for a five hundred thousand kina development grant. The origins of this promise are rather hazy and it appears that the way it was granted is less then kosher in the first place. However we are between a rock and a hard place, it is not our money to give, and the project is simply used as leverage on the government. So we are currently looking at mitigating the fall out from this.

Mean while back in the jungle another group of labourers went on strike because they were unhappy that their company got more money from us per man-hour then they did. It took some explaining for them to realise that a company needs some money for their overheads as well. A pretty nebulous concept to most of them. They have now gone back to work but I doubt that this is the last we have heard of that.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Odds and Ends

I am still working on the monthly report and it's all rather tedious. Unfortunately I expect to spend at least another week on it.

On the upside we have started a regimen of afternoon walks and as it's fairly hilly out here I get some decent exercise. Our route takes us through the village of Sisibia where the locals are starting to get used to us by now, although we still get stopped by plenty of people that want to say hello and shake our hand, then up the hill to our laydown area and then a steady down hill back to the camp. Total round trip time about forty minutes. It gets us out of the office and probably helps our health a little as well.

One of the nicer things to happen while on our walk was children singing to themselves as a form of entertainment. They stand in a circle and sing at the top of their voices. No computer games out here.

We also had our share of labour problems including an attempted murder (prevented by an agreement between the parties on the payment of compensation) and a strike instigated by one of the local land owners. The actual matter in dispute is between his clan and the government and while everyone here believes that landowner is actually correct in his assertions of non performance by the government it hasn't really got anything to do with our project. Anyway after a morning of talks they went back to work again as well. So things are quiet again for the moment.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Daylight Robbery

One of our survey teams ran in a bit of strife yesterday afternoon.
They were returning from the survey of a wellpad in the Tomo area when they were confronted by a group of men wielding home made guns.

An argument ensued over their right to be on the land and the make up of their bush cutting crew luckily one of their bush cutters was a local lad and he managed to cool things down a bit. In the end nothing worse then the gunmen making off with their lunch bags happened to them and when we extracted them from the bush they shrugged it off as one of those things that happen in PNG.

Some notes.
Home made guns are more likely to kill your assailant then you but who wants to take the risk.
This sounded more like a message to the company to negotiate with them then a straight out robbery attempt.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Daylight robbery.

One of our survey teams ran in a bit of strife yesterday afternoon.
They were returning from the survey of a wellpad in the Tomo area when they were confronted by a group of men wielding home made guns.

An argument ensued over their right to be on the land and the make up of their bush cutting crew luckily one of their bush cutters was a local lad and he managed to cool things down a bit. In the end nothing worse then the gunmen making off with their lunch bags happened to them and when we extracted them from the bush they shrugged it off as one of those things that happen in PNG.

Some notes.
Home made guns are more likely to kill your assailant then you but who wants to take the risk.
This sounded more like a message to the company to negotiate with them then a straight out robbery attempt.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Back on track.

I arrived last night in Sisibia after a days travel from Sydney to be told that all is going as planned except for a labour dispute, a contractor that seems to be deliberately slowing work down and as I have just been informed a case of scabies in our local work force. On top of that it has been raining so everything is hot and muddy including my computer.

Looks like it is going to be a regular first day back at work.

Monday, November 01, 2004

On the move again.

After the usual hassles with our travel organizer I am on my way again, first to Sydney, and then to Port Moresby and Moro on Monday. As always Bron and Daniel were there to see me off and although it's difficult to fathom if Dannie understands how long I'll be gone for I am quite sure that he realizes it's more then a day or so. Then again maybe I am just telling that myself to placate my own conscience and my feelings of abandoning him.
The flights so far have been uneventful and even check-in at Auckland airport went without to much hassle. The only brief moment of excitement was when we landed in Sydney and the plane made a bit of a sideway wobble on touchdown. Wind shear I guess.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Photo update

At last some more photos from PNG. I haven't done all the descriptions yet but for a quick gander just navigate to the PNG photo section.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Sisibia Lodge

We moved into our new project office and what I have decided to call Sisibia Lodge.
My room has got a view of the jungle and is freshly painted as are the other ones and while camp refurbishment is in full swing the place is relaxed and the surrounding area looks gorgeous.  Chickens are scratching around the office and occasionally a rooster lets himself be heard. From the office veranda you overlook a number of local houses, huts really, and the associated gardens. An idyllic scene indeed.

Friday, October 01, 2004

Life and Death in PNG.

Unbelievable as it is. The weather has turned and for the first day
since I am on the Ridge it's actually pleasant and sunny weather.
Things here have been fairly hectic with a number of meetings between
ourselves and our major contractor, landowner groups and various other
interested parties. In the meantime I have been trying to do some
controls related work as well as organise the management and catering
contracts for our new camp at Sisibia.
Just to give us a reminder that we are in pretty wild country we had a
bit of commotion around the Sisibia area where a woman had been murdered
by her husband. The husband isn't originally from this area so a the
locals immediately organised a hunting party to track him down and spear
him. I don't think they found him yet and although the police moved into
the village it would seem that payback is inevitable.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

A day on the Ridge.

The dim yellow glow of halogen lights filtered through a nebulous spray
of fog greets me like the setting for a horror movie. I follow the grey
strip of concrete round corners, up stairs, through a basketball court,
weaving around people dressed in coveralls blue and red.
It's only five thirty but the mess hall is full of the peoples that make
up a project, Fasu and Huli, Australian and American, a sprinkling of
other nationalities including the odd Kiwi like me.
The guard at the entrance nods to me in passing. Kitchen staff are
working away over steaming cauldrons, or serving food to the line of
waiting people they have been up since midnight but always seem to
manage a great deal more cheerfulness then I can manage at this time of
the day.
For me breakfast is nothing more then muesli and a big mug of steaming
coffee but around me plates are piled high with rice, eggs and steak,
those that have to spent the day in the field need a lot of sustenance.
I make a quick trip back to my room to brush my teeth and a few minutes
later I am behind my desk going through email, planning out my day and
dealing with whatever problems have surfaced during the night.
By about seven o'clock the first people arrive in the Brisbane office
and the telephone starts ringing, normally Anthony checks in or I ring
him if something is on my mind and we try to coordinate the days
activities. Today camps and catering is foremost on everybody's agenda
and whether we can engage a sub contractor to manage this for us. Later
in the morning I have a meeting with them in Moro and it seems that we
understand each other on most issues. There are of course problems with
labour hire which has to go through a landowner company and the fact
that everything you need has to either flown in or trucked on a
hazardous four day road trip from Lae. It hasn't happened recently to us
but highway robbery is far from unknown out here.
I get back to the office in time for some more emails and lunch. Lunch
is normally a full featured affair with both hot and cold food
selections and desert for those that want to. I normally have some cold
meat and cheese on a roll and a side salad of some description but today
they have lamb curry on the menu, which I like, so lamb curry it is,
there are even poppadums to go with it.
The afternoon is spend with updating CEFRS with the latest forecast and
doing some good, nice numbers. It is most enjoyable at times to just
puzzle with figures when they are not to easy to get bored and not to
difficult to get frustrated. At the end of the day we have a project
meeting to go over the days proceedings, all the supervisors come in
from the field for a debrief and we make sure that everybody knows what
is happening to the various aspects of the job. Then it's dinner, watch
some telly for an hour or so, read my book and by nine thirty it is
lights out and hopefully of to sleep.

Friday, September 24, 2004


Life is cheap in the highlands of PNG and so is the cost of living if
the company houses and feeds you. Today I incurred my first expense in a
fortnight though. A somewhat disreputable bottle of Sunsilk shampoo with
the label almost worn off cost me all of five kina or just under two
dollars. I don't anticipate any other major purchases this rotation.
Good thing they don't sell chocolate.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Just a note on the site medical team.

In my less then pleasant mood yesterday I forgot to mention that all the
people that staff the site hospital are PNG nationals. They once again
confirmed my belief that if you give people the opportunity and a decent
education they are capable of excellent work. They were at all times
professional while at the same time caring and seriously concerned for
my well being. I am back at work and feeling well. Hats off to them.

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Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Not very happy.

Talk about having a lousy day. I woke up around midnight and felt
nauseated, had stomach cramps and spend the next few hours on the toilet
loosing most of my body fluids. At six in the morning or so things
settled down a bit and I managed to get some sleep. At nine thirty John
banged on my door, apparently for the second time, and took me over to
the site clinic. It didn't take long for them to diagnose what I
expected already, food poisoning. So I found myself on a hospital bed
with a medic trying to insert an IV it took three goes before they got
it in. I know I am a wimp but it did hurt when they got it wrong. Two
hours later I felt a lot better and they had dripped a litre or two of
water, antibiotics and cortisone in my system.
I have just stumbled in the office to check my email and have found a
whole variety of problems with our contractors and land owner groups as
I think I go back to bed.

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Sunday, September 19, 2004

An update from the rainy ridge camp.

Time to update the blog.
Over the last week we have been busy getting a lot of the infrastructure
together and setting up a lot of the peripheral items that we require to
get the job done. I myself am currently keeping occupied by negotiating
with and making arrangements for the caterer to take over the running of
our new camp at Sisibia. This requires a fair bit of effort as the camp
isn't exactly habitable and a "refurbishment" programme is under way.
Yesterday I got a list of things that need to be fixed up in the
kitchen, like getting a stove that works, fixing the dish washer and so
on and all that will take some time. Never the less we are still pushing
for us to move there by the end of next week.
We also had the first job evacuation, one of our local labourers came
down with cerebral malaria and had to be evacuated from a cliff face
where we are doing some bush clearing ahead of the geotech crowd coming
in and drilling some test holes for us. This will largely determine
whether we go ahead with the bridge over the Hegigio gorge at this
point. It's all limestone country here so there is always a significant
change of finding caves where we would like to put our bridge anchors.
The evacuation went smoothly with less then forty minutes between the
first call on the radio and the doctor being flown in and subsequently
the man out.
Other then that it still rains most of the time although I think it was
dry for some time last night or at least I couldn't hear any rain on my
bedroom roof.

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Monday, September 13, 2004

Just working away in PNG.

It's actually dry today. There was plenty of rain last night but now it
has dried out although it's still overcast. I am starting to get various
parts of my work organised and while construction still hasn't started
in earnest we are making headway with the infrastructure planning and
everybody is engaged in trying to sort out things as diverse as what we
need to eat, how to book people on the charter flight or where to site
the fuel tanks for the helicopter.

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Thursday, September 09, 2004

Return to the jungle.

Last night just after six and after the usual chaotic travel
arrangements I arrived back on site. The rumours that the weather was
improving got dispelled when we landed in a steady rain at Moro airport.
This morning there is the odd patch of sky visible from time to time
though so maybe it will improve after all. As anticipated things are
looking up here and we now have a number of people arranging our remote
camps and early next week we should move from the Ridge to Sisibia near
the Agogo Processing Facility. The pipeline contractor is back on site
as well and a geotech crew is due to fly in to the Hegigio gorge
abutment to check out the rock structure to anchor the bridge on. All in
all it looks like we have finally a project going.

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Return to the Jungle.

Last night just after six and after the usual chaotic travel
arrangements I arrived back on site. The rumours that the weather was
improving got dispelled when we landed in a steady rain at Moro airport.
This morning there is the odd patch of sky visible from time to time
though so maybe it will improve after all.
As anticipated things are looking up here and we now have a number of
people arranging our remote camps and early next week we should move
from the Ridge to Sisibia near the Agogo Processing Facility. The
pipeline contractor is back on site as well and a geotech crew is due to
fly in to the Hegigio gorge abutment to check out the rock structure to
anchor the bridge on. All in all it looks like we have finally a project

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Friday, September 03, 2004

Home for a few days.

I managed to get a long weekend in New Zealand before heading of back to Brisbane for on Tuesday and PNG on Wednesday. The flight arrangements were chaotic as usual but hey we are home so who cares?

Tuesday, August 31, 2004


It's three thirty in the morning when a sound intrudes on my dreams, a
surging, a rumble, a sound long forgotten. Then my conscience kicks in,
brain on full alert. Firewater pumps!
When I stumble out of my room the hallway carpets are already soaked and
water is pouring out from underneath the door to the fire escape. I
gingerly push it open. Water sprays everywhere the sprinkler system is
obviously doing it's job but there is no fire.
Fire has a buzz to it, a sub audible hum, a life all of it's own, that
most of us instantly perceive.
Now other people have woken up and I take the elevator down to the
lobby. Not the wisest thing to do under the circumstance but I don't
want to get wet.
Interior drainage was obviously not foremost on the architects mind when
he designed the building. The water here is ankle deep and rising, the
apartment dwellers at this level are frantic. The one person missing
from all this is Reg, the building manager, attempts to wake him by
banging on his door and ringing him on his telephone prove fruitless.
I assess the situation decide there is no apparent danger and go back to
What a night.


Brisbane's river festival goes of with a bang tonight. It's time for
River Fire, a massive fireworks display more or less synchronised to
music. We are at Alf's place, the lucky bugger has an apartment next to
the story bridge overlooking the river and all of down town Brisbane.
The firework was indeed spectacular. Starting with an F111 fighter plane
screaming overhead and with fireworks attached to the river bridges as
well as on various barges parked in the middle of the river then for the
climax two fighter planes doing a "dump and burn" where they burn off
excess fuel behind their craft.
A good time was definitely had by all and it was close to midnight
before I got home

Monday, August 30, 2004


Sitting in the train from Toowong to Brisbane.
A mother and her young son get on board.
The boy climbs on the seat next to me, puts a hand on my shoulder and
looks, he has the reflexive outlook of an autist savant, a lonely view
of the world different to others. He rhythmically pushes my shoulder. I
give him a smile. He climbs of his seat, stands in front of me and put
his arms around my neck, we hug. I am missing Daniel he is missing all
of humanity.
When I leave the train I say goodbye and wave at him.
He reacts not.

Friday, August 27, 2004

A project at last?

The buzz in the office this morning is that the landowner agreement for
North West Moran has been signed. This would mean that construction can
commence and I should be of to PNG shortly. I somehow think my next
discussion will be about how shortly. I would like to go on the Tuesday
after I have been home but I am sure there will be some diverging
opinions on that from all and sundry.
I'll keep you posted but it looks good.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Nothing new

Thought I better let everyone know that nothing has changed on the work front. We still can't get land access, so I am staying in Brisbane for the time being. I will make a quick dash across the Tasman to NZ next weekend to see the family and after that unless there is a major change back here.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

More photos.

Almost forgot, I put some more photos of Brisbane and the railway museum at Ipswich up over the weekend. I also gave the main photo page a bit of a revamp. Have a look for your self.

Cold and rainy.

The weather has changed and it's cold and rainy indeed. The Brisbanites are quite happy with this as apperently it hasn't rained in three months. I can't wait for it to clear up again though.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

The Ipswich Railway Museum

After a sleep in I decided that avisit to the Railway Museum might be an interesting thing to do. An hour on the train and ten minutes on the bus brought me to North Ipswich where once the largest railway workshops in Queensland were located. Like everywhere else they are now simply a pointer to the age of steam but unlike most others they are actually still operating and being used partly to restore old steamers and partly as a museum. I joined two of the tours through the workshops and they were both fascinating. Conducted by actual employees of the workshop during the week they are fitters and boilermakers and during the weekends they are rostered on as tour guides. The result is that you get things explained by people that actually know what they are talking about.
For me it was also nostalgic as most of the work they demonstrated I have in a smaller form at one time or an other done at school. So for any one interested in railways I can heartlily recommend it.

Friday, August 13, 2004

Ditch that last message.

Well it's never a dull day when you're in my line of work and today was no exception. This afternoon I was told that they wanted me to stay for another week or so in Brisbane. So cancel the flights, change the hotel bookings and see what tomorrow will bring

Thursday, August 12, 2004

PNG at last.

I must have upset enough people in the office, not the least with pointing out the error of their ways to the corporate accountants, that John the Projects Manager told me to get on a plane on Monday and sort out some of the problems that have cropped up in PNG.
So now we are back to the airfare rigmarole and I guess with only tomorrow left I should be able to just finalize the Monthly Report.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

PNG Pictures

I have uploaded the first PNG pictures and wondering when I get to go there again.

Monday, August 09, 2004

New photos.

I have added some pictures I took yesterday at the show to the Australia photo page.

About data and custard.

Well I had a right royal Monday and am further behind in my work now then where I finished last Saturday. Somehow I managed to quite literally push the wrong button and in an instant my data for the Monthly report turned to custard. It wouldn't have been so bad if I had noticed it straight away but of course I didn't blink to what had happened till midday. So now I am fixing up the budget allocations in every package on the project. Don't think I'll be finished before tomorrow night. Yak.

Sunday, August 08, 2004


The Royal Queensland show better known as the EKKA is Brisbane's variation on the agricultural shows that are being held every year all over Australia and New Zealand. In Brisbane they go for the bigger and better variety though with an expected six hundred thousand visitors an official public holiday, next Wednesday is Brisbane show day, and more attractions then you can comfortably visit in a day. Needless to say I had to go and investigate.
Now I don't really care about cattle and produce other then what a restaurant can make from them so I gave the price baking and award winning cattle a miss in favor of side show alley where they have some fantastic rides that took me right back to my childhood. As long as I can recall I have enjoyed the atmosphere that comes with people having a good time enjoying scary rides and eating all the junk food that is on offer.
Part of shows in Australia is the "show bag" a phenomena that I haven't encountered else where. Basically it's a bag of goodies around a single theme. So for Daniel I bought a Thomas the Tank Engine bag and I hope he likes the Thomas stickers, Thomas cup, Thomas pencils and Thomas backpack etc that are in it.
For me I had a good time, took lots of pictures, which I will post in the next few days and have worn out my feet so I should have a good nights sleep.

A week at work.

Well a week is gone already and little has changed in the landowner saga. I am still in Brisbane where life is pleasant enough, but the real work in PNG is taking a turn for the farcical. Last Friday we reached an agreement with the landowners at South East Mananda, a project for which we haven't got official management sanction to proceed while for North West Moran we do have the financial go ahead but no land owner agreement. Anyway we are hopeful that all will be resolved next week. In the mean time I keep plugging away at the monthly report and at least have the satisfaction of getting an indepth knowledge of the NWM finances.

Monday, August 02, 2004

Back in Brisbane

In spite of the delays and badly booked airfares that seem to dodge me I got to Brisbane again and am currently trying to get on top of what has happened in the week and a half since I left PNG. One thing is for sure still no site access

Sunday, August 01, 2004

Brisbane tomorrow.

After a lovely week at home in Whangarei I am off again and as earlier predicted I will be at least for most of next week in Brisbane. While it's a little disappointing not be going to PNG I can't really complain about it. Brisbane is lovely this time of the year, I have plenty of friends out there and don't have to be worried about getting bored socially or work wise.

Sunday, July 25, 2004

Photos from Thailand.

The introduction says it all. I finally got around to uploading some pictures from the Thailand part of my South East Asia trip. You can find them under the photo section of the website. (where else?) or click on the title of this epistle.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Back to Brisbane?

Looks like the landowner dispute is starting to throw a real spanner in the works with construction not commencing any time soon. I am therefore contemplating moving back to Brisbane as I can potentially be of more use there then I am out here at this point in time while still being able to deal with any  work related to North West Moran by email and phone. The problem of course is that he whole situation could change again in the next twenty four hours.

As an aside I start finding the long days wearying and am looking forward to being home next week and getting a few decent nights sleep. The last few days I have been awake every morning at four because of the traffic and general camp noise.

Monday, July 19, 2004


The landowner negotiations are going nowhere in a hurry and yesterday
one of the clans walked out of the meeting. So at the moment we are
taking a wait and see attitude but position wise we are miles apart. It
is difficult for the landowners to see the difference between the
benefits that come from the discovery of a new oil field, which was what
happened last time, and the construction of some pipelines to an
existing field, which is what we are doing now.
While everybody accepts that delays, unrealistic expectations and
stalled negotiations are the price of doing business in PNG it's
frustrating all the same. Also we can't wait forever and an exit
strategy must be considered if we can't make any headway.

Friday, July 16, 2004

Lake Kutubu

From various points around this area and when you are flying in you get good views of Lake Kutubu. Here is some information on it.

Lake Kutubu is the second largest lake in the country. It is at an elevation of 808 meters with an area of 4,924 ha and was Until recently one of the most inaccessible areas in the country, with access only by light aircraft or on foot. The lake was formed when ash and debris from a volcanic eruption blocked of a valley. It has a maximum depth of approximately seventy meters. The lake depth can vary up to 2 m between the maximum height of a wet period and the end of a dry period. Annual average temperature is 23°C and rainfall is 4,500 mm.

The lake is fringed by reed-dominated swamp, especially at the northern and southern ends and The site includes seasonally inundated flatland swamp forest. During a scuba survey, several submerged cave systems were found.

Southern Highlands Province was the last area to be penetrated by the Australian colonial administration. The administration's first outpost was established in 1939. Indigenous land use has changed little in the intervening 60 years, in this one of the most sparsely populated regions in the country. The Fasu people are spread widely to the west and southwest of the lake and own the land in which oil fields are located. Residents of the villages around the lake rely principally on the sago palm that provides 75% of their food volume (starch), as well as supplying building material. There is subsistence gardening, and hunting and fishing encampments. There have been several attempts to introduce cash crops, such as cocoa and coffee, but with little success thus far because of limited transportation. The development of oil and gas in the region has however, increased access through the development of road links and establishment of regular airplane flights.

(Most of this info comes from a website on wetlands preservation

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Nothing much happening

Today it looked for a while as if the weather was improving and it actually stopped raining for a few hours. I grabbed my camera and dashed off to take a few photos of the camp. Good thing that I did it straight away because now at three in the afternoon we are once again enveloped in cloud and a steady drizzle has set in. Work wise there is nothing to report really, just steady as she goes while we await the go ahead from the community affairs group to start construction, hopefully in the next week or so.

Monday, July 12, 2004

Welcome to the jungle.

Three of us went out for a trip along the road yesterday to have a look
through the Agogo processing facility and up to the drill pad where the
bush run of the line meets the road.
I think I have written about this before but just to reiterate, the
project is the construction of a set of pipelines from a wellhead in the
jungle to a processing facility at Agogo. The first seven kilometres,
the bush run, are through some very inhospitable jungle and everything
on that section needs to be flown in, men, equipment and materials. Then
from the end of the bush run to Agogo the lines follow the edge of a
dirt road, the road run, and finally there is the tie-ins and some
refurbishment of a separator vessel and the fabrication of a slug
catcher at the Agogo plant itself.

As I hadn't been out in the field yet I jumped on the opportunity to go
out and have a look. So we left the rain surrounding Ridge camp for the
mere drizzle of Agogo about half an hours drive away. On entering the
plant and checking in at the control room we got a quickie safety
briefing and were then left to our own devices. The plant is small by
most standards and the area where we have to bring in the line is mostly
clear although we will have to excavate a rocky outcrop to get enough
space for the slug catcher.

By the time we left the plant a small miracle had occurred, it stopped
raining! Now we went up the road looking for possible laydown areas for
the pipe and to check on the road crossings we will have to put in. The
road steadily goes up and it wasn't all that long before we were back in
the clouds but apart from the odd spot of rain it stayed pleasant enough
and after another hours drive we reached the end of the road and the
start for the bush run. There is a small camp up here for the drillers
and exploration crews that come by from time to time. It consists of
five or so portacoms a bush kitchen and a longhouse. The portacoms have
four or five rooms each, the longhouse sleeps about twenty and is
completely made out of bush material and plastic sheeting and looks like
something you'll normally expect to see in the slums of Bombay although
it's actually quite serviceable. The bush kitchen is a similar structure
as the longhouse but split in a kitchen and dining area and the kitchen
has all the stainless steel benches and appliances you would expect to
find in similar facilities around the world. As we are thinking about
possibly using this camp for some of our personnel we had a look around
to see what we might need to upgrade and change, mainly the toilet and
shower block, before we can move our people in.

When the cloud cover parts you can see the wellhead we have to start our
line from but in the hour or so we were up here it only cleared once for
two or three minutes. The scenery here is magnificent though with huge
trees and very dense foliage, from the camp you look into a gorge that's
at least five hundred meters deep and which we will have to go down in
before crossing two rivers and heading back up a ridge to the well head.
With the rain making everything slippery and the clouds making
helicopter support hazardous it will be one hardcore construction

On the way back we also called in to the area where we want to put our
main camp. Again this is located on a ridge and on a good day you look
down over Lake Kutubu of course there were clouds when we arrived but it
looks like an excellent spot with plenty of room all the same.

So that was that a Sunday well spend.

Sunday, July 11, 2004


I have been here for almost a week now and it hasn't stopped raining
yet. Sometimes it drizzles, sometimes it buckets down but it always
rains. The longest dry spell has definitely been no more then five
minutes. As a result everything is damp, including the clothing you put
on in the morning and the bed you climb into at night. If you suffer
from rheumatism this is not a good place to go.

Saturday, July 10, 2004

Live on the Ridge.

Only three days and a number of things are already starting to become
routine. I get up at five and have a shower and shave before walking to
the mess hall for breakfast, eat my muesli and off to the office. As we
haven't established our project office yet we tend to grab what ever
desk space and computers we can. I have a lap top with me as well but
it's old and a pain to use as it can't interface with the network here.
We work from six in the morning to about six thirty or seven in the
evening, have dinner, watch some television and go to sleep. Rinse and
repeat for nineteen days and then have a weeks break.

The camp here is old, about twelve to fifteen years and the rooms show
that but it also has a comfortable lived in feel to it. Common areas
have plants and picnic tables, there is a covered basketball court and a
gym, the food in the mess hall is pleasant with a good choice but
because of our long work hours there is not much time I actually spend
using these facilities.

If you were wondering why the funny disclaimer appears on the bottom of
these messages, it's because internet access is seriously restricted
here and I post via the Email system. I will clean these up when I have
unrestricted access to the net again, probably on my breaks.

NOTE: This message may contain privileged and confidential information intended only for the use of the addressee(s) named above.
If you are not the intended recipient(s) of this message you are hereby notified that you must not disseminate, copy or take any action in reliance on it.
If you received the message in error please notify the original sender immediately and delete the message and any attachments.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

A comedy of errors.

There is no doubt in my mind that when it comes to arranging travel you are best off doing it yourself.
I got to the airport at 6.10 and attempted to check in for my flight to Cairns. The man behind the counter checked and rechecked and announced " sorry sir you are not booked on any flights today", sounds familiar? Yes it did to me too. I rang Anthony as I figured seeing I had to get up early he might as well too and informed him of the situation. I then hung around to see if any of the others would show up but no such luck.  So half an hour in the taxi and I was back at the office.
Just after venting my spleen about the travel coordinator and settling in for a days work the telephone went. Could I make the direct Brisbane - Port Moresby flight at 10.55. So back in a cab and off to the international terminal where it was total chaos with far more people then were ever going to fit on aircraft trying to check in. An airline employee went through the crowd asking who had onward connections to catch, those of us that did were checked in first, tough luck to every one else. Of course this being a code share flight with Air New Guinea this wasn't where the fun stopped. The departure time came and went and without any announcement whatsoever the departure was postponed by an hour and a half. I made some enquiries but didn't get much further then "technical problems". Ah well... the plane did actually leave an hour and a half later and three hours of a luckily smooth flight saw me disembarking at Port Moresby's new terminal.
Things started to look up. The new terminal is clean, air-conditioned and fairly spacious, it's no Changi but that is hardly necessary for a country like PNG. The next bit of good news was that they actually had held the charter to Moro for us, so only ten or fifteen minutes after our arrival we were on our way again and just on six o'clock we arrived at Ridge Camp my base for the next few weeks

Monday, July 05, 2004

this is an audio post - click to play

Up the creek without a paddle.

Or more to the point without a flight. After getting up early and making
my way to the airport it turned out that Oil Search hadn't booked my
flights, just like the last time. May their travel coordinator suffer
flight delays and hotel cancellations where ever she goes. Anyway back
in the office now and trying to replan my day. I guess we'll try to
leave again tomorrow.

Sunday, July 04, 2004

Off to PNG

Tomorrow morning (05/07/04) I am traveling to Papua New Guinea or at least I hope so.
Everything is set and ready to go but the travel arrangements are once again made by the same person that arranged my flights to Brisbane so things are fast and loose.
Again I have not received an itinerary and all I know is that I am supposed to catch a flight from here to Cairns tomorrow morning. No one bothered to inform me where to go from there. Now there is only one flight that goes to Port Moresby after my arrival in Cairns so it's an easy guess that I am on that one. But from there who knows. The good thing is a few of my colleagues are traveling as well so amongst the four of us we should be able to work it out. If not I know a reasonable hotel and some restaurants in Moresby.
If and when I get to site I expect to be out of communication for a few days, certainly no cell phones and email might be sketchy as well. So don't panic but do keep an eye on this blog for the latest info from PNG.

Photo update.

I have just added some photos of Brisbane to the photo gallery.

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Project Controls

Jan left me a comment querying what it exactly is I am doing, here is a synopsis.

Project controls is the execution of best practices to provide project
management with the information to control, and best use, the resources of time, money,
labor, construction equipment,and material.
The basic functions involved in controlling these resources are:

- Estimating
- Cost
- Scheduling

The responsibilities of the controls team include:

A. Establish target (baseline).
A target incorporates scope (what), schedule (when), and budget (cost).

B. Measure performance relative to target.
Measure performance relative to target scope, schedule, and budget.
Scope is the work agreed to by the company and the client. Comparisons
to the target schedule evaluate intermediate progress and overall
completion. Contrasting actual expenditures and commitments to the
target cost provides budget forecasts.

C. Provide information and reporting to facilitate corrective action to maintain target.
Recommend the most efficient, corrective action: revise work sequence,
increase workhours or days, augment resources, or change source for

D. Manage change.
Manage change by identifying the source of change, documenting the
impact, and support project management in obtaining approval.

So there you go that's the official definition

Monday, June 28, 2004


I am just back from the Travel Doctor having been pushed, prodded,
punctured and irradiated. All that's left now is the blood sucking for
which you have to fast so that will be on tomorrow mornings list of
things to do. By the end of the week I should know if I am healthy
enough to go to work. Never mind at least all my inoculations are up to
date again.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Cultural awareness.

I spend most of the morning listening to Professor Laurence Goldman who
assists the project with cultural interpretation. Dr. Goldman has been
travelling the highlands of PNG since 1977 and is quite an authority on
the Huli, the major tribe in the area of our project. We got a lecture
on social structure of the Huli as well as the do's and don'ts in
negotiations with them as well as our day to day dealings with members
of the tribe a number of which we expect to take up employment with us.
I have attended a number of these lectures over the years but this was
definitely one of the more interesting.

Sunday, June 20, 2004

Papua New Guinea

Having spend a day reading up and asking questions I am now a bit clearer on what the project entails and where it is, so here is a brief description for those interested.
The first part is basically the construction of two pipelines with the associated tie-ins. The lines run from a well head to a separator about twenty five kilometer North West of Moro and consist of a bush run for some seven kilometer which has no access at all and is completely helicopter supported then follows a road for another twenty five kilometer to the separation facility.
The second part of the project is both longer, almost seventy kilometers, and more challenging, requiring the bridging of a five hundred meter wide gorge but as that phase is not due to start until the end of the year I am focusing at the moment on the first part only.

Visa and flights.

An intro is required. All negotiations and interviews were settled to everyone's satisfaction on Friday the eleventh and all that had to be done was for the company to get me on a flight. That proved to be quite a mission including a lot of calls with the companies visa consultants in Perth and the travel coordinator in Adelaide managing to mangle up the bookings three times in a row. Eventually all got settled though.

Can't say I like getting up early but you don't always have a choice. So at half past five I climbed out of bed had a shower and breakfast and went to the airport. I am feeling a bit sorry for Dad who had to get up just as early to drive me down there.
trying to check in proved a bit of trial as the girl behind the counter was obviously new to it and had to keep on asking instructions from her boss. To make matters worse a message kept flashing up that my visa for Australia wasn't valid. After about ten minutes she gave up and her boss took over, she reentered my details and 'voila' no problems. So if it was my visa or her data entry I don't know.
time for the next hiccup. Ding dong.... " Flight NZ2801 has been delayed for technical reasons". Lovely it's taken me five days just to get this far and now even the flying itself looks dicey.
As it was the flight actually took off about half an hour late and I made it to Auckland in time for my connection to Brisbane.
The rest of the trip was a bit of an anti climax the flight went smoothly and there wasn't even the minutest scrutiny of either my visa or my luggage when I entered OZ and half an hour after landing I was in the office in Toowong.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Photo Update.

All the Malaysia photos are now on line and shortly the Singapore page will be fixed up too.
With my impending move to Brisbane you can expect pictures from Australia and Papua New Guinea in the near future as well.


After a fortnight of phone calls and Emails it now looks all settled and God and Air New Zealand willing I will fly to Brisbane tomorrow to take up a job as Project Controls Engineer with KBR.
The project concerned is a pipeline in Papua New Guinea and I am looking forward to the challenge of working with a new group of people in an exciting country.
So stay tuned the pace of my blog is likely to pick up again.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004


A huge dinosaur is keeping it's eyes on me while I am writing this. In the belly of the beast Daniel and Caleb are literaly bouncing of the walls and terrorising all the other children into leaving. Their modus operandi is to take a big run up and jump into the wall and see how far it bounces them back, colateral damage who cares. We are at Chipmunks an indoor playground for children from three to twelve that apart from the Dinosaur shaped bouncy castle has a numberof slides climbing racks and cargo nets, areas with paddle cars, swings and even computer games. Two figures hurtle past and storm the slide. Caleb is staying overnight with Daniel so if they burn up their energy here they might actually be asleep before midnight. Unlike the last time.

Saturday, June 05, 2004

Home on the ranch.

It's about time that I update my blog.
This last week and a half has gone by pretty rapidly. The first few days I was a bit out of my sleep/wake rhythm but these things tend to sort themselves out soon enough.
The last week has been spend doing the domestics, taking Daniel to kindy, town, Botannix and in general spending a fair bit of time with him. His language has improved considerably over the last two months so that gives us all some hope for the future, not in the least his mum, who is also very busy with Laura who is turning into a handsome baby. She smiles and gurgles away and basically does all the things babies do. I will try to post some pictures of them in the next few days.
On the work front things have swung from a rather discouraging conversation early in the week to a can you please start next Monday request. I still haven't seen anything on paper though so we sit back and wait. All this is pretty normal at the start of a new project so I am not that worried.

Monday, May 31, 2004

As promised a few words on the customs department.
The plane got in on time, my luggage had actually arrived as well and I had oodles of time left to catch my connecting flight to Whangarei. Then just before I made my way out, and as my pack had already gone through the x-ray machine and been given a clean bill of health by the operator, I got stopped by some sour looking peasant working for Her Majesties Department of Customs and Excise and directed towards the baggage search area. There were three people rummaging through people their luggage with the know it all look on their face that says if you have been send here then you must be obviously guilty of something hideous.
This was when I made my big mistake. As I had a connection to make I decided that a civilized request for priority treatment couldn't hurt. WRONG it did. I was told they were going as fast as they could and to wait for my turn. Then they proceeded to process people both in front and behind me until I was the last person left and had duly missed my flight. I am sure there is a special part of hell reserved for these fiends.
The search itself took less then five minutes as I travel light and had nothing more innocuous then a couple of pirated CD's which they missed in their hurry to go for a coffee brake.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Just a quick note to let everyone know I am back home in Whangarei. The flights were uneventful but I will write a little story about Customs control later on.

Monday, May 24, 2004

Wherever I go I have to deal with the curse of the taxi driver. To drive a taxi in most jurisdictions seems to require that you don't speak the language of the country, failed your driving test and keep up an endless barrage of suggestions to take your passengers somewhere else then they want to go. The one that took me to Don Muang airport in Bangkok this afternoon was no exception. He was a card carrying member of the tourist taxi Mafia and I am sure his car did double duty as a dodgem. After agreeing on a way to high fee to take me to the airport he immediately advised me that I what I really wanted was a visit to a massage parlor. He proceeded to hand me a full color brochure of a house of ill repute. I had seen this particular leaflet before as most taxi drivers seem to have it on them, it has a center fold picture of a gentleman flanked by two very good looking Thai ladies in a bubble bath. And although obscured by plenty of bubbles it leaves little doubt as to what the ladies are holding on too. The chap on the picture is smiling and so would I be if this bloody taxi driver would keep his eyes on the road. We swerve from lane to lane and at one stage travel on the wrong side of a median barrier.
"Good overtaking" he says, I am wondering if he's on drugs.
"We stop at my friend shop?"
"No we got to the airport"
"You go jiggy, jiggy, massage parlor?" he points at some girls on the sidewalk. They look about twelve.
"No we got to the airport!"
We get almost side swiped by a truck, veer into another lane and the engine cuts out for about the fifth time. Just as the car behind us is ready to slam into us the engine fires up again and we hurtle onto the motorway. After another ten minutes or so of crazy maneuvers and hair raising overtaking we stop in front of terminal two.
"Have a good flight"
I certainly hope it's less eventful then my taxi ride.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

I finalized my flights back home and will tomorrow fly with Air Asia to Singapore, stay for a night at the Albert Court Hotel and then take an overnight Emirates flight to Auckland and finally an Air New Zealand plane to Whangarei. So all in all about two and a half days of travel although in actual flight time it's only about fifteen hours.
I guess after that I'll have some sleep.

Saturday, May 22, 2004

Change of plan
This has been in the air for a while although I haven't mentioned it in this blog. It looks like there will be a job coming up in Papua New Guinea and although the details haven't been finalized yet I will return home next week to arrange my affairs there and get ready to start work.
So this means that in all likelihood the jungles of Asia are changed for the highlands of PNG and quite frankly that could be rather interesting too.
As usual I'll keep you all posted.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Gareth & Gareth
I finally caught up with the two Gareths and we had a good but boozy night catching up on work and travel. So at the moment I am sitting half asleep behind this terminal trying to write something sensible... I don't think that's going to work. I'll go back to bed.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Odds and Ends
Good morning all,
I have swapped hotels over the last few days from a little cubicle with fan "cooling" to a nice clean room with aircon as I expect to be another week or so in Bangkok.
Tomorrow I'm supposed to meet up with Gareth and his friend who have also escaped work to get some hard earned travel in. Should be fun to compare experiences.
As you will have noticed I keep on tinkering with the design of both the blog and the web pages. I wont make an annoucement of the changes every time. Just consider it a work in progress.

Monday, May 17, 2004

Khao San Road
Thai girls with western men, Thai gigoloes with western women, Russian prostitutes with Thai men. Across the road they sell pirated software. A Scandinavian looking women in see through pants and a blue G-string walks past a guy with a mohican and rings in his ears that only the natives of Borneo could like. Yes folks I have landed on Khao San Road.
Khao San Road, pleasure dome and travel center, banking nexus and R&R spot for the modern day nomad. Tuk tuks and taxi's come and go delivering people laden with backpacks, daypacks, camera bags and god knows what else to this the center of the backpacking universe in South East Asia. This whole scene has grown over the last twenty years from two small and crappy Chinese hotels to what has now become a self sustaining system the more people come here the more services are provided and the more services that are present the more people will come down here. Now all this isn't really bad news, after all you have to stay somewhere and a good infrastructure like internet access and good restaurants surely helps to lift a road weary spirit and no one thinks that all of Asia is like this.
So I am going to enjoy it for a while. There is plenty to see and do in Bangkok and at the end of the day I'll sit here on a terrace have beer and enjoy the best show in town.
Now where was the skateboarder with the juggling balls again?

Sunday, May 16, 2004

Well I made it to the hot and sweaty capital of Thailand. The bus ride was one of the more uncomfortable once I've had in a long time but I guess part of that is my own fault. The seats in the bus are made for people that are on average about 5 feet tall and half my weight so I could only just squeeze in. Then I had forgotten to put my sleeping tabs in my daypack so I couldn't get to them during the ride as my backpack was in the hold under the bus. All in all a long thirteen hours, I think I'll fly that stretch next time.
One of the things I got to see while staring out of the window during the night was an accident between a motorcycle taxi and a pickup truck. The motorcycle rider and his passenger were definitely dead but for some reason nobody had covered up the bodies and no ambulance or medical personnel seemed present. I am quite honestly not at all sure if they have an emergency service as such in Thailand.
At six in the morning we arrived in Bangkok and I found a room in the "Green house" a dump of a hotel near Koh Sang road. At least it has a fan and is quiet, I slept most of the morning and didn't exactly do much during the rest of the day.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

In this part of the world transport takes a form that perhaps not everyone is used to. So the ubiquitous motorbike is a 100 cc machine that normally seats three people but I have seen them with five on quite a few occasions. Mum three kids and Dad. Of course only Dad wears a helmet. The preferred model here is a plastic job that would not get certified anywhere else in the world as a crash helmet, my baseball cap gives better protection.
The motorbike comes in a few variations though. For example you can mount a side car on them, really a platform with a railing and then use it as a taxi for six or seven people or to have your own motorized sales outlet, especially popular with food vendors.
Next up the transport scale is a Daihatsu minivan with the sides cut out and two upholstered benches in the back they will quite uncomfortably sit eight and are normally referred to as taxi's. Another rung up the ladder is the Isusu truck, a flatbed with a meter high canvas sides and a canopy. They will easily fit fifty people and are used as local busses. As they have no windows they are actually quite comfortable in a climate like this. Unless it rains. So now you know how to get around.
Happy traveling.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Island hopping
On my tour from Krabi to Ko Lanta, Phi Phi and Phuket a few impressions stand out. Firstly the ferries from one place to the next are probably the best value for money cruise you can do as long as you don't mind the less then first class accommodation. Then on Ko Lanta the accommodation was reasonably priced but the beach wasn't much to speak of however most hotels have swimming pools to compensate for this. I personally thought it was boring but I am sure other people would love it. Ko Phi Phi is the opposite very commercial and expensive but certainly a happening place with great beaches and a humming night life. As a matter of fact it was so hot during the days that the night were the only time I felled like living at all. For those heading that way I can recommend the Apache bar. The average age of those visiting is about twenty,if that, so you better go now before you're to old. (Just like me)
Well this should be the final island on my tour. I think.
I arrived around lunch time out here and am currently housed in the On On Hotel, the sort of place that gives budget accommodation a bad name, but it'll do for a night or two.
The plan is to go from here to Ranong and then Kanachaburi in the next few days we'll see how this pans out.
Well this should be the final island on my tour. I think.
I arrived around lunch time out here and am currently housed in the On On Hotel, the sort of place that gives budget accommodation a bad name, but it'll do for a night or two.
The plan is to go from here to Ranong and then Kanachaburi in the next few days we'll see how this pans out.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Wharf collapse
About five minutes ago the timber wharf here in Phi Phi collapsed. I was just having a walk on the adjacent concrete wharf when with an almighty noise the structure collapsed in the briny, people, goods and all. In spite of the two meter plunge nobody seemed to be seriously injured. The cause of the collapse appears to be rotting bearers and overloading. They were loading cement bags onto a boat.

Sunday, May 09, 2004

Ko Phi Phi
This place looks like a beach site version of Thamel in Kathmandu. Wall to wall tourist shops restaurants and hotels. Luckily it doesn't have the sewerage smell of Kathmandu. I only got here an hour or so ago so not much to report as such other then that they have a bakery here that does nice breakfasts.

Friday, May 07, 2004

Ko Lanta
Just a quick note to let everybody know where I am. Ko Lanta is about one and a half hours by boat from Krabi and I expect to be here for two days before moving on to Ko Phi Phi and then Phuket.
The trip went quite smoothly until I made a misstep while disembarking from the ferry and almost broke both my legs. As it was my backpack broke my fall and apart from a slightly sore ankle I am ok.

Thursday, May 06, 2004

It was a dark and stormy night....Well not really, it's more like four in the afternoon. Everyday it now starts to rain around this time. The sky darkens, thunder rumbles and lightning can be seen out over the sea. This build up quite often continues for an hour or so and then all of a sudden the first drops sizzle onto the pavement. Restaurateurs bring their tables in and stall holders cover their wares with large plastic sheets. People and animals alike look for cover. An eerie quiet descends. Then the frogs, who have been quiet all day start their chorus to welcome the impending deluge...kneedeep, kneedeep. An egret, perfectly white, against the black sky flies across the river.
And then it rains.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Changes and improvements?
As you have probably noticed I have made some changes to the web site. I think this makes it a bit cleaner and easier to navigate. There is more to come but this is all I feel like doing today.
Katoeys and Sang Som

Katoeys or Lady boys are basically pre-operative trans-sexuals and Thailand seems to have more of them then anywhere else that I have been.
Sang Som is locally distilled firewater, on the bottle it says Thai Whiskey but it's sweet and to me tastes more like rum. The best way to make it palatable is to mix it with Coca Cola.

This is one of those stories where the end is best told first. In this case if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck but quacks like a drake you better steer clear.
It all started innocently enough with a pleasant dinner at the local Italian restaurant where the conversation eventually centered, as it always seems to do when you get a group of single men together, on wine, women and song. Dan said he had spotted a few bars around town and why not check them out. This decision was confirmed by acclamation and we headed for a place with garish signs in Thai and very loud music that looked like they would be able to serve a drink to a thirsty stranger. Well they did that, they also had a stage with a firemens pole, so a polite enquiry was shouted over the noise of the infernal sound system as to when we could expect scantily clad women to entertain us. The reply was "around midnight", so we drunk up and left. It was at least ten minutes before my ears stopped ringing. By that time we had arrived at a place that was diametrically the opposite, sleek, sophisticated and music in the background where it belongs. This is where the Sang Som makes it's appearance, a liter of it to be exact. The reason to buy a whole bottle at once is because it's cheaper then by the glass, we are budget travelers after all. As the evening progresses a band comes on and does some very capable covers of Santana amongst others. We talk, listen to the band and polish of the bottle of Sang Som. At this point we have to decide, should we be sensible and go home, should we get another bottle of plonk or should we see what else is on in town on a Monday night. Of course we resolve to try our luck elsewhere. Having observed yesterday how to arrange transport we flag down the traffic in the street and within minutes someone stops and gives the five of us a ride to a club. Music even louder then in the first place we visited tonight greets us and the place is packed with Thais rocking the night away to the latest dance tunes and two DJ's working the decks. We decide it's party time and order another bottle of whiskey, some coke and a bucket of ice. I am starting to feel comfortably numb. Next to me is a gorgeous girl bumping and grinding the night away and really playing up to us, she surely knows how to twirl and shake booty at one stage even flashing her breasts at us. This is better then a strip show. Dan figures nothing ventured nothing gained and joins her for some cool and intimate dance moves of his own and the two really hit it off. At that point a Thai gentlemen comes over and says "Does your friend know he is dancing with a katoey?" Talk about being stung by a bee.

Monday, May 03, 2004

The trouble with busses
I should have known there would be trouble when the van to take me to Krabi arrived right on time. Transport never goes on time in this part of the world. Anyway the van arrived I threw in my pack and clambered aboard where already four other travelers and some locals were sitting and then we continued the ride around town until the van licensed for nine passengers was crammed with twelve people and all their luggage most of it on a roof rack.
So far so good. About half an hour out of town we pulled into a petrol station for a fill up and continued on our way. After another thirty minutes or so the engine started stuttering while we were getting to the first hills on our journey and we were loosing power rapidly until just short of the crest of the first hill the engine died completely. So out we get put a big rock behind the rear wheel and asses the situation. The driver tries to ring hiss boss on a cellphone but we are well outside a reception area. OK plan B, after the engine has cooled down a little we push the van to the top of the hill jump in and coast down. Miraciously the engine starts again but not well enough to get us over the next hill so halfway up we come to a stop once more. Right this van is obviously not going to get us to Krabi in a hurry, if at all, so what to do next?
Well the driver flags down another van and a few of the people with destinations other then krabi pile in. There are about eight of us left on the roadside. Not a problem. The driver flags down a pickup truck and the remaining eight of climb in the back. Now eight people most of them with large backpacks makes for a very packed pickup truck. At this time it's midday so I can feel some sunburn coming on while we are careening up and down the hills, nothing much I can do about it at this point in time though. In a sign that things are probably not going to improve a sudden surge of air while we are going down hill lifts my glasses clean of my face luckily they bounce of one of my fellow travelers and he manages to grab them before they go overboard.
Half an hour later and still hundred and forty kilometers short of our destination the pickup truck drops us off at a restaurant and tells us to wait for the van. We can't quite make out from the Thai to English translations for how long or what this is going to achieve. So we sit and wait and then sit and wait some more and some more and after about an hour and a half the van turns up the engine still stuttering and grumbling. The driver talks to one of the Thai passengers gets in his van and drives of again. I find somebody in the restaurant who speaks both Thai and some English and finally find out what's going on. Apparently when fuelling up this morning they put diesel rather then petrol in the tank hence the engine slowly dying on us when the petrol and diesel started mixing together. The driver has now gone off to get the tank emptied and then put the right fuel in.
Another forty five minutes passes before a triumphant driver returns with a van that runs as smooth as when it left the factory. Apart from seeing a cow aboard a regular bus being transported to the market nothing much happened in the remainder of the trip and eight hours after our departure from Hat Yai we rode into Krabi and sat down for a well deserved beer or two.

Sunday, May 02, 2004

Well I wasn't kidding when I wrote in my previous message that the weather looked threatening. I had just gone for a walk through the market when the sky opened up. Now I have traveled and lived in monsoonal areas for a large part of the last twenty years but this was something else. Within minutes of the rain starting the stormwater system gave up and the streets started flooding which brought swarms of cockroaches from the gutters onto the pavement and while everybody including myself was busy stomping on roaches and stopping them from running up our legs the second wave of refugees hit. The rats had obviously decided that life in the sewer was not all that pleasant anymore and before they could be swept out to sea or wherever it is that Hat Yai flushes it's waste too they decided to flee to higher ground as well so amongst loud shrieks I now had kick rats in the head as well. Needles to say I was also soaked to the bone, still it makes a change from hanging out on the beach.

Saturday, May 01, 2004

War in the south
Ok the good news first. I am currently save and well in Hat Yai where the only thing threatening me at the moment is the weather. It looks like a tropical down pour is imminent.
The first hint of heightened tension this morning was that there were road blocks in Malaysia checking people coming and going from the border. The border crossing itself was quiet and uneventful but as soon as I got on the back of a motorbike at the Thai side of the fence there was military everywhere. Jeeps with machine guns on them and trucks with soldiers in full battle dress, complete with body armor and M16 rifles were cruising the streets and at various places in town and in most towns and villages I traveled through today people were filling sandbags to build gun emplacements.
Pretty unreal. Later in the day we drove past the mosque where the army killed 34 of the protesters (rebels, guerrillas). All there was to see now was a damaged building partly covered in a green tarpaulin and lots of people around it. The south definitely ain't quiet and tomorrow I hope to leave for the presumably safer pastures of Krabi.

Friday, April 30, 2004

Kota Bharu
Well I have roused myself from a life of idleness once again and left the fine but very hot islands of Perhentian and am currently in the last city before the Thai border. A number of the people that I have spoken with say that it should be OK to cross the border and go to Krabi they also advise me not to linger in the border provinces longer then I have to. For those of you that have missed the news the Thai army just killed over a hundred people a few kilometers north from here.

This happened on the boat over.
She, "Why aren't we going yet"
He, "I don't know"
"This was supposed to be a fast boat"
"I don't know"
"I think I am getting seasick"
"Why aren't we going yet"
Me, "Let me guess you're English?"

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Perhentian Kecil
A quick update. There is an internet connection here but it's both expensive and unreliable. I waited for close to an hour yesterday to use it and then the power failed, and with that my good humor.

The trip on the jungle railway to get here was interesting but tiring. It takes almost seven hours by train and then another hour by share taxi. The train stops at more then forty stations en route a lot of them no bigger then a palm tree with a sign nailed to them. The signage on the railway is still all semaphore and oil lamps at night. The train was pulled by a familiar sight a YDM4 locomotive on lease from Indian Railways (road number 6407).

By the time I got to Kuala Besut it was 8.30 at night so I just booked a ticket on the boat for the next day and stayed over night in a hotel in the middle of town.

The boat to the islands is another highpowered speed boat affair that bounced from wave to wave and probably damaged my spine but it's excellent fun.

The islands here have some of the most beautiful clear water you have ever seen and it promptly fooled me. When the boat got to the shore, or as I thought close enough, I jumped overboard totally misjudging the water depth and ended up with water just under my chest, well at least it's nice and warm. And then since my arrival I've done little apart from swimming, sunning and reading I am sure I'll can handle that for a few more days.

Sunday, April 25, 2004

Moving on
Just a quick note about my movements in the next week. I will be taking the jungle railway in the next hour to a place called Kuala Krai from where I hope to get a bus or taxi to the coast at kuala Besut and from there a boat to the Perhentian islands. Again I don't think the internet has reached the Perhentians yet so it might be five days to a week before my next message.

Saturday, April 24, 2004

Taman Negara
Right I am back out of the jungle and it was great! To get there you have to take a boat for about three hours up river to get to the settlement of Kuala Tahan. This little place consists largely out of hotels and a number of restaurants build on pontoons that float along the rivers edge.
I settled on a place on the edge of town which had beautiful little bungalows in a tropical garden and an owner who seemed genuinely happy to see me. This was proven as a good choice in the next few days as again and again they went out of their way to make my stay and that of my fellow guests as pleasant as possible, going as far as one afternoon after a heavy rainfall prevented any further junglewalks, to take us in their four wheel drive and showing us the workings of a rubber and palm oil plantation which was very interesting indeed. Did you know that Malaysia is the largest producer of palm oil? No neither did I.

Jungle Walks
The day after I arrived I set out into the jungle armed with a bottle of water and a totally unreliable map. First to the Canopy Walk a contraption where they have hoisted a number of swingbridges between the trees where you can look down on most of the forest canopy and presumably spot animals that are unlikely to come down to the forest floor, like gibbons or the giant tree squirrel. However large numbers of people including a Danish family with four young children right behind me make seeing any animal most unlikely. I am sure they have left for a quieter tree top a long time ago.
Nevermind once I left the Canopy Walk I located the trail to the top of mount Teresek and never saw anyone else for the next five hours. It didn't take long for my lack of fitness to manifest itself and as the trail is rather steep I was forced to frequently take breaks, sit down and drink some water. The unintended consequence of that was that I actually saw quite a few animals, most of them birds including several hornbills who are most impressive and when they fly over look like something out of Jurassic Park. Their wings make a sort of Woosh woosh sound. I also saw a racket tailed drongo and all sorts of bulbuls and another hundred or so different birds I couldn't identify.
At one stage about three quarters up the mountain while I was catching my breath again I heard a noise in the undergrowth behind me and slowly turned around and tried to make as little noise as I could. After another minute or so a large wild boar came in view and it spend some time rooting around the plants in a gully before it noticed me and ran off into the scrub again.
After about two hours I reached the top of the mountain and was rewarded with a nice view over a large part of the jungle. This is where in my wisdom I decided to take a different trail back to the park headquarters. Initially all went well, it was going down hill after all but I had the nagging feeling that I was walking away from the park HQ rather then towards it. Then the trail started to move uphill again. I stopped for a while and listened for any sounds indicating people or boats on the river but al I heard was jungle noise. I walked on a bit and repeated the procedure with the same result I checked the time and decided that by now I should have come to the river that was clearly indicated on my map. I climbed one last ridge with nothing to indicate where I was and made the decision to turn around so I had some chance of making it back to civilization before nightfall, problem was that meant of course reclimbing the mountain and every step seemed harder and harder and I needed to rest more and more frequently by that stage I had also drunk the last of my water and felt rather parched. Another hour or so of following the trail back up and then I suddenly heard voices. The cavalry had arrived to rescue me! Well not quite it was a hiking party that had a guide with them that assured me that I actually had been going in the right direction after all. So as I wasn't to keen on keeping climbing on my own I hooked up with them and went back the way I had just come, the third time that I walked that particular part of the trail. Finally when I was pretty much stumbling rather then walking we came to the river and I just dived in. I reckon that even after ten minutes in the water my body temperature was still to high.
From the river to park HQ was only a ten minute walk and when I arrived I drank two liter and a half bottles of water in one go.

River Tubing
After my jungle walking effort and a good nights sleep I decided that there should be an easier way to get around so I signed up for a boat ride up a number of rapids and back down again on a tube. Now that is my kind of sport. The water current is strong enough that you hardly have to paddle and the rapids aren't so big as to be dangerous. So a leisurely afternoon was spend floating about watching the birds and a few with wings as well.

I am getting a sore arm from all this typing so I'll write some more tomorrow, maybe.

Monday, April 19, 2004

Bussing it
Just a quick update. I have been most of today on the bus. First from Cherating to Kuantan and then from Kuantan to Jerantut where I am now. Nothing really spectacular to see along the road I am afraid. Oil refineries around Kuantan and palm plantations around Jerantut.
Tomorrow I hope to take a bus and boat to Tamara Negara from here and I hope to stay there for three to four days. As it's a jungle park they probably don't have internet access so it might be a few days before I am back on line.

Sunday, April 18, 2004

Another road update. The last few days I have been in Cherating a town on the coast of Pahang state in Malaysia. The beach here is nowhere near as nice as on Tioman but I met a young British couple and we have the last few days spend most of our days together doing the various strenuous activities available here. Like lying on the beach or sitting in a boat to do a river trip, which was actually quite good. I saw a number of snakes and other reptiles as well as a sea eagle and the scenery on the whole was very nice.
Also managed to put a visit in to a sea turtle sanctuary close to a spot where turtles come ashore to lay their eggs an interesting sight indeed.
My plan however is to leave tomorrow for Jerantut and then Teman Negara so my next message will probably from somewhere in or near the jungle.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Gizmos and photos (Part 3)
Finally it's done I have uploaded my first photos to the Singapore page. More to come so just check for updates on the Singapore and Malaysia photo pages.
I think I should stop predicting where I am going to be next. Yesterday I thought about going to Pekan but instead I went to Cherating this morning.
Cherating is a bit of a travelers Campung with a beach, plenty of restaurants and a relaxed atmosphere. Very relaxed as a matter of fact, there aren't all that many people around here at all.
The chalet I have here is sited on a hill amongst the trees and is part of a resort with the unlikely name of "Shadow of the moon at half past four" I believe that it might be from a "Grateful Dead" song. It is a fairly funky outfit with a nice looking restaurant and bar, a pool table and plenty of books to read. So I think I'll stay put for a few days.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Gizmos and photos (part 2)
After fruitlessly trying at internet cafes for a CD writer it occurred to me that the people that are guaranteed to have one are the little shops that sell all the pirate copies of Playstation and PC programs. And fair enough as soon as I found one of those and asked, they were quite happy to oblige and when things didn't quite work at the first shop he happily gave me directions to a fellow pirate who burned me a brand new disk for RM10 which is the same as they charge for most of their programs.
Long live piracy!! You guys saved the day.
Now I only have to find an internet cafe with an image manipulation program so I can reduce the size of my photos before I upload them. But it's 8.30 in the evening here so that can wait until tomorrow.
Gizmos and photos
I think that I am getting closer to publishing some pictures as I have now been able to buy a card reader for my CF cards. Now I just have to find an internet cafe with a CD burner and a USB interface. The quest continues.
Another day another city. After a good nights sleep I have taken the rather scenic bus trip to Kuantan where I currently am. The trip itself follows the coast line so plenty of sea views, intermittent palm plantations and the old style houses on stilts so they can catch the airflow.
So now I am here in Kuantan and I have opted for a hotel with aircon, to cool my blood down, for at least an evening, because as soon as I do anything at all during the day I tend to be soaked in sweat. Not that that matters but the occasional bit of cool air is pleasant.
Not quite sure how long I am going to stay here but probably tomorrow as well before turning towards the Jungle.

Monday, April 12, 2004

I walked all over Mersing but couldn't find a place that could back up my photos. It's a little annoying but not yet critical, Mersing is smaller then Whangarei so I might have more luck in the next big city. The problem is not the CD burner, they have plenty of computers that can do that but the ten dolllar gadget that reads my CF cards. I know I should have picked one up in Singapore.
A few people have been asking when I am going to update my picture pages well the answer is as soon as I can find a place to Transfer my photos from Compact Flash to CD-rom. So could be today could be next week but I will let you know when it's done.
Tioman Island
Well after six days of swimming, sun bathing and terribly little else I have dragged myself away from the friendly shores of Tioman Island.
In spite of previous remarks that I would do a Batik course it never eventuated, they had run out of materials! So Danny will have to wait for his T-Shirt until I come across some other opportunity.
This morning I hopped on a ferry that managed to take four hours to get back to Mersing. It had only taken me an hour or so by speed boat to get there. Never mind it's not as if I am in a hurry.
Oh by the way if you are afraid of Lizards you won't like the island. I had a monitor lizard of more then a meter long living under my beach hut.