Some Surprises in the Bush

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You would not expect to find one of these while strolling around in the bush in Papua New Guinea. The truth is, if you know where to look, you can find one. It’s a Lockheed P-38 Lightning, surely, along with the P-51 Mustang, among the most beautiful, not to mention deadly, aircraft ever built.
P-38 Lightning

However, it won’t look anything like the one above. It will look like this:

Upside-down engine of Lockheed Lighting P-38
I have visited this crash site several times. One of the propellers stands in the front yard of my house as a memorial to the folly of war. I’m as certain as I can be about the identity of the aircraft. The engines and propellers are a match. There are, of course, few eyewitnesses left alive. Papua New Guineans, however, are extremely adept at oral accounts of history. Certain people are entrusted with “telling the story correctly.” The aircraft was described to me in perfect detail, though none of the storytellers would have been likely to have seen a P-38 at any other time. “Two aeroplanes joined together by their wings holding a house for the captain in between.” It could only be a P-38.

Tagtap took me to the mountainside where the pilot’s parachute dropped him. He showed me the direction that the pilot travelled and described to me how the Japanese found and killed him.

I have reported this crash site several times to several agencies. All deny that it exists. I asked about all the planes that went down about which no position is known. The answer is in bureaucratese, “We have no information on that.”  DUH! Isn’t that what I’m trying to give you?

Never mind.

Another thing you might not expect to find is a scarecrow. I’ve never seen one in PNG before. I asked Tagtap. It seems an elderly lady was buried on top of this particular hill. At Easter time, some descendants came to pay homage. He thinks that they put up this effigy for spiritual reasons. “Or, they were just fooling around”, he added:

A scarecrow?  Or is it?
I’ll be showing you some terrifying bugs over the next few posts. We’ll start with this one. Tagtap says that touching this one is a no-no. “Em bai sagrapim skin belong you nogut tru!”  Meaning, roughly, It will make you itch horribly. Just as well. It doesn’t look like something I’d want to play with anyway:
A caterpillar that you do not want to touch
At the end of the day, we put the boys to work building a bush shelter just because we wanted one, not because we particularly needed it. Call it the perks of being lapun  (old). The boys slaved away for an hour or so and built us a fire while we chatted. The fire got a little bigger than I’d planned. You can see Tagtap cringing awaay a little. I told him he had to sit closer to the fire because his skin is dark and I needed more light on him. He seemed to buy that line:

A cozy fire (more like a conflagration) to take off the chill

Two old buddies sitting by the fire telling fanciful stories. This is Papua New Guinea, mate.

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5 Responses to “Some Surprises in the Bush”

  1. Yoga Toes | Madang - Ples Bilong Mi Says:

    […] On my recent bush walk I gave my shoes away to one of my porters after only six hours of trudging up and down the mountains and slopping through the streams. My big toes were killing me. Once I was rid of the shoes I was […]

  2. We're Not Finished With Nob Nob Mountain | Madang - Ples Bilong Mi Says:

    […] is a view to the west from Guntabag, where my old friend Tagtap lives with his […]

  3. Alfred W. Walck Says:

    My wife and I were missionaries at Nobonob from 1946-1950 and the natives never told us about the P-51. They did tell us about four bombs dropped by allied fighters and I helped them explode them. We lit fires on them and waited—30 minutes for a 500 pounder and 45 minutes for a 1,000 pounder. That gave us time to get far enough away,, but we did hear some shrapnel flying nearby. One time a navy man came and exploded one with dynamite.
    We enjoy your articles very much—keep them coming!

  4. Alfred W. Walck Says:

    Hello—it’s me again. Tagtap sounds like a familiar name, and so does Guntabak. Was Guntabak right at the top of Nobonob Mountain?

  5. MadDog Says:

    Alfred, Tag Tap is an old and dear friend of mine. You can find many posts about him on Madang – Ples Bilong Mi by just putting “tag tap” in the search box (without the quotes). He still lives near Guntabag and I still visit with him very often. We enjoy our bush walks. He has an incredible storehouse of knowledge about the bush. There is a Lutheran Church right at the top. A little lower, and towards Madang, is Guntabag. Lower still is the Pacific Orientation Camp operated by SIL Next time I see Tag Tap I’ll ask if he remembers you. I would be willing to bet that he will.