Hey you guys! Enjoy this piece from Declan Milling, author of the Carbon Black trilogy.
Christmas in Port Moresby
The night had been unusually quiet in the tower block where I’d recently moved. Most of the residents were ex-pats and many had already left for holidays ‘back home’ to the UK, New Zealand or Australia. Quiet and still. There hadn’t been a breathe of air movement. Even up on my fifth floor balcony, overlooking Ela Beach and the Coral Sea, it felt like the sky was sweating, there was so much moisture in it. You could feel it prickling your skin. But it wasn’t raining yet. The wet season was yet to arrive in earnest, it was just letting us know it wasn’t too far away.
There was a swimming pool in front of the building – more for partying than exercising, as it had stools in the water at the deep end, which fronted a bar. Being impossible to sleep, and since it wasn’t possible to stay dry anyway in these conditions, I went down and did some slow laps as the sun appeared over the ridge line of Tuaguba Hill and was amazed to see a person come out of the sauna adjacent to the pool. Why on earth the builders thought a sauna was necessary, when all you have to do is stand outside in the sun for a while to achieve the same effect, I could never work out. But evidently one of the other residents found it useful – even if it had turned them the livid puce of a cooked lobster. Perhaps that was their Santa outfit for the day.
Back upstairs for breakfast on the balcony and the first of the day’s intimidations. With cricket’s Ashes series taking place down south in Australia, my English neighbour above had taken to lowering a plastic Union Jack flag from his balcony each time the English took a wicket. Now he was getting in a day early, ahead of the Boxing Day Test. This time he didn’t realise I was on the balcony and his standard was captured in a trice. Unfortunately, he must have access to a bunting wholesaler because another appeared almost immediately and for the next month or so whenever the pommies got on top, Union Jacks would appear en masse.
Christmas lunch was a picnic with friends at the Crystal Rapids, up in the Varirata National Park on the Sogeri Plateau. About 50 kilometres from the city, including a harrowing and dangerously steep and narrow ascent in the final stages, it meant one had to temper one’s alcohol intake – no easy thing for ex-pats on holiday. At an elevation of 800 metres it was like being in another world. Cool and refreshing air, one could laze in the clean, clear waters of the Laloki River – provided you kept an eye out for any lurking puk puks. Nothing quite like a crocodile to disrupt one’s post-prandial paddling.
Mid-afternoon the sun disappeared and the picnic was abruptly curtailed. From the elevated lookout, a massive bank of cumulonimbus could be seen sweeping across the coastal plain below, from the north and west, swallowing all in its grey mass. Everybody headed for their vehicles. Soon a great conga line of cars was snaking its way down the treacherously slippery s-bends and back down into town. Looked like it was back to the balcony for the evening.
Christmas in Port Moresby. The wet had arrived.
Note: Port Moresby features prominently in the first book of Declan Milling’s Carbon Black trilogy. The second book in the series, ‘After the Texans…’ was released 1 November.