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On the much-maligned hawkers of Mosbi


Fish Trader, Port MoresbyIF YOU LIVE IN PORT MORESBY for a while (and not just on Shit Scared Hill) you realise there are an amazing variety of street traders doing the rounds of the housing estates every week.

It's like 19th century London. Some even have a special song for their arrival.  I've likely been conned, fleeced, amused and bought some bargains from these traders, who come knocking at your door at all hours.

I know I was ripped off a few times. But occasionally you get a bargain. Like the Hagan axe for K20 (I'm looking at it now), the Sepik shield for K80, a kundu drum for K100, the kina shell bride-price necklaces for the same - but above all the seafood.

I managed to get some pretty lovely Trobriand and Sepik carvings, food, vegetables and above all fresh seafood from such people - for example the terrorist mudcrabs which attacked me (surely secretly working for Al Quaida), a 10 lb barramundi about two hours fresh, and even some noisy and whingeing chooks that I fed and gave names to.

But the best was the huge Red Emperor.

I was planning Christmas dinner and thought some seafood would be nice. My favourite fisherman came to the door on Christmas Eve with this giant Red Emperor in a bucket of seawater. He was still kicking (the fish that is). So I thought it would be a good buy.

"How-mas dispela?"


"Tumas - maski K80?"

"Mi laikim K100."

So we settled on a price.

I'd got a seven kilo Red Emperor for little more than $50 for a Christmas eve feast.

But the old bubu fisherman has another condition.  It was dark - around 8 pm. "Please, yu drive mi home."

So I did. To the wilds of the Morauta settlement - in the dark - in the Car from Hell.

Not far, but exciting.

We only got held up once, and broke down once. My old friend berated the raskols roundly and they let us pass.

"Displela laikim mi tru. He buy pis long mi. Letim pass"

And so they did. And next day we enjoyed the best fish Christmas Eve dinner I have ever had, complete with kaukau, taro, greens and panpan - cooked in banana leaves over an open fire (with coconut milk, gene and chili of course).


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