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‘Markham Tom’, big-hearted PNG pioneer, dies at 83

The 8-year old Junior who did something amazing


Junior OmbiJONATHAN OMBI (CALLED JUNIOR IN THE FAMILY) is a cousin-nephew of mine. I remember him as a naughty youngster playing rowdy games in the house and running around the neighbourhood causing trouble, in league with Rose's daughter Margaret.

They stole ice-cream from my fridge. Once I tricked them. I made some chicken soup, stored it in an ice-cream container and put it in the freezer. Later they said, "Daddy Peter, this ice cream traim nogat!"

All-in-all, a lovely and perfectly ordinary kid.

But Jonathan did something extraordinary. He walked close to 1,000 kms to find his parents.

After a family breakdown (sadly all too common) stories reached him at Morata - where he was being looked after by Aunties - that his dad was in Simbu, accompanying "Uncle Member" on the political trail.

After three weeks his mum left him in charge of Grandma to travel to Simbu to be with her husband.

This upset Junior – who wondered why should he be left alone. So he joined a group of seven Don Bosco students to walk from Moresby to Simbu to be with his parents.

After a brief stop at 9 Mile and a last hug from Grandma, Jonathan set off up the Kokoda track.

He lived on noodles and biscuits and suffered greatly from blisters and mosquitoes. But he kept up the spirits of his friends by singing his favourite songs from the Kuakumba Rats - Banz Nale Se Wanda Yo and Dema Saul's Wiggy Wiggy Girls.

He trudged on, meeting a group of American trekkers, who could not believe this young guy had walked all that way.

He eventually arrived at the coast and the next day managed to talk his way onto a boat bound for Lae. From there, and with a few friends still with him, they caught a PMV up the Highlands Highway and arrived at Kundiawa that night.

He said, "Mum and Dad were very surprised to see me, asking thousands of questions and hugging me and crying."

Sources: Post Courier, personal memories, Freida, and Jonathan himself


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Rosemary Kaiye

Junior is a very brave little boy forcused on what he wants to do - and he got there.

It's a spirit lifting story for me and if someone small can do that I can do anything.

Tamarah Koleala

Just when I'm thinking of giving up on something, this little boy has given me hope. Anything is possible... Thank you for the inspiration, May God bless your soul Jonathan.

Roa Jude

I wish I had such forte to go as far as my pint-sized protagonist had done.

He is my hero because ever since I was a bantam boy I love to be a trekker.

Little conqueror Jonathan had exhibited to me something excessive and boundless. It all comes to the nature where one discovered his/her prospects.

If you really want to achieve something, be like my brother Jonathan.

Peter Kranz

Jpee Tura - Thank you so much for your kind comments. Sometimes we write stuff and it seems to disappear into oblivion. But to know that a simple true story has touched your heart makes it very worthwhile.

God bless.

Jpee Tura

What a great young man. I am absolutely thrilled by his story. That is the human spirit of perseverance, never give up in life, in whatever you want to do.

If you want anything in life, go out and grab it, do not let anyone underestimate you but follow your footsteps because it can take you there.

Thanks for sharing this story. Sometimes i struggle in life but I've come to learn a lot from my past mistakes.

Peter Kranz

Correction - the original story was in The National, not the PC.

When Margaret and Junior first met me, they hadn't seen many white men.

They asked Rose "Does Daddy Peter come from heaven?" (I assume thinking of pictures of angels they had seen).

I laughed and laughed and eventually replied, "not Heaven, but close enough - Brisbane."

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