As it really was: Straightening the record
The people who put food on PNG’s table

An ancient machine with 6 former lives

Waide - The ancient machineSCOTT WAIDE
| My Land, My Country

LAE - “It’s 100 percent unreliable!” they told me about the machine. An old utility parked at Simeon’s block at the edge of Popondetta town.

‘They’ is my sister in Port Moresby. The ‘machine’ also known as ‘Road Test’ belongs to our older brother Simeon (named after granddad Simeon).

The truck has seen far better days. But Road Test is a legend in these parts.

The ancient machine is much loved by James (the prime minister’s namesake and Simeon’s son) and has a long story. Nobody really knows how old it is.

According to Simeon, aka Simsie, it had six previous owners. The first bought the vehicle with the help of a bank loan. He defaulted and the bank repossessed the vehicle. After the second owner took possession of it, he sold it to another person.

The bank tracked the vehicle down and repossessed it a second time.

By the time Simsie found it in a yard somewhere, Road Test was all battered and bruised. He (yes HE) was like the character of a sad animated movie with droopy eyelids, feeling unloved and hopeless.

If Mater in the movie Cars had a Papua New Guinean cousin, Road Test would be it.

Simeon convinced those in charge to let him take possession of Road Test. I won’t go into details. That’s for another blog post. All I can say is a hefty sum was paid.

Long story short, Road Test came home happy with a toothy grin like his American cousin Mater and the adventures began.

Simeon told me that once when the family Head Dog, Maxine, was due to arrive in town, she asked for a hire car.

Simeon told her that he had a truck. Maxine hadn’t met Road Test yet. Simeon convinced Maxine to send him K2,000 for Road Test’s registration. Registration done. Maxine arrived that week.

Maxine does work for very important for community based organisations. She’s an important woman and a family matriarch.

Road Test quit half way to Maxine’s place of work. I can’t really say how Maxine felt. She must have been dangerously furious.

But Simeon said it was all good. Maxine and a few others had to walk half the way. Again, that’s for another blog post if it ever happens.

Simeon said the tires came off once. They had to bang it back in with a hammer at least three times between the airport and town.

A bit about Simeon…

He is a musician, martial artist, electrician and mechanic. Once, he built a microphone out of old radio speakers. He taught himself to play the keyboard in six weeks during Christmas holidays in 1991.

He spent his high school years in Australia then joined the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary.

Early Friday morning, Simeon took us in Road Test to Bokoro, where mum and dad live. Before we went, he took out a large plastic container of diesel and poured it into….

.…another plastic  container under the bonnet.

Yes. The fuel tank is in the bonnet near the engine! When he started up the engine, diesel fumes came up through a hole in the floor. He said to me, “Don’t worry about it. I just filled it up with diesel and two containers of engine oil. This is normal.”

I said if I died of carbon monoxide poisoning, he would be responsible.

As we chugged on along the gravelled oil palm road discussing alien interventions on earth and ancient technology, I said in so many words, “Dude, the next time I come back, I want you to have air conditioning and central locking installed.”

Simeon agreed and I trust him because this brother is a creative genius.


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Harry Topham

Those Honda 90's must be good as they are still being used by the posties.

Philip Fitzpatrick

I agree with you AG, the Toyota Stout was the perfect vehicle for PNG. Sadly it was discontinued in 1989.

Another wonderful vehicle was the Mini Moke, especially after they put bigger wheels on it. If there was an obstacle in the way you could simply pick it up and carry it. It would also float, as I discovered once when crossing the Wahgi River.

And there was also the Honda 90 motorbike with its low range gears, perfect for muddy climbing.

When I was posted to Gagl school, in the foothills of the Drekore Range about 25km north-west of Kundiawa, I soon got sick of walking to Kundiawa at weekends for entertainment. So I bought a Honda 90 Trail - red, they only came in red. Ticket to freedom! Until very recently Australia Post here in Noosa was using a very similar motorcycle - KJ

AG Satori

The Toyota Stout was replaced by a lesser Hilux and Dyna truck. As the name says, for rural areas you needed a stout, heavy duty half truck and it didn't come any better than the Toyota Stout.

And it could go on from second hand to tenth hand.

The springs were replaceable with good kwila tree saplings and held in place by bush vines. The back tray would go mountain high with cargo and passengers and it was still good to go.

Bring back the Toyota Stout!

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