| A 1953 memoir in the possession of Ancie's son, Dr Ivan Schindler
ROSEWOOD, QLD - The road from The Highlands to the Markham Valley floor had become a reality. A road, did I say, more like a track, which wound down the steep mountain sides to the flat Markham Valley.
The only Europeans to have travelled it as yet were the ADO (Acting District Officer) Kainantu and the PO (Patrol Officer) Rupert Haviland, who was in charge of the labour cutting out the track.
The labourers and PO were certainly not trained road makers and the tools they used were merely axes, spades and picks, but most digging sticks. What an achievement this road was!
The morning of our trip to the valley was cold and misty. It was still almost dark when we excitedly donned sweaters and raincoats and clambered into our jeep.
This jeep, except for a few horses and Shanks’ Pony, was our only means of transport. Long ago the hood had disintegrated and so we braved the elements whenever we took off.
For 25 miles we jogged along the road (built during the war) from Aiyura to Arona and then on the new road (track) to the Kassam Pass.
We had left early because we knew that there were places where we would have to get out and push the vehicle or dig it out of the boggy patches. Our average travelling time was usually on the Highland roads about 8 mph.
On reaching the top of the pass the mists were still covering us and the valley below, so we stopped and waited for them to rise. It was very damp, cold and windy and we were glad of the coffee we had brought with us.
At last about 8 am the mist began to rise rapidly and there below was the most breathtaking view. It was so magnificent. We could see from Shaggy Ridge towards Madang to miles and miles towards Lae in the opposite direction.
Directly opposite the mighty Finisterre Range rose suddenly to the height of 14,000 feet. The whole scene was one of blues and purples with misty browns of the kunai grass in the valley and patches of emerald green where the natives had burnt tracts of land and new grass was sprouting.
Now we began our descent. The road was only wide enough for one jeep, there was no surface except the mountain clay of the newly cut bench.
Above us towered the forest trees and now and then hornbills, white cockatoos and brightly coloured parrots in flocks screeched, as they flew by. Hawks floated aloft ready to dive on some rat or small animal.
The rattle and noise of the jeep engine broke the silence. It was easier to look up at the birds and trees than at the thousands of feet below, as the jeep seemed to overhang these drops.
The grades and corners were not exactly what one would expect of a road. Most of the curves were so sharp that the driver had to manoeuvre the vehicle back and forth to get around them.
The trees felled to make the bench, had left a path of destruction as they rolled hundreds of feet to the gorge below. One slip of the jeep and we would be down where they lay.
Half-way! We stopped for a cup of coffee and a chat with Rupe, whose native built house was perched on a spur that overlooked the valley.
What a magnificent view! But I am sure Rupe would have traded it very often for some young company or fresh bread butter and meat.
On again. Leaving the dense tropical rain forest we travelled over the blady grass spurs. Down and around, down and around, would we ever get there?
The sun shone brightly and the warmth of the tropics made us remove jackets and sweaters, Ah! Something soft to sit on.
Then came the ‘Rocky River’, which we had crossed several times as it rushed down the mountainside.
Now the bed was covered in huge boulders so it was all out [of the jeep] to build a ford. Half an hour later we watched the poor old jeep rocketing across our ford.
All aboard again and after building several more fords we came at last to Wata Rais. We were on the valley floor at last! What a trip!
We had left early in the morning 6,000 feet above sea level – a climate of eternal spring by day and log fires by night and here we were sweating in the tropics surrounded by tropical coconut palms, bananas and pawpaw.
The native huts were on stilts for coolness instead of being huddles close to the earth for warmth as the Highlands built.