Our Haus on the Hill


Casper and his wantoks building our haus on the hill, 1973.

A couple of recent comments posted to this blog by Bruce Thompson, a former journalist with the South Pacific Post’s  newspaper, the Post Courier, send me back to the old photo boxes for some pics of our raunhaus, or gazebo. We were living in one of the South Pacific Post’s Pruth Street flats at Taurama at the time – 1973 – and the nightly sunset views of Koki village and the Port Moresby coastline were always stunning. We really did feel like we were living in paradise.


View of Koki village and the Port Moresby harbour from our haus at the top of the hill.

Casper was our ‘hausboi’, i.e. our housekeeper, and one day he and his wantoks* got together and built us a PNG-style gazebo so that we could sit inside it in the balmy evenings, sip our cocktails and other alcoholic beverages, and gaze and gaze  at that unforgettable view.  By day it served as a great cubby house for our young daughter, Vanessa.


Casper (right) and a wantok toasting the completion of our new haus with Bacardi and Pepsi Cola.


I Vanessa in front of her new cubby house.

It was an almost idyllic lifestyle. We lived in Port Moresby for about eight years and not once did we have anything stolen. At night we were safe behind our deadlocked doors and our security-wired windows. Paradise did have its darker side even then, all those years ago.

One of the wantoks did odd jobs around Port Moresby and after several months of saving, he had enough money to buy a cheap but flash-looking Japanese radio from one of the trade stores. For one week only, the hill was alive with the sound of  music. Then the radio  was stolen by a ‘rascal’, along with just about everything else the  poor fellow owned – and it wasn’t much more than a change of clothes.

I came home from work that night and found him sitting in the banana plantation, sobbing inconsolably. He cried for a long time and to this day I can clearly recall that sound. He left the property soon after and I never saw him again.

* Wantok is pidgin English for someone who speaks the same language or talk, and he or she is usually a relative or someone from the same village. Wantoks are expected to look after each other, especially in times of need.


6 thoughts on “Our Haus on the Hill

  1. I enjoyed Christmas lunch in your haus. And I have a treasured photo taken by Denis of me riding my motorbike down the slope leading to the haus. I remember Casper holding a party for his wantoks and inviting all of us who lived in the flats. I went and got gloriously drunk on warm beer. I found out later that the invite had been a courtesy and I wasn’t expected to go. But I was made very welcome. They called me liklik masta because I was so young and skinny.

    • Now which photo would that be, I wonder? Denis used to go to a few of the wantok parties in an attempt to understand the rules in their card game but he never did figure them out. Money used to change hands at a rapid-fire pace around the players as the cards were being dealt but just why was a total mystery.

    • Thanks Sue. The photos of Vanessa in PNG are the most treasured I have from those days and I know she thoroughly enjoyed her childhood years in Port Moresby. This one is a particular favourite.

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