Legendary kiap (patrol officer) and Highlands Highway builder Bob Cleland returned to Goroka and Eastern Highlands for the first time since he left in 1976, last Saturday (April 28).
|Bob Cleland is welcomed back to Goroka by Asaro mudmen and other Eastern Highlands dancers.-All pictures by MALUM NALU|
Asaro mudmen and other Eastern Highlands dancers welcomed him back to Goroka, and he was greeted by senior provincial government officials including outgoing provincial administrator MunareUyassi, as blind children from the Mt Sion School for the Blind outside Goroka sang that famous and moving Goroka anthem “Welcome to Goroka”.
|Bob Cleland being presented an Eastern Highlands flag by outgoing provincial administrator Munare Uyassi on Saturday. Cleland was the one who designed the Nokondi motif on this flag.|
His widely-acclaimed book, Big Road, first published in 2010, but not widely on sale yet in PNG, tells the story of the building of the Highlands Highway, particularly the Daulo stretch between Asaro and Watabung in Eastern Highlands in 1953, which he personally supervised as a 22-year-old kiap.
|Bob Cleland on the summit of Daulo Pass, the road he supervised construction of, back in 1953.-|
Big Road describes the initial construction by hand, in 1953 and 1954, of the Daulo section of the road, which runs over the 2,478m Daulo Pass and which gives access westward to the great Waghi Valley.
Cleland, before the Daulo Pass, helped the late Rupert Haviland built part of the road over the Kassam Pass.
The big road was neither designed nor built by engineers but by kiaps, with local villagers using only picks, shovels and thousands of hours of backbreaking labour.
|Bob Cleland points out the panorama of the Asaro Valley from Daulo Pass|
Last Saturday evening, at the Bird of Paradise Hotel, Cleland was special guest at the launching of the 2012 Goroka Show, where his reminisces enthralled the spellbound audience.
His father Donald (later Sir Donald) Cleland, was administrator of Papua New Guinea for 15 years from 1951.
Cleland served 23 years altogether in PNG from 1953-1976.
After Watabung, he was transferred to Kainantu for two years, attended the Australian School of Public Administration (ASOPA) in Sydney, and then served in Daru, Balimo, Lae, Kokopo, Chuave and then ended up in Goroka, where he was executive officer of the Eastern Highlands Area Authority (which became the Eastern Highlands provincial government in 1977) from 1975-1976,
The new authority needed a common seal, and when Cleland asked members what was something traditional covering the whole Eastern Highlands, they quickly decided on Nokondi.
That same image is at the centre of today’s Eastern Highlands provincial flag.
“Those 23 years were the best years of my life,” Cleland told The National in Goroka.
“It was a very rewarding job.
“If you did a job properly, you could see the results.”