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The Rock-itt : June 2010
HOBART TO HOLLYWOOD If you read our last instalment of "Hobart To Hollywood" you will know that it is 1928 and Errol is aboard a schooner called "Matupi" and heading up the New Guinea coast to the port of "Aitape" where he hopes to make his fortune. Unlike Edie Creek, this time he has certain options. Ed Bowen, owner of Matupi has told Errol that gold can be found inland from Aitape and if he doesn't succeed with that he can do a bit of Black Birding, (recruiting slave labour) for the plantations. There is also the Bird of Paradise, a magnificent exotic bird worth a fortune to the fashion houses of the world with its colourful feathers used for adorning women's hats. They breed in abundance near the Dutch New Guinea border. If he manages to get enough of those it will be just as rewarding as a gold strike. Errol is determined to strike it rich one way or another and erase the bitter disappointment of Edie Creek from his mind. On arriving, Errol found Aitape slightly disappointing. Unlike the areas in Papua New Guinea which he had been in previously with their blue lagoons and rich tropical lushness, Aitape was rather drab, mundane and unimpressive. Making a decision to go in search for the Bird of Paradise rather than start again prospecting for gold, he arranged a small safari consisting of seven Kanakas who would carry the provisions needed for the trip in back packs. Arming the party with guns and ammunition, they trekked inland and headed toward the Dutch New Guinea border. After tramping for quite a while into the interior the feint sound of the Bird of Paradise could be heard off in the distance but as they closed in the sound became louder and soon it was so loud that all other sounds were drowned out by the shrill of hundreds of the magnificent coloured bird. Errol organised his men so as some were shooters, others would fetch the carcasses and who was left would preserve the birds in a concoction made up of salt so they could be transported back without decaying in the high New Guinea humidity. Errol was dicing with danger and he knew it. The authorities were onto him and he was being pursued by a district officer but he continued to stay just one step of his pursuer and continued to hunt although he knew it was illegal. The sound of the guns thundered repeatedly as the birds were picked off from the skies. But there was also another dull thumping beat in the air as the drums of the natives sent their message that a white man had come into their territory to steal their birds. The message was relayed from village to village and whether Errol realised it or not at the time, as each bird fell to the ground, danger was also closing in on him and his men. It was on one occasion when Errol took his safari into the interior that his luck finally ran out. As the party trekked along a jungle path Errol's little valet, a young boy who had taken up the role of his personal aid was speared through the stomach and fell to the ground dead. They were under attack with spears flying through the air from the fringes of the foliage. Another of Errol's men was speared through the neck and he also died. Errol was also hit, a spear burying itself in his ankle as the rest of the Kanakas dropped their back packs and fled down the path. Errol pulled the spear from his ankle and squeezed off a shot from his revolver, hitting his attacker in the throat and killing him. Errol set off after the rest of his party, in dreadful pain as his wounded foot oozed blood. Eventually Errol caught up with the rest who had stopped to get their breath back in a small clearing. Errol decided that they would take a chance and rest over night. The drums beat monotonously and it was a terrifying long wait for sunrise before they could set off again and make a run for the coast.