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A Banaban Sunrise

Courtesy of Laritz Tours

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A Banban Sunrise: Courtesy of Laritz Tours

by Garry Hawkins, U.K. - Motley Crew Member


Taken from Issue No. 26 of the 'Banaba/Ocean Island News' - July, Aug, Sept '97


Before dawn had broken, Mick Laritz and I made our way down the road from Banaba House.

We turned left at the children’s playground and walked beyond the redundant swimming pool and tennis court. Taking the second bush path on the right, we followed a concrete path, covered in slippery green slime. We went by the old outdoor cinema, now derelict, its projectors smashed. The path wasn't easy to follow in the dark, with only the moonlight far guidance. But Nick knew exactly where he was going. He'd been this way countless times during his childhood days on Banaba.


We reached the old British Phosphate Commissioners (BPC) road and climbed up the steep hill, fighting our way through hundreds of sticky spiders webs. We passed the European, Japanese and Gilbertese Graveyards; they appeared eerily grey, almost menacing in the moonlight. At the bottom of the hill, the rush of the sea was ever-present in our ears. Mick indicated we should take a right turn: a path into the pinnacles. I'd missed the trail completely in the gloom, so a torch came in handy to avoid deep cuts and grazes from the razor-sharp coral.

We soon emerged at a very small sandy beach, which was completely covered by the high tide. By clambering up rocks and some concrete steps, we had finally arrived at the old BPC Weekend Camp. In pre-European days, the Banabans built their traditional terraces here. During the B.P.C. era, employees would book the Camp, and sometimes two families might book together and share the facility. They would bring all the food, drink and even ice they would require for the weekend.

Mick could vividly remember one occasion when he visited the camp with his family. While walking along the pinnacle pathway, he dropped and broke a vacuum flask. This misdemeanour earned Mick a hiding; he could point out the exact place where he had dropped the flask, all those years ago.

Today, the path through the pinnacles is fraught with difficulty. I wondered how families with their children and carrying all that luggage could have managed? Why didn’t someone build a proper path? The answer is simple: the road used to be nearer to the Camp, but it was mined between 1973-9 (after the Laritz family had left the island). Hence, the post (Republic of Kiribati 7979) Independence path weaves its way through the pinnacles.

Sadly the Weekend Camp had burnt down since the halcyon BPC days. Only the concrete foundations were left, the piles taking on a surreal Ancient Greek appearance in the moonlight. With the concrete tables, concrete chairs and the brick barbecue left behind; one could easily imagine a scene from a bygone era.

What of the sunrise! Well, that turned out to be a complete washout. At twenty past six, gaps appeared in the thick grey cloud banks which lay to the East - only the sun didn't emerge through them. We decided to go, as the sunrise was a dead loss. But just before we turned our backs on it, we saw David Corrie whizzing by on an outboard in the distance. He was doing a spot of early morning fishing; it would later make a delicious contribution to our lunch that day: Battered fresh fish, Banaban style, who could ask for more? Well, funnily enough, lots of us did!



Copyright: Garry Hawkins: October 1997

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