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Sogeri Road: Sapphire Mine

Map showing the Sogeri Road, around Bluff Inn and Sapphire Mine.
click to enlarge map

The Sogeri Road runs close to the Laloki River at this point, between the twin spurs of Hombrum Bluff and Varirata, passing the popular drinking hole, the Bluff Inn, on the left. I used to road-cruise from Port Moresby to the Bluff in the evening during the 1990s, stop for a meal and a couple of drinks, and then road-cruise back to town. I rarely failed to bag a python or a treesnake, or something, but these days, with increased vehicle traffic and building along the road, fewer live snakes are seen.

Humbrom Bluff from "The Bluff Inn".
Varirata Plateau from "The Bluff Inn".

A little further, on the right, can be seen the old tin smelter's works, set on the kunai-grass slopes a few hundred metres from the road. Known as the Sapphire Mine after a nearby creek, this group of workings has also been called Errol Flynn's Tin Mine. Local folklore claims he worked the mine in the 1930s but although he was certainly in New Guinea around that time (he was arrested for brawling in Rabaul, East New Britain), there is no evidence to suggest he owned or worked this mine. Still, it is a nice story.

In 1986 and during the 1990s I used to visit the Sapphire Mine to search for taipan and release any carpet pythons I had captured on the roads around Port Moresby. There was a healthy population in the metalwork of the workings and on one occasion I had found six carpets together. I even filmed there during the Green Blood episode of O'Shea's Big Adventure. Today the main workings have been dismantled and sold for scrap and there is little to show it ever existed, a piece of history gone like so many others. The second part of the workings are still present, as are some deep and hidden mineshafts so care is required, but these never produced any snakes and were not all that exciting this visit either.

The Sapphire Mine or Errol Flynn's Tin Mine, main workings in 1994,
now dismantled and disappeared but then home to many pythons.
The second part of the workings, in 1994 but still in existance.

Searching the area where the dismantled mine had once stood produced the usual suspects, the Eastern bicarinate four-fingerd skin (Carlia bicarinata) and the Pelagic gecko (Nactus cf. pelagicus).

click on an image to enlarge
Pelagic gecko, Nactus cf. pelagicus
Eastern bicarinate four-fingered skink, Carlia bicarinata