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The Point Marianne Temple of Doom, Diego Garcia Atoll

Every time I went to Diego Garcia, everyone talked about the "Plantation", and how to get there, and what had occurred there, etc., etc.  If I'd had a taxicab, I could have made a mint just driving people from downtown to the manor house.

But the really interesting place was the area around Point Marianne.  This was the site of one of the three plantations that had been on the island historically (the others being at East Point and Mini-Mini).  There were, of course, significant ruins at East Point, but Mini-Mini was pretty well overgrown, and until recently, the road to up the east arm was overgrown and impassible.  Therefore, Point Marianne was very special, for a number of reasons:

Takamaka Forest, Point Marianne Diego Garcia

1.  It was the site of one of the few groves of native broadleaf trees  - on the island.  The photo to the left is looking up into the canopy.  It was a real jungle in there.  Not like the coconut groves or scaviola brush which covered the rest of the island.  It was the bug-crawling, creepy kind of jungle, and there was always a rustling noise just out of sight in the understory.  The fact that it was just the land crabs moving around took nothing away from the eerieness of Point Marianne.   You felt if you fell down, they would spring on you as quickly as any leopard lurking in the dark.  The ironwood trees had trunks maybe 10 feet in diameter at breast height, and must have been a couple hundred years old.  Considering that the first thing the French colonists did upon arrival in the 1780's was to cut down the jungle, ship the wood to Mauritius, and replant the island with coconuts, the very existance of the trees shows an esthetic unexpected from slave-owning plantantion owners in the 18th century.

2.  A contingent of Punjabi soldiers (Moslems) had been stationed there during WWII, and several had died and were buried in the cemetary.  The cemetary, which contained a hundred or so graves, mostly unmarked, and mostly of the Ilios Islanders, is located in a field just east of the south end of the main runway.  The cemetary was clearly visible from the road running to the south end of the island.  On various occassions, some charitable group had cleaned up the cemetary, and it was specifically spared the bull-dozers blade during the buildup of the airfield.  Still, it is always sad to note the grave of a young man who died thousands of miles from home in the service of his Empire.

3.  There were a whole lot of buildings, made mostly of carved coral rock which were completely, and I mean completely covered by the jungle.  Here's a photo of a jail (there was also a jail at the East Point Plantation site), but its barely discernable beneath the vines and creepers.

4.  Point Marianne was readily accessible by anyone with a bicycle (everybody had those), being only about five miles from downtown.  Yet, few even knew of its existance.  On the east side of the "Cracked Crab Highway" was a virtual wall of weeds and brush, and there was only an old jeep trail leading into the bushes, and that trail had a chain accross it, so you couldn't drive in.  Bicyclists just kept going down to the beaches beyond the airfield, and to the best of my knowledge, the three or four times I went into the area were the only times anyone went in during the year I was out there.

5.  There was a building in there that looked like it could be a Temple of Doom straight out of a Conan movie.  Here it is:


The best thing about Pt. Marianne was that Commander Drummond, the Brit Rep, put the chain accross the old jeep track because of a joke we played on him.  Commander Drummond really was a nice guy, but he was a Royal Navy Intelligence officer, whose main goal was to spy on the doings of the US Navy and Air Force, as we moved around and through his island.  He had absolutely no sense of humor in the American sense (had a great upper-crust Brit sense, but not the really extravagant sense we did).

     Any way, the officer's mess was the scene of all the "formal" parties on the island, and for Halloween, 1987, they sponsored a costume party.  Now, where is anyone going to come up with a costume on Diego Garcia?  The nearest retail store is 900 km away!  So, everybody just decided to wear whatever they had that was relatively outrageous.  The medical folks were the only really inventive ones; they did a "MASH" thing complete with a camoflauge net and IV bags full of vodka, etc.  Most of us were left to wearing each others' clothes - Navy folks would borrow an Air Force shirt, and visa versa.  Of course, there was Tang, the filippino who worked in supply who was a transvestite cross dresser, but his appearance in drag wasn't what the rest of us considered "in costume."

     Well, while us GIs and Swabbies made do, Cmdr. Drummond had his mess man (an RN assigned as his enlisted aide and cook) make him a pirate costume.  I've no idea where he got the material, but the Commander came with a Captain Bligh hat, eye patch, vest, sash, and fake cutlass.

     We were all pretty much toast by the time the Commander came in, and he immediately felt out of place, because 1) He was sober, 2) He was the only one in a real costume and probably understood why none of us had one on and he felt guilty at having servants, and/or 3) We were all joking, and he was really uncomfortable with American humor.

     I was sitting between Commander Paul, the Head Chaplain, who happened to be a Baptist, but could enjoy himself in the O'Club bar with the best of us, and the Dental Officer, who's name now escapes me.  Anyway, Commander Drummond sat down a couple of bar stools down from the Dentist, and continued to look uncomfortable.  So, I asked the Dentist to play along (the medicos are always good at fitting into practical jokesterisms), and off we went.

Me:  Doc, do have access to any dental surgical tools after hours?
Doc:  Sure, why?
Me:  Well, tonight's Halloween, and we've captured this donkey.  At midnight, we're going to sacrifice it at the Temple of Doom down at Point Marianne, and bring the head here to the bar and hang it up there (pointing appropriately), and nail the asshole to the wall over there (on the other side of the room).
Doc:  Oh, why didn't you tell me sooner.  I'll have to go back to the room and get the key to the clinic, but I can meet you guys up there.

At this, Commander Drummond became visibly agitated.  You could tell, because he began stroking his beard and mustache when he was paying attention to something, but trying to look like he wasn't listening.  He wasn't a very good spy, because you knew when he was trying to tune in - he'd start the facial stroking.  As the Dentist and I went on and on, Commander Drummond practically rubbed his chin raw.

All this time, Chaplain Paul just kind of sat there next to us, nursing the one drink he permitted himself in an evening.  Finally, just as we thought we had run out of new directions to go with the sacrificial thing, Chaplain Paul stands up, chugs what's left in the glass, and says, "Well, I've got to get moving if I'm going to get my vestments and get down to Point Marianne in time to officiate at the sacrifice."

You could have knocked the Dentist and me down with a feather, and it was all we could do to keep form laughing out loud and ruining the joke.  Of course, the Chaplain is probably going to hell now because joining in on a joke like that must be along the lines of having a collection of Black Sabbath Records, and I know that's a ticket straight on down!  But it was the perfect punch line, and really got the beard pulling going.

Halloween that year fell on a Monday, and most everone else had to get up and go to work, but for some reason a couple of us didn't, and so we hung around until after midnight in a corner, getting more and more shitfaced.

And all night, Commander Drummond sat up there at the bar by himself, and didn't leave until about 1 a.m., when he was sure we weren't going down to the Temple of Doom to sacrifice one of the Queen's donkeys.  But the next day, the ROPOs were down there putting that little chain across the jeep track.

 I've heard that they've cleared the vines and creepers away in 2002.  Kind of as a side-project of the construction of Camp Justice.
Kind of ruins the mood, don't you think?

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