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Walk To The Apng Crash Site By Lady Carol Kidu And Family Members


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#16 Gail Thomas

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Posted 16 August 2010 - 08:21 AM

Walking sticks were specially carved and given to the Lady Kidu, Peter Allen and the relatives to help them achieve their dream of reaching the crash site.  They knew it was going to be a tough walk but they battled on and reached Haila Village.

It was a tough walk for Lady Carol Kidu.  She laughed as she told me she was pulled from the front and pushed from the back at some stages but hey she toughed it out and completed her walk so full credit to her.

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#17 Gail Thomas

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Posted 16 August 2010 - 08:27 AM

The people of Haila Village greeted their guests with such honour and shared their humble homes with them.  Our group carried with them tents but the people of the village gave up their homes and allowed them to sleep inside.  All the group were touched by this and it was mentioned a couple of times.  The people of the village sang to them along with their children.  As a mark of sorrow black marks were painted onto their faces.

Once again, the village put on a feast for them so no-one on this walk went hungry.

Following tradition, Lady Carol Kidu and ourselves arranged for food to be carried to the village in the form of a thank you for their help in helping to clear the crash site and for taking care of the area.  The people of the village feel that is their responsibility and have planted flowers and other shrubs.  I am led to believe they suggested to relatives to pick some plants and take with them to plant at the crash site in honour of their loved ones.

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#18 Gail Thomas

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Posted 16 August 2010 - 08:34 AM

The following morning after breakfast the group made their way up the mountain to the crash site where they planted their plants and erected a plaque which stated all the names of those killed in the Airlines PNG flight on the 11th August 2009.

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#19 Gail Thomas

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Posted 16 August 2010 - 08:49 AM

John Derick Eroro walked with a black headband in memory of his late brother Kingsley.  Dominic and him both reflected at the crash site.  John and other family members have often made this walk.  Kingsley's son Emmanuel walked from their family block on the 11th August up and back in respect of his father.  Some children have written letters and placed at the area where they found Kingsley.  In their culture, all males on their fathers side are referred to as Daddy.  Only on their mothers side are Uncles/cousins referred to in this manner.

All men are considered brothers like they belong to one big family.

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#20 Gail Thomas

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Posted 16 August 2010 - 08:56 AM

On the afternoon of the 11th August the group made their way down off the mountain back to Kanadara Village where we had our vehicle waiting for them.  They looked happy as they had accomplished what they set out to do.  Whilst waiting for their return, the people of Kanadara Village were rehearsing their sing sing welcome.

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#21 Gail Thomas

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Posted 16 August 2010 - 09:03 AM

Suddenly a runner appeared who it turned out was the brother of the councillor Paul Esiko by the name of Jonathan.  He informed everyone that they were only a few minutes away.  Quickly everyone got into position to welcome them all off the mountain.  A chair was placed inside the welcome area where Lady Carol Kidu was expected to sit so she could be hoisted in the air and carried into their village welcoming area.  The excitement in the air was electric as women and children hurried around waiting to get a glimpse of the party returning off the mountain.

In the distance we could see the group approaching!

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#22 Gail Thomas

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Posted 16 August 2010 - 09:09 AM

The group entered through the prepared entrance and Lady Carol Kidu took her place in the chair provided to her.  She was then hoisted in the air and carried into the village.

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#23 Gail Thomas

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Posted 16 August 2010 - 09:17 AM

We all shared a meal at Kanadara before travelling by road back to Orohaven Kokoda Retreat dropping off one by one John their guide and other porters who gave their time to walk with the group to the crash site.

After another night at Orohaven, the following morning food was shared with the Orokaivan's who walked up to the crash site and helped the people from Haila Village and other areas to clear the area.

Around 10am we all flew back to Port Moresby where representatives from the Australian High Commission welcomed the group.  The charter was arranged by Airlines of PNG on a FOC basis which was appreciated by all.

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#24 Gail Thomas

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Posted 16 August 2010 - 09:23 AM

On behalf of Kokoda Trekking, a big thank you to Dame Carol Kidu and the friends and relatives of the victims of the APNG crash for putting their trust in us to take good care of them and allow the visit to happen as per their wishes.  At times DFAT doubted we could pull it off but we kept re-assuring them we had everything on the ground covered and that all guests would all be treated like royalty.

We are confident they all left PNG knowing they were very special guests indeed and that they will always be WELCOME to return at anytime in the future.  It was naturally a sad time for everyone but also a humbling experience as the PNG people opened up their homes and hearts to them.

Thanks again for choosing Kokoda Trekking as you are all very special us to and to the family of Kingsley Eroro.  May they all rest in peace.

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#25 Boss Meri

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Posted 19 August 2010 - 02:30 PM

Footnote: This afternoon 19th August, 2010 I received the following email from Debra (mother of Kelly), wife of Keith and their son Chris.  

Hi Gail

Really good to have my boy's back home safe and sound.

Keith and Chris were totally overwhelmed with the whole experience and I know it has brought some comfort. I too hope to make the journey to PNG very soon and be able to meet all the wonderful people Keith and Chris are now talking about.

As a mother and a wife I  thank you and Carol from the bottom of my heart  for all you both did to facilitate this journey.

Chris wrote a summary of their experience and I have attached it for you to read, hope you will be able to use it in your article.

Look very much forward to keeping in touch and meeting you very soon.

Warm regards

Deborah

#26 Boss Meri

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Posted 19 August 2010 - 02:31 PM

The summary below was written by Chris.

As we departed Australia to embark on a journey to bring our Kelly home we were apprehensive that we would not have the emotional or physical strength to cope with what lay before us.  Now, upon our return, we sit at home and share with our family and friends the immense warmth, deep respect, hospitality, and support that we received from the people of Papua New Guinea.

On the morning of the 9th of August we flew into Kokoda airstrip and were immediately welcomed into the Oro province by local villagers.  After a very short truck ride to the end of the airstrip we arrived at Orohaven Kokoda Retreat where we were received a traditional welcome with full customary dress and lathes for each of us.  The people of Orohaven welcomed us as family, which for us was the beginning of a very special, unforgettable experience.  That afternoon, the family of the late Kingsley Eroro, (also taken from them in the crash) welcomed us into their home where we were again greeted with full customary dress and a feast of local food.  It was here that Dad and i really felt like we were part of their family.  During our return to Orohaven we stopped at the local school and were once again welcomed with open arms and more wonderful local food, it was unfortunate that the school had been closed down just prior to our visit.

The following morning we were driven to Kanandara Village where our trek began up the mountain.  Our trek leader, John Derrick Eroro (brother of the late Kingsley Eroro) took charge of our group from the very beginning.  John was one of the first people to find the site and has visited it several times since, there is no one more qualified for the job of trek leader.  We were honored to have him lead our group.  The walk itself was the most emotionally and physically draining journey we have ever undertaken.  Our porters, most selflessly supplied to us by Kokoda trekking were, the whole way, acting well above and beyond the call of duty!! They were there for us every step of the way.  Later that afternoon we arrived, exhausted, at Haila Village.  Here, we were again made feel very welcome.  The people of Haila embraced us with tears, kindness and generosity.  Their hospitality that night was most overwhelming.

First thing the next morning John lead the way or the final climb to the site, we found this most difficult.  Not just the terrain, but the emotional attachment to our mission as John called it, and he was right.  Our mission was to get to the crash site and bring the spirits of our loved ones home.  It was not an easy one, but no one had to do this alone, and i realize now, that this was Johns point.  We were in it together and we had each other to lean on.  Without John, the porters from Kokoda Trekking and the people from the villages we would never have handled it on an emotional or physical level. For that we are most grateful, and will hold those memories in our hearts forever.

Walking into the site was the hardest of all.  I doubt that words in any language could come close to capturing the emotional struggle we all faced here.  I would simply like to make special mention of the condition of the general site.  What the people of Haila Village and Orohaven Kokoda Retreat have done to the site is simply breathtaking!  Our family is deeply appreciative of the enormous respect, compassion and effort that has gone into maintaining the site.

The people of Papua New Guinea should be very proud of the people of the Oro province.  We were welcomed as equals, with the most overwhelming sense of respect and compassion.  The people of Orohaven Kokoda Retreat, Kanandara, Felai and Haila Villages opened their homes to us, greated us with endless traditional food, culture, hospitality, and song.  It was a real honour for us to be with them during this difficult time of mourning.

To the family of the late Kingsley Eroro, my family and i look forward to seeing you again.  We consider you family now, and you remain in our thoughts and prayers everyday.  I hope your received some comfort from our brief visit, we certainly did.  The warmth and strength that we received from you all the day before we trekked to the site remained with us the whole way through John Derrrick, and for that shared experience and newfound connection we are eternally grateful.

To Gail Thomas (Boss Meri), Russell Eroro, John Derrick Eroro, and porters from Kokoda Trekking.  Your generosity, compassion and professionalism throughout our time in PNG was overwhelming.  Thank you for organizing and sponsoring the most difficult journey of our lives.  Your attention to detail during the whole trip was second to none, and we look forward to walking the full Kokoda track with you on our next visit.

To the lovely Dame Carol Kidu (Mum), wow what an amazing woman! Thank you so much for sharing your great love and deep respect for the people of PNG.  Your energy and persistence is an inspiration to us all.  You provided this opportunity for us, and made it happen, and for that we are eternally grateful.

To the Australian High Commission and the Australian Federal Police, your attention to detail and level of professionalism during this time, makes me a very proud Australian.  Thank you to all those who were involved in this terrible tragedy, as i acknowledge that this was also a difficult time for you all.  Thank you for your efforts, I am eternally grateful.  A special mention to those of you i was lucky enough to meet, Ian (Aus High Commissioner), John (Ian’s right hand), Ros Grant (AFP), and Steven Hulbert (AFP), your commitment to the welfare of Australians was reflected in your ‘know no boundaries’ approach to go above and beyond for our families.

And Finally, Peter Allen from the Australian High Commission.  We especially appreciate your friendship. You took on a physically and emotionally difficult job coming with us as a complete stranger, and we parted as mates.  We cant thank you enough for your professionalism, respect, compassion and care, it was simply amazing.  You are a credit to the high commission and the Australian people.  Thanks mate.

Chris, Keith and Deborah Weire.




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