Kokoda Track - My Journal Of Our Trek
Posted 19 December 2004 - 02:00 PM
After walking through thick rainforest, we arrive at Eora Creek at 11.30am.
On a rock on the northern side of the creek is a plaque with the following inscription:
23rd Australian Infantry Battalion AMF
Kokoda Trail Campaign
Commemorating the capture of Templetons Crossing
Templetons Crossing a trail of strength
The Japanese with Benji yells
Could not dislodge this gallant force
As history writers tell
Dedicated to our fallen comrades and men of the 3rd infantry battalion AMK
All gallant fighters
Captain Bede & GD Tongs MM
President 3rd Infantry B Asson
The creek is extremely swollen and flowing swiftly. The locals say it is around 3 times its normal size. The bridge is washed out so the boys set about felling trees and cutting logs for a makeshift crossing. The trees and logs are lashed together with vines and placed from rock to rock to form a 'bridge'.
Posted 19 December 2004 - 07:16 PM
After a short steep climb past deep weapon pits and we arrived at the campsite, which has a corrugated iron and thatched roof shelter.
Our campsite affords a bird?s eye view of Eora Creek and it is a boiling, white body of water smashing its way through the rocks.
It is still raining! Tonight I spare a thought for the Australian soldiers that endured these conditions, wet and cold, avoiding the enemy. In contrast I have enjoyed a hot meal (tomato and onion omelette, rice, pasta and beef) and I am dry in a warm tent.
James found quite a few .303 cartridges while digging a trench around our tent. He is enjoying himself and has a good rapport with Eric and the boys.
A plaque at this campsite fittingly concludes with the following sentence:
'The crashing haunting noise of the fast flowing creek below brings vividly to mind the turmoil of battle and the men who fought here so long ago.'
Author John McRae seen here crossing Eora Creek:
Posted 19 December 2004 - 07:19 PM
Delayed start today at 8.00am due to torrential rain over night and the need to let Eora Creek subside before we make a second crossing further along the track.
From our Eora Creek campsite, the track rises steeply and it is a punishing climb to the top. The morning's walk has been through dense, dark rainforest - real jungle!
Posted 19 December 2004 - 07:22 PM
Beautiful sunshine has accompanied us on this stretch and we have made good time arriving at Templeton's Crossing No. 2 at 10.00am.
At 1.00pm, we arrive at Templeton's Crossing No. 1 on Eora Creek. The boys set about constructing a bridge made of logs lashed together with vines and a single rope to provide balance as you cross. It is quite challenging to make the crossing in bare feet. The boys make it look easy. Davidson with a carefree smile literally dances across the bridge carrying a heavy pack on his shoulders, two machetes, an axe and drink container in one hand and four walking sticks in the other.
Photograph: Author John McRae and son James McRae waiting at the side of the river waiting to cross over:
Posted 19 December 2004 - 07:24 PM
From Eora Creek it is another steep climb to Kokoda Gap where you capture a spectacular view of the valley. Looking up however you can only see mountains covered in mist - 'mountains with no tops' as we have come to call them.
The Kokoda Gap is on the boundary between Kokoda and Central Province, so it is a significant milestone for some of the boys who are from Central. To the boys delight, they are able to listen to their transistor radio at Kokoda Gap.
Soon after passing through Kokoda Gap we summit Mt Bellamy. After dropping down the other side, a long but easy walk, we make our way across a log bridge and set up camp by a small stream.
James has arrived ahead of me. 'oro, oro, oro' he yells in greeting ('welcome'). It is a small campsite with two other groups so it is crowded. Approximately 50 people will stay the night at this location.
Posted 19 December 2004 - 08:23 PM
James has a beaming smile on his face. Rick and Russ who are at the same campsite have given him a bar of chocolate from their army ration pack.
Rick and Russ are a couple fireman from Perth walking the track for the first time. Rick has some military background, has worked in Bougainville and has a good knowledge of local issues and history.
He is very impressed with the high level of enthusiasm shown by James and says it's a long time since he has seen a 14 year old with such spirit. James energy levels, unrelenting interest in the history of the Track, willingness to talk to adults and desire to learn pidgin have left an impression on him.
Dinner is late tonight as the wood is damp. At 8.30pm when we finally eat (rice and braised beef), I am starving.
I had a brief chat with one of the porters before turning in. He told me he was married, lived at Kokoda and had one son, Richard, aged one year. His marriage was arranged by the respective families and as is the custom, he had to pay a 'bride price' or dowry to his wife's parents - in his case five pigs and Kina 2100. He hopes Richard will pursue his education so that he is able to work 'away' from Kokoda - as it is hard to make money in Kokoda.
My son James McRae crossing over Eoro Creek:
Posted 19 December 2004 - 08:26 PM
6.00am, dawn is breaking and the campsite is a hive of activity. Wood is being chopped, walkers are tying their bootlaces, breakfast is being cooked over fires and sleepy souls are emerging from their tents one by one. Others are making their way to the creek to wash and there is a lot of packing going on. Some of the porters are chewing beetle nut in preparation for an early departure. Music infused with static can be heard from the transistor.
The boys set a couple of lines in the creek overnight hoping to catch an eel. One of the lines has been broken by a large eel they believe. A small fish is on the other line and is promptly fried up for breakfast.
James' hand, which reacted to the touch of stinging leaves the previous day has settled down.
The weather is clear with no rain overnight, and I am looking forward to a good day on the track.
Not far beyond the campsite is a huge Pandanas tree, apparently the biggest on the track. The Pandanas tree or palm has an unusual root structure, with a series of buttress roots growing out of the trunk like the ribs of an inverted umbrella. The tree stands 40-50 metres high with the roots growing out from the trunk to a height of around 15 metres.
Posted 19 December 2004 - 08:28 PM
After a short climb, we come to the Myola Kagi track junction marked by the propeller of an American plane. A great photo opportunity.
Eric Uwea our guide with four of the Polley Family seen here at Myola Junction:
Posted 19 December 2004 - 08:53 PM
At Naduri, we also have the privilege of meeting Ovoru Idivki a very elderly gentleman who was a carrier for the Australian troops in 1942. He walks with the assistance of two sticks and is stooped to the point of being almost bent in two.
In the words of one of the men in Naduli village:
Ovoru in the war of 1942. He was a carrier. He carry white man to Port Moresby and come back.
This man is apparently the last 'fuzzy wuzzy angel' living on the track. For the sum of Kina 10, he permits you to take his photo, an offer James and I readily accept. The money is given to his sons in Port Moresby to buy him medicine.
Our guide Eric Uwea seen here doubled up with packs, one at the front and one at the back to help out a trekker who was struggling:
Posted 19 December 2004 - 09:00 PM
It is a really tough climb in the hot sun. At times I find myself holding my walking stick only 40 cm above its point as I stab the ground above my shoulder to purchase support and leverage for the next step up the hill.
Part way up, James swaps his day back for a full sized pack as Sarita is having difficulty due to sore knees and ankles. This wins him praise from the other walkers and the boys. 'You fit man' they tell him.
Sarita leading the way along the Kokoda Track as seen here in this photograph:
Posted 19 December 2004 - 09:04 PM
A short walk takes us to Efogi where we are led to a guesthouse on the airstrip side of the village. It consists of two fibro buildings for sleeping, a thatched roof dining area and thatched kitchen. There is an outdoor shower and toilets. We have a clear view towards Brigade Hill. The table in the dining hut has bowls of fruit spread from one end to the other and is decorated with many small red flowers.
Pillows are handed out to each person. True luxury in comparison to our bush camp the night before.
Landy Noel's Efogi Guesthouse:
Posted 19 December 2004 - 09:07 PM
Efogi has a small museum full of war relics including mortars, ammunition, grenades, guns, bayonets, helmets and some fragments of human bones!
Through talking to the boys, I discover that a wild pig is being cooked in a traditional way near our guesthouse. Looking into the grass which stands two metres high I can see smoke rising. One of the locals has just cut some banana leaves with his bush knife, which he has taken into the grass near the smoke. At regular intervals, the sound of dogs barking, snapping and growling at each other can be heard.
Davidson walks with me into the grass to show me the ?mumu?. The pig's legs have been wrapped in banana leaves and are being cooked on a bed of hot rocks. There must be six or seven dogs hovering and hoping for a morsel of pork.
Davidson is second in charge to Eric. A man with a kind and gentle personality, who is extraordinarily fit, athletic and efficient in his job. Every time the dogs have a fight he yells softly 'peace, peace, peace'.
Although Davidson tells me that the pork is not for us as it is not in Eric's trip budget, I enquire into the cost and cut a deal for 3 legs, enough for all the walkers and the boys. The cost is Kina 45 (approximately A$23).
Everyone is delighted at the thought of eating meat, particularly the boys who love pork. The boys put the finishing touches on the cooking by cutting the pork into small pieces and frying it with onion.
Posted 19 December 2004 - 09:09 PM
Pillows, pork and port at Efogi - what more could you ask for on the Kokoda Track.
Efogi Guesthouse Dining Room:
Posted 19 December 2004 - 09:13 PM
Today has been approached at a relaxed pace with an 8.00 am departure. Only 4 hours walking although the track is punctuated with some steep climbs and log bridge crossings.
Soon after leaving Efogi we reach the summit of Brigade Hill. One of the porters, John, offers me a mandarin (and no one else in the group) which I take to be a gesture of thanks for the pork I bought the previous evening.
Brigade Hill is a steep pimple on top of the range and it is easy to see why tactically the Australians attempted to hold the line against the Japanese at this point.
Posted 19 December 2004 - 09:17 PM
Manmeri I stori long ol wanem samting ol soldia
I bin mekin, em I olsem ol soldia I stap lait yet tasol
They are not dead not even broken;
Only the dust has gone back home to earth;
For they; the essential they; shall have rebirth
Whenever a word of them is spoken
This hill on which you walk was the site where one thousand Australians temporarily held back a much larger Japanese force advancing toward Port Moresby. In bitter fighting, men of both sides died. Today only their dust and the memories of their sacrifices remain.
Plaque on Brigade Hill:
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