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Kokoda Track - My Journal Of Our Trek


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#31 aussie

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Posted 19 December 2004 - 09:19 PM

We caught up with Rick and Russ on top of the hill and reflected on the appalling treatment of the Australian soldiers by MacArthur and Blamey.

Whilst the role of the United States was key to the outcome of WW II, on the home front it wasn?t all 'beer and skittles' as far as the Aussies were concerned.

There was considerable rivalry between the Australian and American troops.  The American troops were better paid and able to live more lavishly and comfortably than the local Australians.

Rick made reference to the 'Battle of Brisbane', an event I had no knowledge of.

In Rick's words many Australian soldiers had returned from hard physical combat in the Middle East, to find Brisbane overrun with American soldiers and to discover they were not home to stay, but being sent onto New Guinea.

'Don't worry Digger we'll look after your women' were the words and sentiment expressed by the American troops.

On Thanksgiving Day, November 1942 the smouldering animosity between the two forces ignited, and for two days up to 2,000 American and Australian troops fought viciously in the streets of Brisbane.

One Australian was killed by a shot gun blast, and according to Rick 'two American soldiers were bayoneted'.

Brigade Hill:

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#32 aussie

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Posted 19 December 2004 - 09:24 PM

At 12.30pm we arrive at Menari Village for lunch, a healthy mix of corn, cucumber, pineapple, paw paw, curry nuts, peanuts, tomatoes, mandarins (all grown locally) and dry biscuits.  Curry nuts are a new food experience.  They are almond in shape, though much larger and have the same texture as the flesh of a coconut.  Their subtle curry flavour makes them quite moorish.

We decide to stay at Menari for the night.

Like all villages the houses are built on stilts.  On a layer of stones and ashes, fires burn in most houses on the bamboo and wooden floors, with no resulting fire damage to the dwellings.

In the afternoon, we play cricket with the children in the village square.  A few bush sticks are hammered into the earth for wickets and a small branch, 1 metre long and 3cm in diameter is used as a bat.  Many of the children show remarkable hand eye co-ordination and skill, belting the ball on the half volley over the top of houses or playing cover drivers of up to 80 metres.

A young lad also entertains us with his marksmanship.  With his sling shot, he is able to consistently hit the base of a Coke can at 30 metres.

At 5.30pm the bell rings and the village people make their way to church.  Most of the villages on the Kokoda Track are of the Seventh Day Adventist faith and Saturday is their Sabbath.  Out of respect for their beliefs, we are asked to be quiet in the village(s) from Friday night to Saturday.

Although one outcome of the work of the Christian missionaries has been the loss of traditional native culture, the religious services do show case their beautiful singing voices.  For long after the service, the children sing like angels near our guesthouse.

Close to dark, a group of around 12 adults and teenagers stagger into the village looking completely exhausted.  It is the expedition of students, teachers and fathers from Shore.  James has a yarn with one of his former teachers.  

Apparently they had not planned on a 15km walk into Owers' Corner and had done several 12 hour days to make up time.

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#33 aussie

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Posted 19 December 2004 - 09:28 PM

SATURDAY, 3 JULY 2004 - NAURO VILLAGE

At 5.30am, a single gong rings across the village, signalling the imminent start of the morning church service.

An aggressive but brief dogfight follows.  The sounds or roosters, cockle doodle do-ing back and forth like an echo across the valley, the muffled voices of the boys getting the fire started, the mother hen and her 3 day old chicks scratching and chirping under the guest house and music coming from the transistor radio - all suggest it is time to rise.

All the village houses have fires alight and a lot of smoke hangs in the air.
As dawn breaks, I contemplate another day, another morning hill climb, and several more creek crossings.

We have an early lunch on a river and enjoy some baked flour  (or damper) cooked 'mumu' style in large broad leaves in the coals of the fire.  It has the consistency of a pudding and is delicious.

After further walking through flat swampy country (also called the 'mud cake' by the porters) we start up the 11 false peaks of Maguli Range and arrive at the village of Nauro (12.30pm).  James is first in.  The boys congratulate him with 'you fit man'.  We will camp here for the night.

Following a cold refreshing wash in the creek, we enjoy a rest and lazy afternoon, where we chat to the children and visit the village school.

James and some of the teachers in our group organise games with the children - 'Duck and Goose?]', 'Whats the Time Mr Wolf' and 'Simon Says'.  There is much laughter and fun.

In the evening, a welcome concert is performed by the village children (approximately 15) led by their teacher.  The children present us with flowers at the end of the concert and we chat with their parents.  They politely shake hands and walk back up the steep hill to their houses in pitch-black darkness.

Someone pulls out a pack of marshmallows, which we toast on the fire in true Aussie tradition.  Our longest day awaits us tomorrow so we are turning in early (8.00pm).

Lunch table at Menari Village:

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#34 aussie

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Posted 19 December 2004 - 09:33 PM

SUNDAY, 4 JULY 2004 - UBERI VILLAGE (NEAR GOLDIE RIVER)

The boys are up at 3.00am preparing for the early start.  Today is our biggest day on the track.  We will climb the remainder of the Maguli Range and its many false peaks, Ioribaiwa Ridge and Imita Ridge.

At 6.00am we set off.  Many of the Nauro people are on the track to farewell us, including the school teacher.  It is a small and seemingly poor village of happy, friendly people.

More river crossings - Nauro Creek:

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#35 aussie

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Posted 19 December 2004 - 09:36 PM

At the top of the Maguli Range we take in a panoramic view of Nauro, the valley and surrounding mountains.

Everyone enjoys a well-earned break at Ofi Creek before we take on the challenge of Ioribaiwa Ridge.

On our descent from the Ridge, where there are many weapon pits, we pick up a view of Imita Ridge and can clearly see Imita Gap.  At Ua-Ule Creek we stop for lunch (12.30pm), feeling tired!  James is last in with some of the porters, having stopped for a bath at Ofi Creek.

For the next 45 mins of walking, we cross the creek at least 16 times, and for some stretches walk through the creek bed.  I started off trying to rock hop each crossing but soon realised that walking through the water, boots and all, was the safest and quickest way to proceed.

Smiling children of Nauro Village with their gifts from various trekkers:

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#36 aussie

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Posted 19 December 2004 - 09:39 PM

Imita Range is a steep and challenging climb.  Despite the slow pace of his walk in the morning, James leads the entire group and is first to the Gap, followed by myself and a porter, Rod.

It is a great feeling of achievement (and relief) to be at the top of this ridge which is regarded by many of the porters to be the toughest climb on the Track.  

Everyone is cheered and given a round of applause as they reach the top.
There are many weapon pits at Imita Gap.

James taking time out for a dip in the creek to cool off:

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#37 aussie

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Posted 19 December 2004 - 09:41 PM

Walking for another 1' hours, we finally reach our campsite, which is situated on a stream between the Goldie River and the site of the former village of Uberi, at around 5.00pm.  The site is crowded with other groups who are walking in a northerly direction.  It is their first night on the track and they all look very fresh and are naively enthusiastic about what lies ahead.  We must have looked the same.

The boys soon clear a good spot for us with their bush knives, cutting away fallen trees and grass.  They quickly get the fires going and help us erect our tents.  I have no doubt they also feel very tired as it has been a long walk for them with heavy loads.

Dinner is prepared while we wash in the creek.  Everyone is exhausted and most turn in at 8.00pm so much for the last night party!

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#38 aussie

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Posted 19 December 2004 - 09:42 PM

The humidity is extreme at this bush camp and you can almost feel your clothes rotting on your back.  During the evening, I am bitten by several leeches and our tent is like a sauna.

I am feeling slightly charged from the walk and have stayed up talking to the boys.  They teach me how to cook damper in bamboo or baked flour in bamboo stick as they call it.

A mixture of flour, water and sugar is prepared.  Bamboo is cut to size and if required the divider in the stem is broken with a stick to create a longer and larger cavity.  The dough is spooned into the bamboo and the end is sealed with leaves tied with thin, strong vines.  The bamboo is placed in the coals of the fire and turned regularly.

After cooking, the damper can be eaten immediately or carried in the bamboo stick for consumption at a later time.

Before eating, the bamboo is split vertically along its stem with a bush knife and a perfect roll of cooked damper can be lifted from the bamboo baking tin.  Slice and eat (which we did and it was delicious).

Apparently a ready mixed chocolate cake is also a winner when cooked in this way.

Traditionally meat and vegetables were cooked like this and carried in the bamboo by the natives.

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#39 aussie

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Posted 19 December 2004 - 09:46 PM

MONDAY, 5 JULY 2004 - PORT MORESBY

Our last day on the track.

We are up at 5.00am hoping to enjoy an early start.

The boys cook some dry bake flour in the frying pan over the fire using the dough left over from the bamboo cooking the previous evening.

We depart at 7.30am and after about 45 minutes reach Goldie River.  Boots off and we wade through the waist deep, fast flowing water.

From here it is a one hour steep climb to Ower's Corner.  There is great jubilation, cheering and handshaking as we reach the memorial at the top of the hill - the official end to our expedition on the Kokoda Track.  Once again James is first to the top of the range at Ower's Corner.

Goldie River:

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#40 aussie

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Posted 19 December 2004 - 09:49 PM

From the memorial at Ower's Corner:

"Kokoda Memorial Arch"

The memorial symbolises the strength and the fortitude of the Australian and Papuan soldiers who served in the Kokoda campaign of 1942.  The six vertical steel columns stand for the six states and territories of the Australian Commonwealth.  

The steel struts linking the vertical columns are representative of the vital support given the Australians by the Papuan soldiers; and the National Carriers who were affectionately known as the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels.  The profile of the memorial is sculptured to blend with the contours of the Owens Stanley Range beyond.

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#41 aussie

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Posted 19 December 2004 - 09:50 PM

The Kokoda campaign was from 23 July 1942 until 13 November 1942.

We have conquered the Track, but still have another 5km or more to walk to a pick up point for a 4WD vehicle due to the state of the road.

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#42 aussie

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Posted 19 December 2004 - 09:51 PM

Our group at Ower's Corner:

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#43 aussie

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Posted 19 December 2004 - 09:53 PM

Our guardian angels who helped get us home, the boys from Kokoda:

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#44 aussie

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Posted 19 December 2004 - 09:54 PM

At the bus pick up point, we enjoy fresh bananas, a can of soft drink, Anzac biscuits and sandwiches of tinned corned beef.  From here it is a one hour drive to the main road and a further 40km to Port Moresby.

We stop at the beautifully kept Bomana War Cemetery on the outskirts of Port Moresby.

The sight of more than 3,500 white head stones is a sobering reminder of the tragedy of war  valour, courage and lost lives.  At the cemetery, the youngest person buried is aged 16 years, there are two VCs, one of which is Private Bruce Kingsley and the graves of two women.

Bomana War Cemetery situated on the outskirts of Port Moresby and on the way back in from Ower's Corner:

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#45 aussie

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Posted 19 December 2004 - 09:58 PM

Last night we shouted our porters a meal at the Gateway Hotel.  All 31 of the group were able to attend plus Russell and Gail, the company owners.  Speeches were made and certificates presented.  The boys sang a number of their songs, accompanied on guitar by Davidson.  They have magnificent voices.

Myself and James having just been presented with our 'Certificate of Achievements' from our successful trek:

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