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The Kokoda Track Revisited - April 2007 – With Friends


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#16 Boss Meri

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Posted 06 October 2007 - 11:13 AM

We were off at seven on day seven, our destination - the village of New Nauro. We began with a steep climb out of Menari (850m) up to a peak of 1200 metres and then down to the Brown River swamps where we stopped for smoko. We had over-nighted here two years before, and then there was one bush shack for the porters and we camped in a clearing in tents. Now the clearing is five times bigger and there are a number of accommodation facilities.

There were several trekking groups here doing the same thing, some going our way. We decided to move out first because accommodation was a bit light on in New Nauro. Much fun was had crossing Brown River, as we had to cross in chest high water hanging onto either a rope strung across the river, or a porter – or both. Last time we had a log to traverse the deeper section of the river. That has disappeared now.  

We passed a number of new guesthouses between the swamp and the village of Old Nauro which is not used any more. Some of these looked quite comfortable. It was a big climb to New Nauro and we arrived at midday to find that once again we had first choice of the available accommodation. This was in the form of another dormitory, which included the luxury of mattresses.

There was a steep “down” to a creek where one could wash the sweat and toil off. Soon other groups started arriving and by dark it was quite crowded. It started raining late in the afternoon, which made it quite uncomfortable for those in tents or huddled under tarpaulins. We were high and dry in business class, although some minor repairs were made to our grass roof by the porters.

More sing sings ensued after dinner and we were joined by some other trekkers who were entertainment starved. One of these groups consisted of NSW coppers with wives, quite a fit looking group. The village of New Nauro is now deserted. Last time through here it was a large populated village. A mining company has commenced operations not far from here and the whole village has moved to the mining site for employment. I suppose they will return in time but for now it is very empty.

Photographs:

Pic 1:  Menari Village
Pic 2:  Preparing to cross over Nauro River
Pic 3:  Wading across the river
Pic 4:  With the help of our KTL boys

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#17 Boss Meri

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Posted 06 October 2007 - 11:17 AM

We started walking on day eight at six in the morning. We sent two of our food porters off earlier than that in order for them to be first at Ua-ule creek where we knew accommodation to be at a premium and we wanted the guesthouse we stayed in last time. This is the section of the track that climbs up the Maguli Range and the infamous nine false peaks take their toll. It was also to be the muddiest section we had encountered. It had been muddy all the way but this was the worst day.

Once over the ninth peak it was a long way down to Ofi Creek where we stopped for smoko. The last fifty or so metres down to the creek crossing is almost vertical and given the wet conditions underfoot great care was taken. There was coke on sale here, which was a welcome change from Gatorade, although by this stage I had given up on that, I was putting beroccas in my drinking water. It may have been imagination, but the concoction seemed to give you a bit of an energy hit, and it couldn’t do me any harm.

Then we commenced the steep ascent of Ioribaiwa Ridge stopping some of the way up at a village for lunch. From here you could see Imita Ridge, which we were going over tomorrow. This area was the scene of the final stages of the Japanese advance, for it was at Ioribaiwa Ridge the Japanese advance stalled and it was at Imita Ridge the Aussie forces were told by their superiors that there would be no further retreat. There was plenty of evidence of both forces along this part of the track.

Large numbers of Aussie foxholes could be seen where the Aussies were ambushing the still advancing Japanese. Then there were the defensive Japanese trenches surrounding the top of Ioribaiwa Ridge where there is a large clearing. The Japanese were camped here awaiting the final push to Port Moresby. This was where they received the orders to retreat. Also in this clearing is a memorial to a trekker who tragically passed away on the track in August last year.

Another steep descent to Ua-ule Creek followed but before we reached camp there were nine creek crossings to be made. Normally you would remove your boots when fording creeks but doing that nine times is time consuming. It was not yet two in the afternoon, and we would have time to dry them out.

The water was not deep but the rocks are slippery. I crossed about 4 times jumping from rock to rock to get across before going arse over. Others made it further before finally getting their boots wet, but this is folly really. A sprained ankle is not what you need. Even though this was our last night on the track there was still a way to go.

Our forward porters had won the race to secure our accommodation. So, on each of the eight nights, we had achieved our target. On only three nights we had slept in tents and maybe in time to come you may not need to carry tents. We had planned it this way, giving ourselves plenty of time to do the track, thus arriving at each campsite early and more likely, first.

It was two in the afternoon and most headed for the creek to sloth around and kill a few hours. I say most here because not all had arrived. Trekker Ruth had been having knee problems most of the way, slowing her progress, and she was usually a long way behind, today being no exception. She didn’t arrive until around five, some three hours after the main group.

Not once on the trek did Moses, her trusty porter, stray from her side and neither did Ernest, our tour guide. No one was going to get left behind on his watch because he brought up the rear every day. And not once did Ruth’s impediment remove a somewhat exhausted grin from her face. A tough hombre is our Ruth. And each afternoon husband Barry would be there, waiting with a cup of tea on Ruth’s arrival.

Photographs:

Pic 1:  Ruth Bishop with her trusted personal porter who did just about everything he could to get her to Owers' Corner.  I doubt Ruth will ever forget her trek or her porter.  When she got back to Australia she sent him a pair of boots.  He has worn them on every trek since then and looks after them like they are still new.
Pic 2:  Bob's personal porter Wallace Lemeki - even porters need their sleep
Pic 3:  One of the reasons we chose our logo of a trekker and an outstretched hand
Pic 4:  Trekkers relaxing at Ua'Ule Creek Guesthouse

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#18 Boss Meri

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Posted 06 October 2007 - 11:22 AM

The last night was a quiet affair. The rum had run out a few days ago. I think Efogi saw the finish of it. A bit of a sing sing and a bit of a yarn and bedtime.

We were away to an early start on day nine for we had an appointment at Ower’s Corner with a truck that was going to take us back to Moresby. We were not sure if the driver would be able to get all the way to Ower’s Corner as the road is not a good one and with only a bit of rain it becomes impassable. Two years ago we had to walk for three hours on from Ower’s to reach the rendevous. It is a long arduous climb up to Imita Ridge and a few were doing it tough before they reached the summit. We tried radio communication from here to establish a firm rendevous time with our transport but with no success.

The Goldie River crossing presented another opportunity for a swim before the final ascent up to Ower’s Corner – and the finish line. The last up was hard because it was the middle of the day and very hot. A lot of sweat passed through the pores for about an hour. In 2005 we had camped at Goldie River on the last night and handled the ascent with ease at 7 in the morning, the countryside swathed in early morning mist. Not so this time.

We were greeted at the top with staff from KTL who had made it all the way in the truck – with the beer. The Bloody Beautiful Cold Beer. Obligatory photos under the memorial arches were taken in numbers, singly, groups, with porters, without porters, the lot. More beer and many  very genuine thank you’s for our porters, with whom life lasting memories have been forged. These guys are in it for you. Nothing is too much trouble and their outlook on life is something we can learn from.

They are there to carry your load, urge you on when the going gets tough and they are so eager to help others. They have so little for themselves, yet have so much to give others. I am fortunate in that it will not be the last time I see Wallace as I shall be visiting PNG in the course of my business, but for other trekkers it may well be the last time they will see these very special people. Unless they become repeat offenders. I hear some of our group are planning a return next year.

Photographs:

Pic 1:  Wallace Lemeki hands over a cuppa before they turn in at Ua'Ule Creek
Pic 2:  Trekker with one of our carved walking sticks they receive as a gift from us
Pic 3:  Robbo and Wallace prepare to head off for the last time together as they walk to Owers' Cnr

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#19 Boss Meri

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Posted 06 October 2007 - 11:23 AM

After some time, maybe two hours it was time to board the truck and head home. More singing and laughing on the two hour drive to our hotel and a shower and a proper loo. I am sick of squatting over a hole in a stinking excuse for a shelter. The beer ran out about halfway down the Sogeri range but that didn’t matter. What was provided, had served its purpose.

Our group achieved what we had set out to do, both individually and collectively. No injuries to speak of and much had been added to our memory banks. Images of both the beauty and the beast of the track flash past as we travel down the mountain, amidst new friends black and white alike. The finale will be at tomorrow’s Anzac Day dawn service.

After long showers and some creature comforts denied us for the last nine days and for those who were staying at the Gateway hotel, we have a few beers together. This was followed by a big steak at the Airways Hotel, where Barry and Ruth were staying. It was an early night though, for it was an early start tomorrow morning.

Photographs:

Pic 1:  Group photograph at Owers' Corner
Pic 2:  Ex trekkers celebrate their successful trek
Pic 3:  Thanks guys for a job well done
Pic 4:  Shortly after arriving back at the Gateway Hotel

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#20 Boss Meri

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Posted 06 October 2007 - 11:25 AM

The dawn service was no less inspiring and sad and sombre at the same time, as it had been in 2005. Well attended by Port Moresby residents as always, trekkers swell this number considerably. The cemetery is kept pristinely clean and the rows of crosses stand in stark symmetry. But the price paid is far too high. To witness the last resting place of so many young soldiers brings tears to my eyes once again, and one can only hope carnage of this magnitude will never be repeated.

Our adventure is over, and I am so lucky to have been able to revisit this path through our Nation’s history. My body has conquered the physical challenge as well as I could have hoped, and the rest of the group has emerged unscathed as well. The weather has been kind to us once again, and our own preparations and Gail’s good organization have answered everything the Kokoda Gods have asked of us.

It is my privilege to have walked with my new friends and to share each other’s space for these few memorable days. And it has once again been an honour to walk with the ghosts of those gallant men and boys whose bravery and sacrifice have inspired so many others to follow in their footsteps.

And my story is told. I shall not be returning for a third visit. My business with the Track is finished, but the memories of my two treks and of those with whom I shared this uplifting experience will stay with me forever.      

Photographs:

Pic 1:  Bomana War Cemetery Dawn Service April 25th 2007
Pic 2:  Bob Robertson at the Dawn service  
Pic 3:  Group photograph at Bomana War Cemetery Anzac Day 25th April 2007

ROBBO

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#21 Boss Meri

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Posted 06 October 2007 - 11:06 PM

For anyone interested in joining Wallace Lemeki, David Currie and others for their 2012 Anzac Trek, for more details, please CLICK HERE:

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