Woke up at 5.00am. Starting to get used to waking up early! Packed up camp and had breakfast - same as yesterday. We did stretches whilst John gave us our usual little brief, telling us about the war history for the day, where we were aiming for and what rest stops we could expect.
After about 20 minutes we came to New Naoru Village (745m) - the wartime village was in the valley beside the Brown River. Very pretty and lots of people. Most of the villages are Seven Day Adventist so today is their Sabbath and we were asked to be quiet when walking through the villages. We now started a very steep down hill which was very slippery. Finally came to the bottom and straight into a swamp. Very, very muddy and wet!! For the next 2 hours we trudged through the swamp and crossed a number of creeks and passed a camp site. We also saw a large flock of fruit bats which the boys said tasted like chicken.
Finally we came to the Brown River (called this during the war, actually Naoro River on map). There was a log crossing and it was very wide, about 20m. The boys quickly strung up ropes to help us across. I found it quite easy. Kept going a little further and a came to a village. Paul gave the village kids some balloons he was carrying and I showed them how to blow and tie them up, as well as making funny nosies with them. Sadly had to go. Got to the bottom of a steep hill and had morning tea at Five Creeks; the usual biscuits and peanuts. We then started our steep climb upwards along the part known as The Wall. Very steep, almost vertical climb of 400m up a slippery track with very steep drops on either side (your head was level with the person above you). Finally after a lot of sweating came to the top (1130m). Great views of Menari!
Very steep and slippery down hill and crossed the Emuni River at the bottom. Then kept going down a slight hill to Menari (850m). Walked through the village, everyone was in a little church. A very big village and very dry. We kept walking for about 15 minutes until we came to Menari Airfield. A big open grassy field, beside which we had lunch and stopped for about 1 hour. I got the mud out of my boots (well... most of it!!). Also made friends with a dog and saw a cat. We also saw some old war relics E.g. bullets, helmets, grenades and mortar rounds. Very interesting and Dad paid 5 Kina for a photo. It started raining again. Had lunch; cheese, Spam, crackers, Big Red spaghetti, sardines and freshly made pizza! Very nice.
Kept going down. Very slippery because of the rain. Finally came to Vabuiagi River. Here we again watched the boys string up ropes across the log so we could hold on. The water was rushing past very quickly and the log was slippery but I made it across fine. We had to take our packs off and the boys carried them across for us. Started the steep climb up Brigade Hill. Very, very steep, muddy, slippery and tiring. It took us 3 hours 10 minutes of steady steep climbing. Again the spur was very narrow and the drops on either side nearly vertical and 100's of meters down through the jungle. How the wounded soldiers managed to traverse this track in the dark after the battle of Mission Ridge beggars belief.
About half way up we stopped at a lookout where the Japs had positioned machine guns (Juki's) to fire on Menari village forcing the Diggers to withdraw to Ioribaiwa Ridge. We could clearly see the whole village below. Finally made it to the Saddle and a rest area with a few huts where we were to spend the night. This was about 400m down the track from where Brigadier Potts has his HQ and was where the Japs got behind the 14th/16th composite Battalion and 27th Battalion who were still fighting on Mission Ridge.
Set up camp and again put up our tent in a hut. Started to rain heavily and had a freezing so-called shower. It was just water coming out of a pipe. No privacy at all!! Dad, Paul, Paul's porter Thomas and I went bush-bashing in search of war relics. We dug around in some old fox holes but hadn't found anything after a while so went back to camp. I wasn't very happy. Dried our hiking clothes (we washed them each time we had a shower) by the fire, talked and had dinner; damper and cheesy pasta. As usual very nice. Went to bed not long after. Stayed awake for a little while listening to Kevin, Andrew, Ian, Bernadette and Tim talking.
I am glad we have the porters. There would be no way we could do it without them!! They light the fires, chop wood, cook, wash dishes, carry the teams stuff, help put up tents but most importantly they help us while walking. Some are bear foot or wear thongs instead of boots! The youngest is 15 years old! They are so agile and quick. When you think you're going to fall they appear out of no where and steady you. We refer to them as 'the boys'. A few carry bush knives.