A Travellerspoint blog

Dad's Introduction

Rochelle undertook hiking the Kokoda Track after completing 6 months of training with me, during which we completed a number of four-day hikes into the mountainous areas around NSW. Additionally, she would run 5km's 2-3 times a week and complete at least one 4-5 hour pack hike each weekend. In the last month she would do a 5am 'stairs circuit' with me 2-3 times a week. We also competed in a number of NSW Rogaining Championship courses.

I believe her tenacity and joyous spirit throughout 8 days of walking the Kokoda Track inspired most of us during trying moments and steep climbs. She led our group at the start and end of every day, greeting us at the crest of each severe ascent with a cheeky grin and encouraging comment. On every occasion when asked how she was going she would respond with an upbeat "I'm fine!".

Rochelle, I sincerely hope this little adventure will encourage you to strive with self belief for those things in life that will bring you happiness. Thank you for getting so much enjoyment out of the simple things nature offers. You have certainly walked in the footsteps of heroes!

A very proud father!

P.S. I have added a few of my own comments to Rochelle's daily diary entries.

Kokoda Track
'The track followed a slightly different route to 1942, and the jungle has reclaimed several of the villages; their inhabitants disappeared - some say to escape the evil spirits of war. Isurava and Efogi have relocated. The original Nauro was abandoned in 2002 after a local feud, and a second Nauro established high on a spur. Eora Creek and Ioribaiwa have simpley ceased to exist - and serve as mere camp sites for trekkers. Between the lowest point, at Uberi, and the crest of the range, the Kokoda Track climbs more than 20,000 feet. The altitude at its highest point is 8500 feet. For every 1000 feet gained the track falls 600 feet to the foot of the next ascent. Paul Ham "Kokoda".

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The Team

Total Trekers = 14 Total Porters = 28

KOKODA SPIRIT 6th to 14th July 2011
Trek Master: John Titmus
Trek Guide: 'Quiet' John
Trek Leader: Bardi
Local Trek Guide: Charles
Trekkers - Porters:
Andrew & Rochelle Duerden (NSW) - no porter
Kevin & Andrew Crompton (NSW) - ?
Tim McInnes & Bernadette Brown (WA) - ?/?
Chris & Tom Jewson (VIC) - ?/?
Mark Reed (VIC)
Shannon McMahon (QLD/ Vietnam) - Mali
Nathan Power (VIC) - ?
Ian Verhon (VIC) - ?
Dean Edwards (VIC) - Rufus
Paul Monro (VIC) - Thomas

(Note posting date/time only used to order days)

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Tuesday 5/7/2011

Weather: Sunny Place: Home to Port Moresby

sunny 28 °C

Woke at 2am. Not fair!!! Mum drove us to the train station. We caught the train to Central Station then another train to the airport. Nothing happened. Checked in and then went to get Subway's for breakfast. I had a very nice RUBBERY egg & bacon roll!!. Boarded our plane at 6am. Spent 3 hours talking, sleeping, pooping & writing. Arrived at Cairns airport. No big dramas! Waited 2 hours till we boarded the plane for Port Moresby. Had a Sushi Roll for lunch and played Kings Corner (cards) with Dad. I won 7 to 1!! We finally boarded the plane. Got a meal of Chicken Noodle Salad. It was nice. We flew over the Great Barrier Reef. It was an amazing sight but I don't like planes or airports anymore.

We arrived in PNG. I was sooooooo excited!!!

As we got off the plane we met 3 men singing and playing music. The airport was very pretty. As we left the airport we were met by a lady from Kokoda Spirit. She led us outside to a van which took us to the Gateway Hotel. On the way we saw people selling things on the side of the road. The hotel was very nice & bright. We got to our rooms and found we had a view over the pool!! Spent all afternoon swimming and resting around the pool. The pool was very big and had a bridge over it. Glad to have finally made it. Can't wait until we start walking. A big group of school kids arrived at the pool.

We had been told the team briefing was at 5.00pm. While waiting we met 2 other men (Kevin and Andrew) from our group. It turned out the briefing started at 5.45pm. There are 12 other people in our group plus 3 trek leaders. Next we had dinner - it was a buffet! I had rice, bread rolls, beef stew & a few other small things. Then we re-packed our packs ready for an early start.

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Thursday 7/7/2011 - Trek Day 2

Weather: Sunny Place: Goodwater Camp to Ioribaiwa Village - 7 hours

sunny 30 °C

We woke at 5.00am. It was still dark. It gets light about 6.00am. Packed up camp and had breakfast; weetbix & cornflakes. The John's gave us a little briefing about today's trek. Did some stretches as a group and started walking at 6:45am. Every now and then one of the porters would yell out Aussie-Aussie-Aussie and we would reply Oi-Oi-Oi, then the porters would do their war cry. Kept going steadily uphill. Very muddy and the track was mostly clay but the forest was beautiful. Climbed up Imita Ridge. Very steep and muddy. Finally made it to the top - great views toward Ioribaiwa Ridge and Owers Corner!! Walked the down part, very hard going. Got to the bottom and had morning tea: chocolate biscuits, peanut cookies and peanuts - filled our water bladders. Kept walking until we had to take off our shoes and put on our sandals. We then followed Ua-Ule Creek (pronounced far-ley) which we crossed so many times that I lost count. We criss-crossed it for 1.5 hours. A few people fell over but surprisingly I didn't. Stopped at Dump 44 for lunch - there were a few huts. While lunch was being prepared Dad and I went for a swim in our clothes in Ua-Ule Creek. Very refreshing and saw big bright blue butterflies!! Went back to camp and had lunch: 2-minute noodles, tuna, Big Red spaghetti, crackers, cheese, Spam, peanut butter and jam.

Kept walking up the steep Ioribaiwa Ridge for about another hour. Finally arriving at Ioribaiwa Village where we were staying the night (this is the new village as the old one was on top of the ridge and destroyed during the war). Set up camp in the boiling sun. Whilst laying out our bedding in the tent I think I was sweating more than when I was walking! Rested in a 'climbing' tree and then had a shower. The first shower so far on the track. We spent the afternoon resting, talking and being entertained by the boys (porters) who played footy, it was very funny although they were very good at it. Lots of chickens and chicks roaming around as well as 2 dogs which I named Patch and Trevor.

Played cards with Tom again, this time I won 2 to 1. We are having a competition to see who will be the best by the end of the trek. The porters cooked us dinner - pasta and curry sauce. Dad and I went bush when it got dark to see if we could find any fire flies. They were so cool. Dad caught one and we brought it back to camp to show everyone else. Sat around and talked some more. Tom, Chris and I played cards. They showed me how to play Chinese Rum and Seven's and I showed Chris how to play Kings Corner.

There is a boy in our group who is only 6 years old. His dad is a porter and it was his first time walking the track. His name is Stallen.

Dad's Comments

  • I went a little way into the jungle after dinner to see what it was like in the dark. I have read so many times about the fear and claustrophobia the dark brought on. Lying there for 15 minutes quickly made me aware of what they meant. Every little noise is amplified and it is so dark you can see no more than a foot infront of you! Knowing that Japanese soldiers were out their hell bent on sneaking up slitting your throat must have been terrifying!

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Wednesday 6/7/2011 - Trek Day 1

Weather: Sunny Place: Port Moresby (Owers Corner) to Goodwater Camp - 2 hours 10 minutes

sunny 28 °C

We woke at 6am and packed some last things. Had a buffet breakfast of eggs, bacon, snags and toast. Met our group again. We were taken in a minibus to Bomana War Cemetery. There were 3800 graves. It was very sad to see all the graves. Youngest person's grave we found was 19 and the oldest 48. It was stinking hot. We had a small service at the memorial and I read a prayer. We got back in the bus and drove to Owers Corner (735m). It took 1 hour and the road got very steep and narrow - I loved the bus strip. We stopped at Macdonalds Corner which is where the soldiers started their trek from. Found lots of rubber trees. Finally arrived at Owers Corner.

Stood under the Kokoda Arch!!! Met our porters, most of the other trekkers had personal porters. The porters had just walked the track from Kokoda village - it took them only 3 days!!! 28 porters are in our group. Had lunch - bread rolls with spam, lettuce, tomatoes and oranges. Both John's gave us another little briefing. Finally started walking at 12.30pm.

Very steep downhill. Crossed 5 small creeks and had to wade through the Goldie River (420m). I slipped and fell in. I was drenched but put back on my boots and kept walking. Saw an eagle and a dead cane toad. The track was very muddy. After 2 hours arrived at our campsite, Goodwater (490m) where we pasted another group heading to Owers Corner. Pitched tents and went for a swim/ wash.

Carved my walking stick (which Bardi had cut for us at Dump 66). Made friends with a dog which I named Coco. Paul, Andrew and I had an argument about the name; Paul wanted Rufus. Spent the afternoon resting and getting to know each other. Had dinner - chicken legs, peas, carrots, mashed sweet taters with gravy. Fed bones to Coco. Played cards with Tom. He beat me 2 to 1. Toasted marshmallows which we were carrying. Talked till bed time.

Dad's Comments

  • On the north bank of the Goldie River we could see the metal structure of a 'flying fox' which ran from Owers Corner.
  • During the first night Paul had a very bad dream and yelled out a number of times. This got 'the boys' up franticaly with bush knives at the ready. They thought he was being attacked. I woke with similar ideas. In the morning Paul had little recollection of the nights events and put it down to a side-effect of the anti-malaria drugs he was taking. Suffice to say we all had a good laugh!

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Friday 8/7/2011 - Trek Day 3

Weather: Sunny & Rainy Place: Ioribaiwa Village to New Nauro Village

semi-overcast 28 °C

Woke 4.30am, a very early start!! Packed up camp and had breakfast, same as yesterday. Had our usual little brief. Did some stretches and started walking 6.00am. Up hill first to Ioribaiwa Ridge (850m) where we had another short service to remember the 55 Diggers who died there. Took off packs and walked along a line of Jap trenches on the ridge. Then steep down hill, slow but steady. Finally got to the bottom and took off our boots to cross Ofi Creek (600m). There would be no water for the next 4.5 hours. Started the constant very steep up hill and stopped at Dump 88 for a rest, which is half way up to peak of Maguli Range. Very muddy and slippery with the track covered in tree roots. Kept going and finally stopped at the Japanese Camp for morning tea. The same food as yesterday. Went to the place where the Japanese guns that bombarded Ioribaiwa Ridge were located and saw all the trenches. Past another group going in the other direction. Kept walking while having an argument with Andrew about different things and this lasted the whole day. Finally arrived at some huts where we were to have lunch. We were very happy and glad to have lunch, which was baked beans, Spam, cheese, local cucumber, crackers, corned beef fritters, savoury crepes, fresh bananas. It was yummy!!

After lunch kept going up hill to the peak of Maguli Range (1350m). Glad to be at the top!! In the end it took us only 4 hours and John said we did very well and were the fastest group he had led. But now we have got a long downhill. It was very tiring and Dad and I thought it was worse than going up. About half way down we arrived at New Nauro village (950m) where we are staying the night.

It is a very pretty village and we camped in a bamboo haus (Pidgin for hut). Pitched tents on a wooden shelf a couple of feet off the floor. Paul and Ian did not fit in so they slept in there tents outside. Had a freezing cold shower and it started raining - rained all afternoon and night. Spent afternoon sitting in hut and talking. Chickens roaming about and a dog which I called Jock. Talked to Andrew until we had dinner of rice and chicken curry. Very nice and Andrew and I went back for thirds! Played cards with Tom again. Very competitive but fun, I won 3 to 0!!!

There were two other trekking groups in the village which meant we did not have a hut in which to have dinner so the boys quickly built one from scratch using bamboo and vines plus a tarpaulin. It even included a table, benches and a fire pit. Dad washed our hiking clothes and stayed up drying them in front of the fire with some of the others.

Dad's Comments

  • Ioribaiwa Ridge is the most southern point the Japanese reached and is also where the old Ioribaiwa village was located in 1942. Walking along, and mostly in, the Japanese trenches that run toward Spotters Hut gives a good impression of their defensive position. It was a good thing the Aussies did not have to force them off the ridge.

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Saturday 9/7/2011 - Trek Day 4

Weather - Overcast/ Rainy Place: Nauro Camp to Brigade Hill - 10 hours

overcast 28 °C

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.

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Sunday 10/7/2011 - Trek Day 5

Weather: Sunny, Windy Place: Brigade Hill to Naduri - 5 hours

overcast 28 °C

Woke 5:20am. Quickly packed up camp and went to the top of Brigade Hill (1415m). All the Aussie soldiers who fell at Mission Ridge and Brigade Hill had been buried their during the war (later moved to Bomana Cemetery). I helped raise the Australian and PNG flags. We had a little service and I read out the names of the fallen. We then sung Advance Australia Fair and Waltzing Matilda, the boys then sang their national anthem. It was very pretty with the sun rising over the mountains. Had breakfast; usual cereal plus pancakes with honey. YUM!!! John gave us a little briefing, then we left.

After a little while came to Nishimura's Tree. Nishimura was a Japanese soldier who fought the diggers on Brigade Hill. He survived the war and came back to PNG in the 60's and lived here for many years looking for the bodies/bones of his comrades and sending their ashes back to Japan. There were two pairs of footy boots hanging in the trees. Kept walking up hill before coming to a ledge with a great view of Mission Ridge and the ridges from old Efogi up to Kagi where the Japanese 'Lantern Parade' happened. Met 4 hunting dogs and a man who had been out hunting wild pig.

Walked downhill to a creek with a log bridge. Walked back uphill to Efogi 1 village (1220m). Very big and pretty. Walked past the airfield and as we came into the village there were a few stalls. We didn't buy anything. Walked down hill AGAIN past some ladies carrying foods and goods on their heads. Then past another group (one man only had one leg) before crossing Elome Creek (1150m). 12m wide and a log crossing. Walked up a steep hill to Efogi 2 (1350m). A small but pretty village. Villagers were selling things and I bought a small Bilum Bag for 30 Kina. Lots of kids and gave them lollies. Stopped there for morning tea - fruit and crackers. The fruit was from the village.

A very steep, rocky, slippery down hill and at the bottom we crossed Efogi Creek (980m) where the Aussies had ambushed the Japs in the war. 15m wide, log crossing and white water rapids. Climbed up again, very steep and tiring. Also very rocky. Got halfway up and could see Mount Victoria to the West. The highest peak in PNG. Finally got to the top and the village of Naduri (1550m) where we were staying the night. Very nice and open area.

Had a shower then put up the tent. I got 2 blisters and Dean got an infected toe which they had to pop. Had lunch; cheese, Spam, crackers, 2-minute noodles, fritters, baked beans and fruit. Relaxed all afternoon as this was only a half-day of treking. Dogs in every village. Don't think we could have gone with a better group!! Ate freshly cooked popcorn (cooked by the boys) whilst talking to Andrew. Walked down to the main village and met the LAST Fuzzy Wuzzy Angel, Mr. Ovuru Ndiki. He's 106 years old!!! We all shook his hand and his grandson Joel, talked to us about Mr. Ndiki's war experiences. He told some stories and then recited a poem. Next we paid 10 Kina to take photos with Mr. Ndiki. I was very excited. When we got back to the camp site we had dinner; mashed taters, snags and vegie stew with scones. The scones were 1 Kina each and made by the villagers. They were still warm!! After dinner some of the village children came up to us and sang some songs. We had to each pay 5 Kina but it was worth it and how the kids raise money for there school and families.They had such beautiful voices. I wish I could sing like that. There were 20 children ranging in age from 5 to 15 years old. I even got to dance with them.

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Monday 11/7/2011 - Trek Day 6

Weather: Sunny, Rainy Place: Naduri to Templetons Crossing - 9 hours

sunny 26 °C

Woke 5.00am. Packed up camp. Had usual cereal for breakfast. Did some stretches and had our little briefing before starting to walk. Went up very steeply. Finally got to the top (2000m). Great views and could nearly see Owers Corner - blimey we have come a long way!! Went down quite steeply, very muddy and slippery with many tree roots. Walked through a giant Pandanus Tree forest - very prehistoric.The trees reminded me of the dinosaur age. Area is quite flat compared to what we have been through. The track is much wider and goes through a very pretty forest with some abandoned huts along the way. Walked through the Kagi Gap and came to 'Propeller' Junction (1950m). Rested here and then took off our packs and walked approximately 20 minutes to the B25 Mitchell bomber crash site (paid 10 Kina to see it). On the way down Dad touched a plant which made his thumb very painful for about 10 minutes. The boys called it Iwrongo. Finally came to the site. There was a massive hole in the ground filled with water where the plane would have crashed. Saw piles of old plane parts, including a huge wheel, propeller and a 500lb bomb. The American government excavated the site in the 1970's and found 4 of the 7 crew. Maybe the others had parachuted out only to die hanging in a tree - what a lonely way to die!

Walked back to 'Propeller' Junction and continued on for another 10 minutes when we reached a camp called 1900 Crossing (1900m) where we stopped for lunch. A few huts and a log crossing over Efogi River. I talked to Andrew and then took off my boots and rested my feet. Had lunch; donuts (made by the boys with pink icing and sprinkles), baked beans, Spam, cheese, crackers, sardines, Big Red spaghetti and savoury fritters. YUM!!!

John told us Wayne Wetheral (owner of Kokoda Spirit) had last year found after a lot of rain the skeletons of 3 Japanese soldiers sticking out from the bank of Efogi River and believed there was a mass grave under the camp site. 1900 Crossing was the scene of an Australian ambush in the war and a number of Japanese soldiers were killed.

We could not go via Myola 1 or Myola 2 as there was a land dispute in progress and to dangerous for trekkers.

Kept going after lunch, a gentle uphill and came to the tree where trekkers in 2008 had thought they had found a WWII pilot's body suspended in a tree. It turned out to be just a branch but it certainly looks like a harness and parachute lines. Kept walking through the Moss Forest. The trees remind me of Ents from Lord of The Rings!! Later came to the Kokoda Gap (2190m). Great view but soon started raining heavily and mist closed in. Steep downhill to Dump 1 (1850m). Rested then crossed the 20m wide rushing Eora Creek on very slippery logs. Uphill, steep and slippery (1970m). Rested at the top then a 2 hour walk down a steep hill. Finally got to Templetons Crossing (1700m) which is at the bottom and also where we are staying. Dad was last down as he had stayed back to see if John needed any help (his knee was still painful and swollen after falling over in one of the creeks) - he also saw some shell craters.

Set up camp then went for a wash in the river. Freezing cold water but it felt nice afterwards. Played with four kids. So adorable!! An old man that lived there has some war things so we went to see him. His collection was amazing! He had boots, grenades (still with the pins in), helmets and lots of other things. Talked to of the 4 kids. Then crossed a very rickety old bridge that looked like it would collapse at anytime. It was only a few logs tied together with vines. Saw more old war stuff. Guns, grenades and shells plus a Japanese Knee Mortar. Went back to the camp site. Toasted Marshmallows for Dad, Stallon, the 15 year old porter and myself. YUM!! The smoke stung my eyes so badly that I was actually crying!!! Had dinner: spaghetti and curry sauce. Delicious! Talked!!

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Tuesday 12/7/2011 - Trek Day 7

Weather: Sunny, Occasional Rain Place: Templetons Crossing to Alola - 7 hours

semi-overcast 28 °C

Woke 5.40am. Slept in!!! Packed up camp. ONe of the boys helped us pack the tent and offered to carry the tent so that he could put it up before we got to Alola. Had breakfast; same cereal but with PNG pancakes and honey. YUM!!! Had a little briefing and then started walking. Flat to start off with then a slippery and boggy uphill. Got to the top (1910m) but couldn't really see much. Too cloudy and too many trees. Started the long downhill. Very steep in some parts. Got ot some huts and stopped for morning tea. Dad, Paul, Chris and Tom were taken by 'Quiet' John to a spot off the track to dig for war relics. They found a lot of .303 cartridges (some unfired), bullets and a glass pill bottle. Crossed a wide creek on a couple of logs and came to Eora Creek Village (abandoned) (1425m) where we stopped for lunch; baked beans, Bik Red spaghetti, cheese, Spam, tuna, crackers and deep fried pastry puff with 2-minute noodles inside. Saw a very long 'Tarzan' vine. Very big and beautiful waterfall on one side of the village.

Eora Creek is where the Japanese ambushed the Australians whilst they were retreating (advancing to the rear as there was no Japanese order for retreat!). The battle lasted 4 days but ended in the Japanese being forced back all the way to Oivi/ Gorari.

Started raining. Crossed another log bridge after lunch. Kept walking until we were told to take off our packsfor we were going to take a detour and see where the Japanese had been during the battle at Eora Creek. Saw lots of shells and bullets, trenches, bunkers and where the Japanese field guns had been. Very interesting. You could easily look down on the Aussie positions from a 100m up. It is not surprising the Diggers could not dislodge the Japs until the outflanked them - it is a near vertical slope.

Steep downhill. Log crossing at the bottom - 6m wide. Bardi, Andrew and I had to keep stopping for the others to catch up. Steep uphill. Great views down to Yodda Valley where Kokoda is. Finally came to Alola (1340m) which was at the top of another ridge. Our tent was already set up! Unpacked things and then I went to a small museum in the village, 10 Kina, whilst Dad had a shower. Very very good. Lots of guns and bullets. Held a gun. Could see the Yodda Vsalley from our tent. Rained heavily all afternoon. Had dinner; fresh corn, pasta, taters and curry. Just talked in evening whilst Dad dried our hiking clothes.

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Wednesday 13/7/2011 - Trek Day 8

Weather: Sunny Place: Alola to Kokoda - 9.5 hours

sunny 35 °C

Woke 5.20am. Half packed tent. Stood by the fire and had breakfast, same as yesterday. Sat by the fire and talked to two little kids whist Dad and some of 'the boys' put down the rest of the tent. Did stretches and then had a little briefing. Started walking, steep down and then uphill. Could see Alola very well. After a while got to Butch's Tree. John told the story of Stan and Butch Bisset. Very sad almost made me cry. Took off our packs and walked up to the tree where Butch died. Butch was Stan's older brother and was mortally wounded at Battle of Isurava. Stan carried him here and sat with him most of the night reminiscing of home until Butch passed away.

Kept walking and came to Surgeons Rock (Con's Rock). Crossed many creeks. Saw the site on the other side of the valley where the passenger plane from Kokoda crashed 2 years ago. Finally came to Isurava battle site (1318m) where we stayed for about an hour. Dad spent some time working out where all the Aussie units would have been. I found a dead mouse. Saw the 4 black pillars. On the pillars were the words of Kokoda; COURAGE, ENDURANCE, MATESHIP, SACRIFICE. Beautiful but sad place. Great view down to Yodda Valley from memorial. Read some plaques about the war and saw Kingsbury's Rock, where Bruce Kingbury won the VC and fell to a snipers bullet. We had a little service and Bernadette (her great Uncle was in the 2/16th Battalion and died on the last day of Battle for Gona Mission), Dean (his grandfather was in the 39th Battalion and survived the war), Reedy and I read some poems. Some people started crying when Reedy read The Last Anzac. I had to try hard to keep myself from crying too. We sung our national anthem and then 'the boys' sang theirs.

Left and kept walking. After 30 minutes came to present day Isurava Village (1375m). Nice and peaceful village. Stopped for usual morning tea. Talked to some village kids. Kept walking. Walked through many native gardens full of Choko vines. Finally after about 2 hours came to Deniki village (900m). Boiling hot!! Nearly abandoned but pretty. Stopped for lunch. Took off boots. Lunch was; baked beans, Spam, cheese, crackers, 2-minute noodles. YUM!! Played in mud and dirt while John talked about the war. Dad went back up the track to fill water bladders and get wet. 'The boys' made us all headdresses out of flowers, vines, leaves and grass. We all had different ones. Mine was very pretty and made by 'Quiet' John the trek leader. Also 'the boys' stuck branches and ferns in our packs so we looked like walking trees! Walked downhill.

Finally came to Hoi Village (550m). Rested for a couple of minutes before continuing to walk through rubber and palm plantations. Bardi carried the PNG flag at the front while 'Quiet' John carried the Australian flag at the back. Later on they both walked at the front. We were then walking in single file into Kokoda, trekker then porter. I was at the front and it was very moving walking 'in the footsteps of heroes'. After about 1 hour walking in the boiling sun finally saw the arch way for Kokoda; the END!!!! Crossed under the arch, a great feeling to have finished. Kept walking about another 500m then both Bardi and 'Quiet' John made an arch using the two flags. Crossed under that. Finally FINISHED!!!! There was a lot of cheering, congratulating and hand shakes. Rested a few minutes and then raced Dad across the Oval to the memorial. I won which meant I was the 'Queen of Kokoda'!! Looked at the memorial. Very sad! Walked up the road a short way to the huts were going to stay over night in. Dad, Andrew and I stayed in a dorm-style hut to test out our mozzie nets for the first time. Rested all afternoon. Everyone glad to have finished. Had a shower whilst guys went to get some beer and soft drinks. Talked till it got dark.

Bernadette and I went to the shop. I bought 2 packets of tiny teddies and a Sprite. Shop was very different, had bars all around it. Had dinner; rice, fresh corn, roasted taro, fried plantain, steamed choko leaves and chicken drumsticks. YUMMY!!! Talked more and Tim tried Beetle Nut. Very funny watching his face.

Dad's Comments
"The death of Harold Bisset deeply sadened the Battalion. He was a popular officer. Carried to safety by four volunteers - fighting off the enemy as they went - Bisset sustained severe abdominal wounds. He died at 4.00am on the 30th in his brother's arms. 'I held him in my arms for four hours,' Stan Bisset. 'We just talked about our parents, and growing up, and... good things'." Paul Ham "Kokoda"

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Thursday 14/7/2011 - Trek Day 9

Weather: Sunny Place: Kokoda to Port Moresby

sunny 30 °C

Woke 5.55am. Packed up. Had breakfast, usual cereal. Finished packing. Very cloudy and misty. Walked about 2km to the airfield and waited at Orohaven Kokoda Retreat until planes arrived. We were supposed to stay there last night but there had been a large brawl earlier in the week so we did not. I shared a very small burger and a drink with Dad.

Thomas (Paul's porter) had carved a stick for me. It was amazing and beautiful. Walked the last km to the airstrip - just grass and an open shed. Waited a little while till 2 small Cessna propeller planes landed - carried 9 passengers each. Dad and I were in the second plane with Andrew, Kevin, Tom, Bernadette, Chris and Ian. I was very excited!! Said goodbye to the porters, it was sad to leave them as we had so many good memories.

Flew over Kokoda and then followed the track by air. It took us only 30 minutes to fly back! It was interesting to see the villages, ridges and creeks from the air. We arrived back at Port Moresby without incident. Bernadette who hated heights and flying had looked at her feet the whole way. We were met at the terminal by the three porters who had left us at 'Propeller' Junction 3 days ago. It had taken us 6 days to get there!!

Drove to the Gateway Hotel and checked back into our rooms. Sorted out our laundry and boots. Dad and I then went and fell in the pool - it was so nice!!! Spent the afternoon by the pool and was joined by some of the others. John had organised a tour of Port Moresby so those of us who were going piled into a minibus. Went to a market and wandered around, buying an anklet for myself and 2 tops for Mum and Jemma. Piled back into the minibus and drove through Ela Beach to a war museum. Very interesting. Lots of planes, tanks, bombs, jeeps, guns and other things. We then drove back to the hotel. Spent the rest of the afternoon by the pool, playing on Dad's phone and listening to music.

Went down for dinner at 6.30pm. The others were already there. We talked and then John presented us with a certificate which had our name on it. John said something special to each of us. Had a buffet dinner and talked some more. Said good night and good-bye to the others for we weren't seeing them again. I was very sad!!!

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Friday 15/7/2011

Weather: Sunny Place Port Moresby to Milne Bay

sunny

Woke 7.00am. Went down for a buffet breakfast. Went back up to room and packed. Took everything down to the swimming pool and check out. Spent the afternoon beside the pool as our flight to Milne Bay was at 2.30pm. Went to the airport at 1.30pm. Had trouble getting on as plane was overbooked and I was wait-listed but finally did. Boarded plane but Dad and I were not sitting together. I sat next to an old man. The plane was a twin turbo-prop. Flew to Milne Bay but when we got there we couldn't land because of the weather. Flew around the airfield 6 times then the pilot decided to return to Port Moresby. Very disappointed!!

Spent nearly 2 hours in the airport trying to find out when the next flight was and where we were going to stay the night. Finally got it sorted and took a shuttle bus to the Lamada Hotel where we were going to stay. Went to our room. Beautiful place. Had dinner, Supreme Pizza with Greek Salad.

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Saturday 16/7/2011

Weather: Sunny, Rainy Place: Port Morseby to Milne Bay

rain 26 °C

Woke 5.30am. Packed and went down for buffet breakfast. Went back to our room and got our things. Checked out and piled into a minibus just to be told that our plane had been delayed 2.5 hours. So out we went and back to our room. Rested and listened to music. At 8.45am we went back down and finally made it to the airport. Again had trouble checking in but finally did. HATE airports and planes!!! Waited another hour and then boarded. Second time lucky... hopefully!!

Met an old guy who was on our flight yesterday. Dad and him swapped seats so Dad could next to me. Had a 45 minute flight and finally landed at Milne Bay. Waited ages before our bags came. We got Dad's pack but could not find our other pack. Then we were told that it was still at Port Moresby but it would be put on the next flight tomorrow at 10.30am. They couldn't load all the baggage on the plane because it was to heavy. So we had lost all our clothes and toiletries. Had to catch another hotels mini-bus for our hotel's one was not there. Finally arrived at Naptana Lodge. Very pretty hotel.

Checked in then went to our room. Small but cosy. Had lunch, burger with the lot. Made friends with a kitten and a thong-eating Cockatoo. The hotel had lots of animals: 4 Green Tree Pythons; 4 Cuscus; 4 Wallabies; a Kitten; a Hornbill; and 2 Cockatoo's. Spent afternoon resting as it was raining. Dad spoke to Greta (she owns the hotel) on the phone and she invited us to a party that night.

Met 2 American bird watchers (Ornithologists), Jenny and Jordan. They were also staying at the lodge. Talked to them and then went to the party. Greta had invited them as well. It was a farewell party for 2 Australian AusAid volunteers who had been in PNG for 1 year working at the local school. Had dinner there, sausages, chicken wings, salad and bread. Stayed for a while talking and then went back to the lodge at 11.00pm. Road back was very bumpy and lots of pot holes. Saw the Cuscus walking around. Very amazing creatures!!

Party was put on by a Greek Cypriot ex-pat who owned the Nawae Construction company in Alotau, Milne Bay. His name was Julius and he had been in PNG for 46 years, his family emigrating here because of the conflict in Cyprus.

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Sunday 17/7/2011

Weather: Rainy Place: Alotau, Milne Bay

overcast 26 °C

Woke 7.15am. Had a shower then went upstairs for breakfast - full English Breakfast. YUM! Spent morning relaxing. At 12pm went to Air Nugini office in Alotau. Got our bag. Very glad!! Decided we would walk back to lodge and had a walk through the market. Bought a lolly-pop and 2 doughnuts. Got back to lodge a little wet. Had a tuna and egg sandwich for lunch. Relaxed at lodge and Dad real all about the things we could do. Also discovered that the monsoon season had already started in Milne Bay province which is why it was raining so much. Monsoon in Milne Bay is June to October whilst on the Kokoda Track the monsoon is November to May.

Dad orgainsed a couple of tours for us to do tomorrow and Tuesday. Went for a walk around the other part of town at 4.45pm. Went back and rested. Had dinner later, chicken salad. Very tired so went to bed.

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