2012 Kokoda Challenge
As you’d now know, the Retreat trekkers completed their walk on Saturday morning. They got up early and commenced the final ascent to Ower’s Corner. With a false peak blocking the view of the gateway signalling the end of the walk, it is not til they rounded a corner close to the top that they saw the ‘finishing line’ just ahead of them.
The porters were waiting for them at the top, singing as the trekkers passed under the archway. Bernie walked through last, bringing an end to 9 years of Centacare Kokoda treks.
The trekkers were met by a bus loaded with sandwiches, beers and bubbly, upon which they feasted before heading to the Gateway Hotel via Bomana War Cemetery. By midday, they were relaxing with coffees and hot chips at the Gateway.
Most of the group arrived back in Adelaide on Sunday night, and were met by a big crowd of relatives, friends, fellow walkers and supporters. No doubt they enjoyed their own beds and hot showers last night.
Thank you for taking this journey with us over the past three weeks. It was good to be able to pass on to the K12s so many messages of love and support from home.
If you’d like to support the Tribute or Retreat team for their tremendous effort or contribute to the fundraising efforts of a particular Tribute or Retreat trekker, you can visit these pages by clicking on the trekkers name below.
Bernie called on Friday night to advise that the trekkers were all well in camp at the Goldie.
They had a really nice day, with the porters continuing to sing every time the group stops…and yes, the K12s now know all the words, so expect to be serenaded with some pidgin English tunes upon their return.
They climbed Imita Ridge, the last of the big ridges – Ben decided to carry his porter’s big pack up and over Imita, which is quite an impressive effort.
They crossed the Goldie and had a nice wash, with the trekkers washing their stinky shirts. Thanks to the nice sunny weather, they were able to dry them out as well. They got into camp in the early afternoon, and had a nice evening sitting around and debriefing – Julie read a poem and Lindsay made a speech while they watched the porters gather a massive 3m high stack of wood for a bonfire. They were having a few quiet whiskeys around the fire and looking forward to getting up early this morning for the climb up to Ower’s Corner. They anticipated getting to Ower’s by 7.30am, so are likely now at or en route to Bomana War Cemetery.
By this afternoon, they’ll be at the Gateway Hotel in Port Moresby, no doubt enjoying some hot showers, clean clothes and SP beers.
Please note: Since writing this blog story, I have now heard by midday today they were a the Gateway Hotel enjoying coffees and hot chips, just like any normal Saturday walk!
Bernie called last night to report that the trekkers were all well at Ioribaiwa village.
This morning they crossed the Brown River, which was raging; so much so that Catherine was swept off her feet and the porters decided to carry her, above their heads, across the river – which would have been quite an experience.
Yesterday was warm, with no rain or intense heat; weather as good as you could hope for on the Track. Maguli Ridge was a hard slog; quite muddy both up and down. They then climbed up Ioribaiwa Ridge, which was also a bit muddy.
They got in to camp at Ioribaiwa village around 4pm, weary but still in good spirits; it was a good day.
Encounters with wildlife have continued, with camp dogs still lurking in the hope of seizing some scroggin and poor Zorana encountering a rat in her tent!
The trekkers have appreciated the messages I’ve been sending through from you all, and they send their love and thanks to you all. They are also happy to hear that donations are continuing to come through for the Gift of Time Appeal, as of course they are all participating in this challenge through Centacare in order to raise much needed funds for respite care for intellectually disabled children and their families.
Today they will descend Ioribaiwa Ridge and climb Imita Ridge – a very steep, tiring incline. They will then descend and, I believe, set up camp somewhere around Uberi. That will leave crossing the Goldie and climbing up to Ower’s Corner for Saturday morning.
We heard from the K12s at 6.40pm on Wednesday night – quite literally heard from all of them as I could heard them all chatting and laughing in the background as Alice provided the update. We had nice (relatively) clear reception too, so Al got a fair few details through.
On Wednesday morning they left their Efogi campsite and headed up Brigade Hill. On the top of Brigade Hill, they had a lovely ceremony led by Brian, and Catherine sang ‘Abide With Me’. The porters also sang. In fact, the porters have been singing a lot during breaks; the same 5 songs over and over, so there’s a fair chance the trekkers will have them stuck in their heads for a long time after they depart PNG.
They all walked together down Brigade Hill, and made quite good time. They had a beautiful lunch at the lovely village of Menari, including fresh pineapple. From there, they headed uphill in fairly hot and humid weather – at this point Ben felt the need for speed, and raced up and then down the Wall, so the rest of the group didn’t really see him again until they got into camp – let’s hope he’s saved enough energy for the big ridges yet to come!
They camped on Wednesday night at Aguaro; it is a nice little campsite in a beautiful spot, with lots of little kids running around. The K12s befriended two other trekkers staying at the campsite, who are walking the Track, just the two of them accompanied by two porters. One of those porters currently holds the record for running the Track (17 hours I believe).
The trekkers are all well and in very good spirits. Those who had had a few problems with blisters due to the wet conditions during the Tribute trek are enjoying the much drier conditions, which have allowed their feet to heal. Last night, many of them had a nice wash in the creek, and Sam shared a block of chocolate he’d been saving for a special occasion (which had thankfully survived the camp dog raids on the trekkers’ tents). Ben has encountered a few leeches and Zorana and Julie came face to face with a snake, but otherwise it’s been fairly smooth sailing thus far.
They’re all doing well even after a tough day of walking, and there’s been lots of joking and laughing. Some of them have managed to stay up til 8pm each night, and from what I could hear on the phone last night as I was talking to Alice, they’re having a great time chatting around the camp fire and getting to know each other. Ben is unfortunately on his last camera battery – I passed on everyone’s good wishes for his photographic endeavours; I’m sure he’s going to come back with some amazing shots.
Today they will be climbing Maguli Ridge, a tough hill with 9 false peaks. A fair portion of it is in the open, too, so you don’t have the forest foliage keeping you cool. They will then head down Maguli, and I believe they will then also climb Ioribaiwa Ridge before camping at Ioribaiwa village tonight. Some very steep climbs and descents today, but the end is in sight…
If you’d like to sponsor the team or contribute to the fundraising efforts of a particular trekker, you can visit these pages by clicking on the trekkers name below.
I’ve had a chance to reflect on my experience of ‘The Track’, through so many people asking me “How was it?” and i’m sure that as the weeks go on other ideas will surface. For now though here it is:
When I first contemplated ‘doing Kokoda’ it was more in the context of completing a physically demanding challenge. I had heard of others who had completed the journey and they all said how hard it was so I looked upon the trek as mostly physical. Certainly, the training we did seemed to reinforce that idea. However, having read a couple of books – The Coast Watchers and Peter Fitzsimmons “Kokoda”, I became aware that there was a deeper dimension – that of remembering the Australians who had been on the Track in 1942/3. Before I left for PNG I drew up a timeline of the significant battles and movements that occurred and had them laminated so that I could remind myself of what happend at the various ‘significant sites’ and on the ‘relevant dates’ that coincided with our Trek.
I think now that walking the Track as we did, with our daily briefings, personal reflections and our memorial services, made it a type of pilgrimmage. Because of this, walking the Track, for me now, is no longer just a physical challenge [as hard as it was], but will always be a journey of respect and remembrance of the young (and not so young) men who fought, lived and died there.
Walking the Track also gave me plenty of time to think and over several days I really thought about what I could take away from my experiences that I might share with my kids and grandkids – life lessons, if you will. At night I jotted these reflections down in my journal so that I would remember them, and it is my intention to write them up, fill them out and when the time is right pass them on.
Lastly, I came away with the conviction that Australia needs to recognise the Kokoda Campaign, just as we do the Landing at and Battle of Anzac Cove that we celebrate on April 25th. It also occured to me that we, as a now large group of Trekkers over 9 years, could be a significant voice in establishing a yearly memorial. What form that might take, and what significant others we might recruit from the Australian community, who have also ‘done the Track’, are only vague ideas as yet. To do nothing, though, is to suggest that what happended on the Track in 42/3 is not really relevant to us as Austalians. “Lest we Forget.”
Bernie called at 4.30pm yesterday. The trekkers are all well at Efogi.
Luckily he had better reception yesterday, so he got a decent report through before it cut out.
I did get their approximate location right in the last update; the previous night they were in fact at Digger’s campsite – close to Bomber campsite, and it looks so much like Bomber campsite that when Bernie took Brian to visit the site of the plane wreck, he was shocked to find the crater had disappeared…until he realised he was at the wrong site!
Yesterday they walked up to Kagi Gap; from this point they had a great view of Kagi, Brigade Hill, Maguli Ridge – all the ridges they need to climb over the next few days. Bernie says it was the best view he had ever had from that point, as the view was clear and amazing.
Yesterday they had lots of downhill walking, followed by the ‘glorious*’ uphill into Efogi through the waterfall.
Yesterday, and for the past few days, they have had quite nice weather. Yesterday they had some warm periods which were accompanied by a nice cool breeze (a rare phenomenon on the Track!). The Track has dried up a lot, and they’ve had an excellent walk thus far.
They visited Naduri and had morning tea there. They met Ovuro Ndiki, the fuzzy wuzzy who is reportedly now 108 years old. They had a bit of a sing with him and had their photos taken, and some of the fitter trekkers opted to walk up to a treehouse further up in the village.
Some of the porters who carried Corina on a stretcher last year (including Esko [spelling?] and Kevin) were with them, so they asked those guys to demonstrate how they constructed the stretcher. They agreed to do so, and after the two engineers in the group had certified the stretcher as strong and sound, the boys carried Catherine around on it. Bernie is quite chuffed that they now have photos and videos of how they did it.
They arrived at Efogi at about 1.30pm, allowing them a long, languid afternoon. They enjoyed the opportunity to have showers and dry out some of their gear.
The back-to-back trekkers (Catherine, Sam, Bernie, Lindsay, Julie) are weary but going well. All the trekkers are in good shape, and it sounds like they’re enjoying the walk, the history and each other’s company.
Today they will climb Brigade Hill. I believe that tomorrow night they will stay in Menari, Nauro or somewhere in between.
*’glorious’ obviously being Dad’s description, not mine; in 2005, this day of walking was my ‘bad day’…any of you who have seen the K05 video (i.e. anyone who has ever been to any event associated with this walking group) can probably picture this climb through the waterfall; Dad kindly included lots of footage of me trudging along, climbing up through the waterfall, set to the rather dramatic soundtrack of ‘November Rain’…! :/
Bernie called at 7pm last night. The trekkers are all well.
I think they stayed at 1900 Crossing last night, although I’m not quite sure as the reception was a bit patchy when Bernie was reporting their location.
Bernie reported that it was a hard walk to the top of Mount Bellamy, but otherwise a good day. They took a new track to visit Big and Little Myola, which was a ‘nice and cruisey’ walk.
They arrived at camp dry as there wasn’t much rain, and had a nice wash in the river and a ‘domestic’ afternoon around camp. They also had some presentations, with Catherine reading some nice poems and Brian talking about the 53rd Battalion.
They enjoyed some coffees and whiskey while marvelling at how quiet the place was.
I believe today will see them on Brigade Hill, then onwards to Menari (one of my favourites). They will likely camp there tonight, but they’ll see how they’re going.
Bernie called at 5.45pm and 7pm on Sunday. The trekkers are all well at Templeton’s Crossing.
Last night there was a bit of drama, I think as the trekkers were off having tea; a couple of camp dogs ripped up Lindsay and Julie’s tents and stole the scroggin from their packs! I think Julie’s tent was still useable, but Lindsay slept in a hut and repairs have been done to his tent (to allay any concerns: the camp dogs are fairly skinny, weak creatures; nothing to worry about in terms of attacks etc – unless, apparently, you’re a bag of peanuts and lollies…)
Sunday was a fairly long but amazing day, with a bit of everything. They started with a lovely dawn service at the Isurava monument. They also had a nice ceremony at Con’s Rock, where Butch Bissett died. Catherine sang Danny Boy really well, which I’m sure would have been very moving.
At Alola the trekkers got to catch up with Kila and Lovelyn and family, so Brian got to meet his wafe’s namesake, ‘baby’ Joan. They then had a nice walk from Alola to Eora Creek – as there is still no bridge there, they had to take off their boots and wade through.
The last hour to Templeton’s Crossing was very wet and muddy. They are staying at a new camp, on the other side of the creek. The bridge there has the engineers in the group gasping; quite an impressive structure apparently.
When Bernie called, the trekkers were sitting around having soup, waiting for tea. It was a very good day.
Please support our Retreat trekkers fundraising efforts by visiting the sponsorship website at http://www.everydayhero.com.au/bernie_victory.
As you would know, the Tribute trekkers have now returned from PNG, and no doubt enjoyed their own beds (and showers) last night.
Meanwhile, the Retreat trekkers arrived at Isurava battlefield on Saturday afternoon, where they set up camp. They had a leisurely domestic afternoon with plenty of time to enjoy the monument, where they would have held a dawn service this morning.
In an indication that yesterday’s walk wasn’t as wet and slippery as what the Tribute trekkers encountered last week, Bernie reported that Zorana made it all the way to Isurava battlefield without a speck of mud on her pink socks…but then it rained, heavily and for a long time.
The plan for today is to walk to Templeton’s Crossing, via Alola and Eora Creek, although for the next few days they will play it by ear a bit in terms of how far they walk and where they set up camp.
Bernie called at 11am on Saturday 15th from Isurava Village. The Retreat trekkers are all well.
They left Kokoda at about 4pm on Friday, and walked for one and a half hours to Hoi. While this part of the Track isn’t particularly steep or hilly, it is somewhat open at this point and Bernie says it was hotter than at any point over the past week and a half.
They spent last night in Hoi, which is reportedly as beautiful as always. As they were having tea there was a bit of a downpour – a few leaky tents, but not too bad. This morning they walked to Isurava Village via Deniki – they are all talking about how hard that climb was, which is of great satisfaction to me and, I’m sure, all others who have done the walk from Kokoda and had to deal with the trekkers who’ve done the Track the other way saying “hard? there’s no steep climb there!
This is a smaller, quieter group than the Tribute trek group. So far they’re walked at a fairly steady, easy pace. Ben has been wandering around in awe, wishing he had brought more camera batteries. Alice has been excellent, bringing enthusiasm and careful attention to detail to her role as medical officer, ensuring everyone takes the right drugs and dishing out advice as required. Peter is enjoying the lack of city sounds and, in particular, the lack of phones. Brian is loving the jungle but still can’t believe he has people putting his tent up for him!
The trekkers expect to arrive at the Isurava battlefield around 2pm today. Some of them hope to walk up to the B Company positions. The others will surely spend the afternoon enjoying the magnificent view while reflecting quietly on the sad significance of this most beautiful, moving site.
I’ve passed on the footy results but I’m sure the trekkers are also keen to hear from friends and family, so keep the messages coming and I’ll pass them on when possible.