The Trekkers Reach Isurava

Raging River Torrents
Raging River Torrents

Bernie called at 3.42pm today and reported that the trekkers are all well at Isurava.

Upon leaving Eora Creek this morning, 14 of the trekkers headed to Abuari while the rest went straight to Alola. Bernie described the walk to Abuari as beautiful but dark and gloomy; it rained pretty much the whole time and the rivers were all running. Abuari was very misty and they couldn’t see Isurava or Alola from there because of the fog.

The 14 visited the waterfall, which was an absolute torrent; they were just about blown away from the wind coming off it, and as a result had to stand much further back than usual to take photos.

They then had a long downhill, although thankfully this time there was a good bridge over the river. I believe Ian has been keeping track of the river crossings, so it will be interesting to see what the final figure is for this remarkably wet trek. It was a tiring day of trekking, mostly because they’re all so wet. Even those who went straight to Alola found it tough; rivers you’d normally step across are now raging torrents.

Unlike most previous Centacare Kokoda treks, the K12s have encountered leeches ‘all over the place’; big, fat ones in ‘all sorts of places’. Responses upon discovering said leeches have reportedly ranged from ‘high-pitched-girlish-squeal-and-brush-off-as-soon-as-possible’ to ‘let’s-get-some-good-photos-of-it-first-then-decide-the-coolest-way-to-remove-it’. The abundance of leeches is due largely to the fact they’ve walked through some areas where few venture, meaning there is more foliage in close proximity (especially on the little-used Eora-Abuari track).

The trekkers all met up again in Alola, where they had a nice time. They saw the famous ‘baby’ Joan, but not her mother Lovelyn, who was out working in the gardens at the time.

They arrived at Isurava around 3pm and have been scraping the mud off themselves since then, while undoubtedly taking in the eerie beauty of the battle site and monument. Dad says Isurava is as beautiful as ever. There is another group headed from Alola to Isurava this afternoon, and when they arrive they’ll come to some arrangement about dawn services at the monument tomorrow morning (there shouldn’t be a problem as it is one of Wayne Enright’s groups).

All in all, it sounds like they’ve had a wet, muddy, tiring, amazing time. Not long to go now…

Claire

Sunday Trek To Eora Creek

1990 Crossing to Eora Creek
1990 Crossing to Eora Creek

Bernie called on Sunday night from Eora Creek. The trekkers are all doing well.

They got away from camp at 6.30am yesterday and arrived at Eora Creek at 4pm. Their day included climbing to the highest point of the Track (Mount Bellamy) and passing through Templeton’s Crossing; a quite lovely section of the Track. There is no bridge across Eora Creek at the moment, only a log part-way across, meaning the trekkers have had to wade through. They stayed at a new campsite on the river, on the other side of the creek to the usual spot; it is a nice campsite, but small, so they were packed in fairly tight (here’s hoping they slept well and weren’t kept awake by snoring fellow trekkers!)

Sunday was another very muddy, rainy day, but the K12s had a nice day. Despite having mud and water through everything (clothes, shoes, tents), the trekkers are in good spirits. They have a real sense of “we’re going to make it!” They must be doing pretty well because their main concern was finding out the footy results, which I was able to pass on.

Today, the K12s head to Isurava. Ten of the trekkers will be going there via Abuari, an optional ‘detour’ which takes them to a different village on one of the wartime tracks while the rest of the group go straight to Isurava via Alola (the Abuari group will re-join the rest of the group at either Alola or Isurava). Because the Abuari trekkers will not pass it today, those ten did a bit of an extra walk after getting to Eora Creek last night to see some gun positions…they then had to cross the creek in near-darkness upon their return, which would have been an interesting challenge.

Today will involve less walking hours than they’re now used to, but I suspect they will enjoy a fairly lengthy stop in Alola and probably a full afternoon at the haunting Isurava battle site.

With only a couple of days of the ‘Tribute Trek’ to go, the ‘Retreat Trekkers’ are gearing up to join the rest of the K12s in PNG.

Anyone wish they were going too…? ;)

Claire

1900 Crossing

 

A different route down Mission Ridge

A different route down Mission Ridge

Bernie (dad) called at 6pm on tonight from camp at 1900 Crossing. They’re all well. 

Today was a huge day. From Brigade Hill, they took a different route down Mission Ridge – it is a route very few people take and they even had to have some of the scrub cleared in order for them to get through. They went through some of the original Australian positions, and found mortars – pretty amazing after 70 years, and a stark reminder of the war and those who fought and died there; those to whom the trekkers are paying respect on this Tribute Trek.

The K12s traversed some very slippery ground and some tricky river crossings, taking off their boots and using ropes to cross some of the rivers. It rained the whole day and was extremely muddy, but the trekkers are all cheerful. They went up to Kagi and tackled a very big uphill to 1900 Crossing which took about 3 hours. Dad went so far as to say that today was one of the toughest days he’s ever done for the sheer amount of mud and slipping, and it included THE toughest 3 hour stint – so that’s saying something.

They got into camp at about 4.30pm. They all have tents full of wet clothes, but there’s nothing they can do about that and they’re all well and in good spirits. They’ve enjoyed a dinner of mashed potato with cut up sausages and gravy.

Tomorrow they’ll probably skip Myola, given the huge day they’ve had today, and will go straight to Eora Creek. So they’ll have a mere 9 hour walk on Sunday (it is the day of rest after all…)

Claire

Trekkers Arrive At Brigade Hill

Brigade Hill

A nice ceremony was held to mark the 70th anniversary of the battle of Brigade Hill

 

The K12s called from Brigade Hill at 7.15pm on Friday night. They arrived at 2pm after an intense day, and it was nice to get there and to find they had the place to themselves after a few nights of sharing campsites.

They’re all well and had a really nice ceremony to mark the 70th anniversary of the battle of Brigade Hill. They noted that Brigade Hill is amazing as always, and still has that really special feeling about it.

Back here in Adelaide, some of the partners, parents, children and friends of the trekkers gathered for a meal to mark the anniversary, and it was while we were gathered that Bernie called, so he passed the phone around amongst the K12s and we were able to hear their voices – they all sounded like they were in really good spirits. They said they’re all thinking of all of us back home and are having a great time. Ray Baldwin, a 2/27th veteran, joined us for dinner. The K12s passed on their best wishes to him, and noted that they felt they’d paid suitable tribute to him and his mates on Brigade Hill, which Ray appreciated. They were also able to pass on their best wishes directly to Bob Kass, who, in a nice surprise, joined us for dinner.

On Saturday, the K12s will head down Mission Ridge – this section of the walk has some interesting climbs, and they have no idea what sort of state the Track will be in, so they’re not sure what time they’ll get into camp but they plan to be camping at 1900 Crossing.

Brigade Hill

A quiet moment at Brigade Hill

The messages to and from the K12s have been getting through, so keep them coming; it can provide great motivation and support, especially now that they’re a few days in.

:)

Claire

If you wish to support the Centacare Kokoda Challenge team’s fundraising efforts you can visit the sponsorship website at http://www.everydayhero.com.au/bernie_victory or by downloading the donation form here.

On This Day

Brigade Hill Memorial
Brigade Hill Memorial

Those battalions which had been fighting constantly for two weeks since Isurava, 2/16th and 2/14th, needed rest. Consequently 2/27th was placed in the front line on Mission Ridge while the other two battalions were placed behind, in reserve on Brigade Hill. There were about 1400 Australians and 1570 Japanese in the area.

On 7 September, 1942 the Japanese attack commenced. With artillery support, the Japanese attacked the 2/27th on Mission Ridge. Though the fighting continued until early the following morning the Japanese were unable to take any ground from the Australians, half of whose losses were to a bombardment from the six big Japanese guns.

As night fell on 7 September the other Japanese battalion commenced an incredible night march. At dawn on the 8th, the Japanese found the Kokoda track in the Australian rear. A number of counter attacks, including the heroic but ill-fated charge led by Claude Nye and Lefty Langridge, failed to dislodge the Japanese. The Australians on Mission Ridge withdrew to join those on Brigade Hill and the whole cut their way south, through the jungle.

Australian casualties at Efogi were 87 dead and 77 wounded. The Japanese lost 60 dead and 165 wounded. These figures are not a true reflection of the catastrophe which overtook the Australians at Efogi. An additional 500 men, mainly from 2/27th Battalion, without food, marched south through the mountains for up to three weeks before rejoining their own force.

Written by Lucy Jenner

A Message From Bob

Ken and Kevin
Ken and Kevin

I didn’t expect to be back in Adelaide on September 6th but thankfully I can walk reasonably freely and only have a dull ache at the base of my spine and down the right side of my leg. I cannot crouch or squat (which would have made things interesting on the trek) and of course am somewhat “flat”. To have to leave such a great group under these circumstances and not have the opportunity to get to know them individually better will be my biggest regret. On the other hand to return “healthy” and know that a walking holiday is still possible (albeit not Kokoda) must be seen as a positive. Next Tuesday I have an urgent appointment with a neurosurgeon and I would expect an MRI will identify the cause.

In brief, I spoke with Bernie about my physical problem just before 5am yesterday morning. There were no issues in the walk from Owers’ Corner to Goodwater. I actually felt very good and was very optimistic about the trek. Unfortunately shortly after dinner after returning to my tent I suffered severe pain radiating into my right hamstring. Every time I tried to get up or rollover I would have another bolt of pain. This lasted for 3-4 hours and if I had been sensible enough to carry a whistle I might have used it at this time. For a while I was hopeful it would all settle and there was quite a bit of self-diagnosis going on. It was a bad night with the only distraction being Brenton’s (I think) snoring far afield and a few other male noises.

I appreciated Bernie’s direct response and having walked Kokoda previously also knew these options. I could continue on to Ioribaiwa to give it a bit more time to settle or return to Owers’ Corner with the help of my porter. Ioribaiwa was the last feasible medical evacuation point beyond which a medical evacuation was impossible. Bernie also asked me to consider it from a medical point of view. “What would I be advising if someone else in the group had this particular problem at this time”. In 2007 I was faced with a similar issue on day 2 of a Kokoda trek (north to south). One of the group had fallen and twisted a knee. I advised a medical retrieval from Isurava (helicopter). He required a knee reconstruction after returning. He, like me, was very upset when the only sensible option became clear.

Hindsight is always easy and could this have been prevented??  I think Maggie knew I was concerned and I’m sure Bernie knew something was amiss.  It must have been in my body language over the last few days before leaving. Certainly Ken, my porter, felt there was a problem with the way I was walking on the day before. He thought I was favouring my left leg and not bending on the steep declines.  I have had a “low back” problem for many years – probably more than 20. I have always assumed it to be a postural issue and it is in the genes.  Despite this I have never been investigated for a “bad back” and could truthfully say there were no pre-existing issues. I was always very confident that I had put in the hours on the hills. My aerobic fitness was excellent and I had lost 8kg. My concerns only surfaced 3 weeks ago after increasing the weight of my day pack.  Within a few hours of a walk on a couple of occasions I suffered “cramps” in the muscles now affected. It is likely these were early warnings of a nerve impingement. The extra weight of the day pack has tipped the balance. I was making things worse towards the end of my training and it was never going to work. Bernie was not aware of this issue and my medical had been submitted before the problem surfaced. There is a saying “a physician who treats himself has only a fool as a patient”. I am the fool!! 

My thoughts are with the group. I can visualise where they are at this time but cannot see myself there. The decision to return was the right one at the time and I thank Bernie for his wisdom and his support. He has been an inspiration for many people over many years and I’m sure he will be into the future.  Thank you for the opportunity to participate in this very worthwhile cause.

At least part of me will walk the track. Please note Ken’s excellent footwear.  He may feel  barefoot is better!! Ken and his cousin, Kevin made sure I negotiated the return walk safely. I had great support and hopefully we can catch up in the future (not Kokoda but perhaps the northern beaches).

Despite The Mud, A Really Good Day

Ioribaiwa Ridge
Ioribaiwa Ridge

Bernie (Dad) called at 7.26pm on Thursday night. They’re all good in camp at Aguaro.
 
The trekkers had a big day – 11 hours of walking. Dad describes it as the muddiest day he has ever experienced on the Track. It was muddy going up Ioribaiwa Ridge, muddy coming down Ioribaiwa, very muddy going up Maguli Ridge, with light rain, then heavy rain on top of and coming down Maguli. Despite the mud (because of it?), they had a really good day.
 
Earlier in the day the K12s had a break at Jap’s Ladder. They were sitting in the rain, trying to eat their food without ingesting too much of the mud with which they were covered…but the porters were singing and the trekkers felt that they wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.
 
Already soaked with water and mud, they opted to wade through the river without removing their boots….hopefully their boots and gaiters will dry out a bit around the fire before they put them on again in the morning…although there’s plenty more mud to come.
 
By the end of the day they were very weary, with sore legs, but they’re well and didn’t sustain any injuries, which is quite a good effort given the very steep, slippery slopes they climbed up and down during the course of the day. When Dad called, all but 4 or 5 of the trekkers were already in bed. Dad noted the trekkers were happy to have now tasted their first fruit of the trip, getting their hands on some bananas as well as curry nuts.
 
Unfortunately, Bob has decided to withdraw due to some back/leg pain and is now back in Adelaide. His porter helped him to walk out and, while disappointed, Bob is okay and has medical appointments lined up. A message from Bob will be posted separately on this blog.
 
Today, they would have climbed  ‘The Wall’ and Brigade Hill – some serious walking, but comparatively easy after yesterday’s efforts.

They’re enjoying the messages from home, so keep them coming :)

Claire

Sunset at Ioribaiwa

Ioribaiwa Sunset

Ioribaiwa Sunset

Bernie called at 6.20pm on Wednesday. After 7 hours of walking, the K12s got into camp at Ioribaiwa at about 2pm. They have been making good time due to being efficient in the mornings and having only short breaks.

They went up and over a very soggy, slippery Imita Ridge – there were 10 falls, but no injuries. Corina led the way down Imita and, when they reached the spot where Corina last year broke her leg, they had a nice break (pardon the pun) and had a bit of a ceremony to mark the spot…which they’ve named Fibula Ridge. Corina is quite the celebrity, as it turns out. Many of the trekkers they’ve passed/met on the Track have heard stories of Corina’s courageous K11 effort and have been happily surprised to meet her on the Track this year. One of them even interviewed her on their camera – sounds like she’s on her way to becoming the next Mr Bean.

There are lots of people on the Track, and tonight the K12s are one of three groups at the campsite – there is another Kokoda Spirit group, and a group from Adelaide with Wayne Enright’s company. There is a good mood and they’re having a nice time chatting with the other groups, but they’re also happy to hear that they will likely have a few nights coming up where they won’t have to share a campsite with any other groups.

They got to experience a lovely Ioribaiwa sunset, and have also been enjoying Chris Adey’s extremely good massages. Not to be outdone by Anne’s hot pink gaiters, Nat has proved to be the new fashionista, rocking back-to-front Skins, much to everyone’s amusement.

On Thursday, the K12s will head up and over Ioribaiwa Ridge, then Maguli Ridge and across the Brown River. They plan to then camp at Aguaro, at the base of ‘the wall’.

They’re appreciating the messages from home, and they all send their best wishes.

Claire

If you wish to support:

Trekkers Camp At Good Water

 

Alma O'Donnell

The team would have been woken this morning by Alma's choice of wakeup music.

Dad (Bernie) called at 7pm tonight. At that stage, only three of the trekkers were still up; clearly the 3 hours of walking today has them all tuckered out!

They departed their Port Moresby hotel at 8am yesterday, and were at Bomana War Cemetery by 9am. They then headed to Sogeri with the hope of catching up with Morris; he wasn’t there, so they were directed elsewhere, but he wasn’t there either so they headed off to McDonald’s Corner to see the statue, and then got to Ower’s Corner by 11.30am. At Ower’s, they had lunch and took photos. While they were there, two other groups came in.

They then headed off at 12.30pm, crossing a waist-deep Goldie River after the initial tricky downhill. The group set a good pace today, with no-one falling behind. There were 4 minor falls as the track was a bit slippery, and there was also some ‘gloopy’ mud. There has been light rain on and off since 4.30pm. In a puzzling move, Anne is sporting hot pink gaiters – although they’ll likely be a fetching shade of mud brown by this time tomorrow (which is probably for the best, really).

As the Track is quite busy, there were two other groups already camped at Good Water when the K12s arrived, so they didn’t get the best camping spot and having only a small shelter. But all four toilets have seats, and the trekkers have all had a wash in the nice little creek followed by a lovely dinner of fried chicken and potato. The porters have been singing for hours, and even have a guitar with them, so it looks like the K12s will be kept well-nourished from an aural perspective.

They had a couple of briefings today – Bernie managed to explain World War Two in 8 minutes and the Kokoda campaign in 2 minutes, and Steve did an excellent talk on army organisation (explaining what a brigade is etc.) The group has many of the same porters as last year. For those of you for whom this means anything: Corina has Kenneth again, Bernie has Koi, Anne is partnered with Robin, Brenton is with Artie again and Alma’s porter is the charming Paul, who was Michelle’s porter last year (it remains to be seen if Alma will be similarly showered with flowers).

Tomorrow, the K12s will be awoken by Alma’s chosen wake-up music by 5am. They’ll be walking by 6.45am, heading up a reportedly very muddy Imita Ridge. They’ll then criss-cross Ua-Ule Creek and head to Ioribaiwa, where they plan to be staying tomorrow night.

We’ll get another update through to you whenever we next hear from Bernie (if at all), but in the meantime remember you can send through your messages of support by email (Claire@duddyshopov.com.au) or text (0438 293 602) to me, or by posting a comment to the blog page.

Claire

If you wish to support Alma’s fundraising efforts you can visit her sponsorship website at http://www.everydayhero.com.au/almajane_odonnell

Day One – Ower’s Corner Crossing The Goldie River

Day 1 Owers Corner to Goldie

Day 1 Owers Corner to Goldie

I heard from Dad (Bernie) at 4.30pm today. The group left Ower’s Corner at 12.30, heading downhill immediately then crossing the Goldie River. They got into camp at Good Water at 3pm and are doing well.

Tomorrow they face a climb up the physically and historically significant Imita Ridge. No doubt they’ll now be enjoying an afternoon sitting around chatting, getting to know each other and their porters better, eagerly awaiting dinner followed by their first night sleeping in the jungle.

Claire

Centacare Adelaide

Centacare Adelaide

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