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.
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.
I just had a call from Pauline, who is relaxing with a coffee at the Gateway Motel in Port Moresby. This morning, Chris Adey flew out, Pauline went to the airport to collect Peter’s bag, which didn’t arrive with him on Tuesday, and Lyall met up with some local friends before heading home.
As for the K12s heading to the Beaches: one of the guides Pauline spoke to in PoM said he thinks they’re still stuck in Kokoda, but Pauline’s friend Cecily, in Kokoda, thinks they’ve left Kokoda – so who knows?! Hopefully, they’re at or en route to the Beaches. At this stage they’ll probably only visit Buna, as they then need to be back at Popondetta by about 7am tomorrow to get their flight back to PoM.
This afternoon, Brian Schumacher will arrive in Port Moresby, and he and Pauline will spend the afternoon touring around PoM with a guide. They (and Peter’s bag) will then fly to Popondetta tomorrow morning to meet the rest of the group and distribute additional Leukoplast tape, fungal cream and video camera memory cards (which Brian kindly packed last night) to the back-to-back trekkers and – perhaps as importantly – supplies of cheese, Vegemite and mayonnaise to Cecily (essential items the villagers cannot buy in Kokoda!).
Pauline reports that it was hot and sunny in Kokoda yesterday – hopefully that means the Retreat trek will be a bit less wet than the Tribute trek. The Tribute trekkers’ spirits were given a real boost by the arrival of Alice, Ben, Zorana, Paul and Peter yesterday, with their bountiful energy and enthusiasm. Ben was taking lots of photos and Alice took over drug duties (making sure everyone was taking their anti-malaria medication etc.), in between general excited bouncing around the campsite.
We may not hear from the group tonight due to a lack of battery and reception, but whether they’re at Buna or Kokoda I understand that they’re enjoying the break before flying home or commencing the walk back over the Track to Ower’s Corner.
Pauline, Alice, Zorana, Paul, Ben and Peter flew from Port Moresby to Kokoda mid-morning today. All but Pauline have now gone to join the Tribute trekkers to head to the Northern Beaches, except Chris Adey and Lyall who have flown back to Port Moresby with Pauline. Those three are not going to the Beaches – Chris and Lyall will, I believe, return home in the next few days (please note this is not due to injury or illness; this was the plan all along), while Pauline hopes to visit some people and places in and around Port Moresby before joining the rest of the Retreat trekkers at Kokoda on Friday, along with Brian Schumacher who leaves Adelaide tomorrow.
Confused? Yeah me too!
Some of the Retreat trekkers departed Adelaide bright and early this morning to join their fellow K12s (in their muddy, wet, stinky glory) at Kokoda or Popondetta (depending on where the plane can land in the wet conditions).
Pauline, Alice, Zorana, Ben, Paul and Peter were farewelled by a small, bleary-eyed crew, and arrived in Brisbane mid-morning. They had a 3 hour wait for their next flight and will arrive in PNG later today. Brian Schumacher heads off on Thursday, and the rest of the Retreat trekkers are already in PNG as they are doing the Tribute + Retreat option (Bernie, Brenton, Sam, Catherine, Lindsay and Julie) – I wonder what they’re thinking about that decision now!
Most of the K12s who are coming home after the Northern Beaches will arrive in Adelaide on Saturday evening (15th September), and most of the rest of the group will return on Sunday 23rd September…so we’ve still got a while to go; I do hope you stay tuned and keep those messages from home coming – especially for those who are not even quite halfway through their adventure yet!
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.
Al’s top 10 tips
1. Wear your boots on the plane.
2. When you get into camp, (no matter what time it is, if it’s a bit difficult to get there or how you feel) GO to the creek to wash. You will feel so much better after.
3. Make sure your gear is organised and you know where everything is so you don’t waste time trying to find things.
4. At dinner time take a bag with everything you need for the night (drugs, water bottle, toilet stuff, rid, head lamp etc) so you don’t have to keep going back and forward between your tent and the shelter.
5. Take your pole with you to the toilet for support, and if you decide to go off the track to go, be careful.
6. Carry a few essential drugs like panadol and gastro stop in the pocket on your waiststrap.
7. You don’t need deodorant or moisturiser. There’s nothing that can mask how bad you smell and everything will already be moist.
8. This is YOUR trip. Even though we’ve all trained together, and many of you are walking the track with partners, other family members and good friends, your trip is your own.
9. When you get back, whether you are interested in history or not, read more about war because it will mean so much more having been there.
10. Every now and then STOP, look up, look around you and look back. You may never be there and see that amazing place again
Hi I’m Alice and K12 will be my third trip to Kokoda.
Kokoda has been a big part of my life since 2003 when Dad started to get fit in preparation for his first trip in 2004. Like many I resisted the whole thing for a long time. But when I heard Ray Baldwin speak about his experience of the war, after the K07 group had returned, I had to go, to experience it myself and attempt to understand some of what young men like Ray had gone through in the jungles of New Guinea in 1942.
When I first walked the track in 2008, I was sad to leave after completing the track and I knew that it couldn’t be the last time I was in PNG. When I walked the track again in 2010 it was agreed amongst most of the younger members of the group that we would do the track again in 2012. I honestly couldn’t think of a good reason NOT to go back. Walking the track is an amazing experience. Training to get fit, being (almost) completely cut off from the outside world and technology, and being surrounded by dense beautiful jungle in the company of friends and a group of amazing local guides are just some of the things which make it special. I’m not really sure why people describe walking the track as crazy, because any negatives about it, pain, discomfort, lack of proper toilets, is far outweighed by the positives. And if you stop to think of the reasons why Centacare is hosting this trip, (to raise money to continue respite for children with intellectual disabilities, and in honour and remembrance of the young men who suffered and died on the track), any personal struggles on the track seem much less important.
This year I am walking the retreat as I want to experience walking the track in the other direction. This will also be Dad’s final time walking Kokoda and I am very much looking forward to walking through the arches at Ower’s Corner with him and Mum on the final day.
If you wish to support Alice’s fundraising efforts you can visit her sponsorship website at: http://www.everydayhero.com.au/alice_victory