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 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’…! :/
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.
If you wish to support Alma’s fundraising efforts you can visit her sponsorship website at http://www.everydayhero.com.au/almajane_odonnell
Earlier today I dragged out the very first profile I wrote in 2004, interested to see what has changed and what remains the same.
The need for respite remains as high or even higher than 2004, except now we are meeting the need more effectively with the programs at Auricht.
The Kokoda campaign is now, rightly, much better known. Peter Brune’s book has been followed by dozens of histories, biographies, movies, documentaries and TV series.
The mysteries of the track, the doubt that I would be fit enough have been replaced by a sense of familiarity and a strong desire to experience the pleasant fatigue at the end of a 10 hour day.
Port Moresby was as scary as I had been told, but Isurava and Brigade Hill were more moving and special than I had expected.
The “interesting bunch of people” have become close friends and companions on many journeys. The porters and locals have become facebook friends and familiar contacts, even if they are still in doubt about my identity.
So why finish now – 70th anniversary, 10 crossings, finally got a photo of the blue butterfly at Hoi, Mission Ridge and Kagi at last, cumulative effects of years of tropical bugs, knees going, need to go to other places?
It’s just time.
On Saturday a group of K12s and other trekkers travelled to Black Rock near Peterborough to meet Eric Sambell, a veteran of Kokoda. Eric was part of the 2/27th AIF Battalion and fought in the Egypt, Syria, Kokoda, Gona, Shaggy Ridge and Borneo campaigns. Eric is one of a very small number of surviving 2/27th veterans. We were able to spent a few hours with Eric as he told of his time in the AIF, concentrating on the battles at Mission Ridge and Brigade Hill. Eric was a Bren Gunner and he was part of the group lost in the jungle for 2 weeks after the retreat from Brigade Hill. His memory of detail was razor sharp and he expressed a keen interest in our trip. We will be working on a brief video of our time with Eric for those who were unable to be there.
Eric has asked us to visit the graves of some of his mates in Bomana War cemetery. We hope to be able to make another trip up to Kate’s farm after K12 to catch up with Eric and show him photos of our visit.