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…
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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 (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…)
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
Why am I returning to PNG after the trip I did in 2009 with my daughter Winnie, Bernie and crew – well, because I am lucky.
Lucky to still have my father (92 years old) who fought for 14 months in PNG in a platoon of 33 men and was one of the lucky 15 to survive that campaign, he is still a tower of strength and sharp as a tack, only recently hanging up the golf clubs to care for his wife.
Lucky to be in a position physically and financially to join a special group of people in an experience like this again.
Lucky to be an Australian and living in the best country in the world because our brave soldiers put it all on the line.
Lucky to perhaps again stand on top of my favourite spot in PNG (Brigade Hill) and take some time remember the very brave 2/27th that fought such a ferocious battle here against all odds.
Lucky to be consumed by a jungle with so much beauty, only being there can really tell the story and to maybe hear the rifle bird again, who, 70 years on still carries the legacy of this ferocious battle with its mimicry of the Bren Gun.
Lucky to honour Mark Auricht and to promote something he must have felt passionate about before his tragic death on Mt Everest (Auricht House).
You can support Graham’s fundraising efforts by visiting his sponsorship site at http://www.everydayhero.com.au/graham_peck
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.