I heard from Bernie last night and this morning, and from Pauline in PoM last night. Everyone is well and it seems things are finally going to plan!
Yesterday, the bulk of the group finally got to Buna. This involved 4 hours of the most bumpy, squashed ride ever. They took a break in Popondetta en route, and a soccer game provided some welcome relief from the cramped truck ride. During the course of their 4 hour adventure, I understand they ran out of petrol twice; again, standard PNG fare.
Upon arrival in Buna, they were welcomed by locals dressed in full traditional regalia. Some of the trekkers then opted for a longboat ride to Sanananda (which probably would have been slightly more relaxing without the 1.5m waves). It was an adventurous day; lots of waiting around and bumpy truck rides probably doesn’t constitute the greatest way for the Retreat trekkers to start, but I’m sure they’ll get into the zone later today when they start walking on the Track.
By 7pm last night, they were all dry and having tea in a nice hut overlooking the ocean. At that point they were not optimistic that the truck would get back from Popondetta in time (3am) for them to meet the plane, but they did end up getting to Popondetta as planned this morning and, in any event, the plane time was changed so that Pauline and Brian S didn’t fly out of PoM til 8.30am, meaning the K12s who are not doing the Retreat will likely fly out from Popondetta to PoM around 9.30 this morning. Those trekkers will spend tonight at the Gateway in Port Moresby before flying home tomorrow.
Meanwhile, the Retreat trekkers will walk from Kokoda to Hoi today. From memory, this will only take them 1 – 2 hours, and they’ll likely get in to the lovely village of Hoi after lunch.
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.
The trucks from Popondetta didn’t arrive, so the trekkers are spending another night in Kokoda. If all goes to plan,* they will depart for Buna at 4am.On the plus side, this likely gives the back-to-back trekkers a slightly higher chance of getting their soaking wet clothes and boots slightly more dry…Claire
(*i.e. the plan that is their new plan after their original plan and back-up plan fell victim to standard PNG chaos!)
As you’d now know, the Tribute trekkers finished their walk at Kokoda yesterday. They then camped at Kokoda last night. Most of the Retreat trekkers arrived in Port Moresby yesterday and stayed at the Gateway Motel last night.
Today, the plan is for the Retreat trekkers to fly to Kokoda, and for the whole group (minus a few who have opted not to do the beaches and to head straight back to Port Moresby) to then get to Popondetta by truck, and then head to the Northern Beaches.
As of 9.30am this morning, the scenario is textbook PNG: the plane from Port Moresby has been delayed because of low cloud over Mount Bellamy, and the trucks coming from Popondetta have been delayed by breakdown. But all being well, the K12s will be in Buna tonight.