‘160 seconds’ Lester would say and the group immediately snaps to attention!!
‘Packs on…..let’s Rock & Roll’.
Deniki to Alola (via Isurava battlefield)
An early rise at 5.00am (someone did stir at 2.00am thinking it was time to get up!!) with all trekkers starting the processes of waking up, packing gear, eating a good breakfast, brush the fangs and generally start to loosen up the body for today’s trekking. Today is the day where we walk through the beautiful Choko Fields and visit the Isurava Battle site to pay our respects to those soldiers of the 39th & 53rd Militia Battalions and the 2/14th & 2/16th AIF who paid the ultimate sacrifice at or near this location. After a moving service at the memorial, we pushed on to see ‘Con’s Rock’ and then to our evenings camp site at the beautiful village of Alola. Again another awesome meal was enjoyed by all and despite the trekkers nearly burning the meal hut down, we all retired early for the night, listening to the rumbles of thunder and the patter of rain.
Alola to Dump No 1
Before 5.00am rise thanks to the local alarm clocks (thanks Alola roosters!!!) and after the usual morning routine, we started the very slippery decent out of Alola with everyone taking their time and being cautious (even Andy!!). We arrived at the Japanese Gun position overlooking Eora Creek in good time then continued on to Templeton’s Crossing. After a nice break, we pushed onto our evening camp site being located at Dump Number 1 where we enjoyed a nice bathe in the cold waters of the Eora Creek.
Dump No 1 to Kagi
Everyone especially the porters were up early to start this big day which will end in their home village of Kagi and the reunion with their families. Breakfast consisted of a nice porridge drowned in Honey & bananas for some otherwise those who didn’t partake still had the choice of Banana pancakes, Cornflakes & Weetbix’s washed down with a strong PNG plunged coffee or tea. After filling our bellies, we started with a nice incline out of Dump 1 which if you weren’t awake…you certainly were when we reached the top!! We climbed over the top of Mt Bellamy (2200m) and experienced the beautiful ‘Moss Forrest’ where huge Pandanas grow and the moss is phosphorescent at night. A detour to visit the treeless landscape of the Myola Lakes where in 1942, the allies were air dropping supplies and the wounded were briefly able to receive medical attention. The walk towards Kagi was only interrupted by lunch and when Ben stepped on something metallic which ended up being a fully loaded Bren Gun magazine. All were amazed that it took 74 years to find the surface again since being dropped (perhaps by a digger) back in 1942!! Our arrival in Kagi was amazing, met by the local women & children who presented handmade Lei’s to the trekkers and we stayed at Gerri’s camp, immediately requesting as much Coco-cola as possible from the local ‘shop’. Tomorrow would be our rest day so everyone was in a relaxed mood, enjoying the popcorn, soft drink and dinner presented.
Day 6 – Kagi Rest Day ‘Sabbath’
Today we had a nice sleep in with everyone getting up around 6.30am for breakfast and generally to experience a relaxing day. The sun was shining as most trekkers took the opportunity to do some washing, dry the clothes and attend to some minor aches & pains. We had the opportunity to attend the morning church service with the Kagi Villagers which ended up being an amazing experience (even Bruce liked it) and straight after that, Karsman took us to the nearby school at Kovolo to see the facilities and also talk to Michael, the local school teacher. Paul made the fatal mistake of ‘not raising his hand’ to ask a question and was punished for his insubordination (thanks Andy for dishing out the punishment). After the school, we arrived back at Kagi to check our washing was drying, reflect on our adventure so far and rest. In the evening, we were privileged to have the local villagers call up to our campsite to sing for us before dinner.
Day 9 – New Nauro to Ua-Ule Creek (aka Reuben’s camp)
Everyone was up early this morning, ready for a big days trekking where we would cover over 15km of ground and ascend 570m but loose over 1050m from the peak of the Maguli Ranges (1350m). The rest from the previous afternoon had everyone in good spirits and with lots of banter being made of who will race one of the porters up ‘Imita Ridge’ the last day…Lucy being the favourite. The long climb up to the peak of the Maguli Range sapped everyone’s excess energy and then came the steep decent down to Ofi Creek where we rested for morning tea. After a brief rest and then pushing up to Ioribaiwa Ridge where the thrust of the Japanese force was to grind to a halt, we continued down to Ioribaiwa Village itself for a welcomed break and lunch. After our fill, we then pushed on with no less than 9 creek crossings to Ua-Ule Creek where I had been promised a wonderful swimming spot and hopefully more cans of coke! A big day it was with a very welcomed swim in the creek, big dinner then off to bed to attack the final day!
Day 10 – Ua-Ule Creek to Owers’ Corner
No need for any roosters today with all up early and focused on finishing the trek strong…especially Lucy who by now was a confirmed starter for the Imita Ridge Handicap! The morning routine of waking up, packing the gear, eating a good breakfast and brushing the fangs has been honed to perfection with all eager to get going. The main topic of conversation was what you were going to eat when back in the real world with suggestions of lamb roasts, big steaks, meat pies and hamburgers being met with a buzz of approval. We reached the starting point of the Imita Ridge Handicap and took a brief rest. Lucy looked ready to go however the challenger from the porter ranks didn’t materialize, so with some level of relief (perhaps wisdom), the race was postponed for another day. The climb up to Imita Ridge was energy sapping with all drawing on every bit of will power to get to the top. At the end of that hour and with a huge sigh of relief, we sat our tired bodies down for a well-earned break. We then continued the slippery downhill decent to the Goldie River, a quick swim, then set ourselves for the final push up to Owers’ Corner where the last 200m is absolutely soul destroying!
At approx. 12.05pm…on Wednesday 15th June 2016, eight Australian’s…brothers …sisters…all mates, finished the pilgrimage of what is called the Kokoda track.