Every Kokoda trek brings a new adventure and this ticked all the boxes as seven mates from WA embarked on a trek across the Owen Stanley Ranges, retracing the steps of those who fought in the Kokoda campaign 74 years before. Nick, Morgan, Egan, Wayne, Scott, Nathan and Andrew were all ready to experience the endless ups and downs of the Kokoda Track.
The trek started with an early flight through the hazy sky to Popondetta where we received a welcome address by the Governor of Oro Province, Gary Juffa, who gave a detailed account of the region and the issues faced by those who live in this remote area. We then boarded the PMV bound for Kokoda and received another treat with a stop at the Kumusi river and an explanation of the bridge and road projects by construction employees.
We arrived in Kokoda for lunch, and met our porter team lead by the amazing local guide Nelson and lead porter Lester. After a quick lunch we headed to explore the museum and the plateau before setting off through the arches for our 9 day adventure. A tough introduction as we hit the hills between Hoi and Deniki in the pouring rain, we all soon appreciated the sacrifices that had occurred so long before. Scott made the most of the rain, lathering up and using mother nature’s deluge to wash himself clean.
Egan forgot to turn off his alarm, so everyone was up and ready early for the first full day of trekking. We awoke to a cloud filled Yodda Valley and sunshine breaking through. Ideal conditions to continue our adventure. No need to ask with direction. Here we go…. How long? 35 minutes… What direction? Up, up, up.
After a service at the Isurava memorial and Cons Rock, we pressed on to Alola. Adrenaline pumped as we gently and hastily navigated our way over the slowly moving rocks and trees of a recent landslide, hoping that each step would not set the slide in motion again.
The roosters replaced Egan’s alarm on day 3 as we set off for Templetons. Packs on, here we go.. Down, down, as we discovered a palm is better than a root in some circumstances, and ginger is always a good addition. Nathan’s ever sharp eyes found two bullets, lying undisturbed on the jungle floor for the last 74 years. Interesting for all to see. We continued the arduous task of walking up, and the group was rewarded with a swim in the cold river to relieve the aching muscles and end the day.
Day four saw us reach the top of Mt Bellamy and celebrate with packs on doing push-ups. We met another group who didn’t seem to have the energy that we did, giving us the added confidence to continue on. A visit to the bomber site and Myola lakes put the realities of war into perspective, before we headed into Kagi, for the Sabbath. It’s always great to see the porters with their families and friends and learn a little more of their culture in their own environment. The evening discussions with Nelson and the porters gave the group an added lesson on PNG which was much appreciated by all.
The sabbath saw Andrew almost sleep through breakfast following his dose of phenergan. We all headed to the morning service at church and listened to the beautiful singing. We visited the local school, and saw a grenade complete with pin intact that we were all a bit unsure about. Morgan, Egan and Alfy thought it’d be great to run back to Kagi as they don’t have hills in Derby – silly idea really! The rest of the day consisted of relaxing, laughing and an endless game of Uno, and finished with a singalong with the children, who certainly had a lot more energy than we did.
Day 6, what direction?? Down, down, down, a very steep descent before the up, up, ups, however we made good time getting to Efogi by 8am. We met up with another larger trekking group and walked in together. There was much celebrations as the men of the village completed construction of a log bridge over the river just as we reached it. We crossed to cheers and splashing of water, and were met by the SDA women from surrounding villages who were present for a church meeting. They welcomed us to the village, sang songs, presented us with leis and blessed us for our ongoing safe travels. To top it off we had pumpkin scones, before heading up to Brigade Hill for a service in the misting rain and laying of wreaths across the battle site. Down for a quick swim in the river before we reached Menari. There’s never a dull moment in the track.
Who needs an alarm clock when you have 21 roosters in a village who start their confused cries at 3am. The two roosting in the tree at our campsite didn’t expect Alfys surprise eviction as they were shaken from the tree. He continued his humour through the day deciding as we went down the wall and up the 9 false peaks to Nauro that we really needed a someone who we could throw stones at to take out our frustrations. After a challenging short day, we rested, relaxed, washed, enjoyed the views, enjoyed each other’s company, and discovered that spoons don’t go to well in coffee plungers (oops). We also felt like the Australians at war as we were completely outflanked by all the village dogs.
Day 8 – After our relaxing afternoon, we headed up again, reaching the top of the the Maguli Range where Morgan decided he’d love to be flying the chopper that was passing through the valley below us. Down we headed to Ofi Creek where Neatsy discovered his rock hopping ability was not as good as the porters, soon finding himself in the creek. Nathan believes that there really is a road a km over the next ridge and we are just suckers walking across the track. If only it was that easy, then everyone could share the beauty of this remote place.
On our last day on the track, we celebrated Alfys birthday with a walk over Imita, a swim in the Goldie and a cold beer and sausage at Owers Corner as we reached the end of our journey. What better way to end than a group push up session with packs on! We finished with a trip to Bomana to lay poppies beside the graves of those who had made the ultimate sacrifice, before heading to the Holiday Inn for a clean up, and a farewell dinner with the porters.
Everyone takes something away from their Kokoda experience. Our group thought often of the challenges faced by those who fought during the Kokoda campaign, and formed a new level of respect for those who had fought for our freedom. As we honoured the sacrifices that they made, we formed a better understanding of the true meaning and value of mateship.
Courage, sacrifice, endurance and mateship. Four words that will be forever etched in our minds as we complete this journey and look to our next adventure. Kokoda memories will remain strong among us forever.