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Published: September 9th 2011
The Kokoda Track
The up and the downs. The highs and lows. Undulating
August 13, 2011
Ioribaiwa to Goldie River - 8 hours
There are some celebrations in the camp. Today is the last full day of trekking. The end is finally near and we are all so ready for this to be completed. Although sad to be finishing at the same time. It has been such a journey in so many ways.
We hike today from the Ioribaiwa village to the Goldie River an 8 hour hike. We have a really difficult descent down with a little plateau in the middle. The path is muddy and we have to wear our gaiters and Bushman's Insect Repellant Cream is a must today, even though we all use it everyday.
The trail is difficult to describe as it varies so much. At times it is nothing but gnarled tree roots that you try to find a foot space to plant your foot. Then on the inclines you have to use the roots as your steps and at times only inches are there for your foot to help boost yourself up to the next root. A good part of the trail is red clay and usually muddy and slippery. Each step
Day 9 Ioribaiwa to Goldie River
Ioribaiwa looking towards Port Moresby
is subject to the possibility of sliding. The muddy clay sticks to your boots and also makes each step even more slippery. You also have to take into consideration that the trail is also on the ridge and the side of very large and steep mountains. The path can be as wide as 3 meters (rare) or as small as 4 inches. The edge can be solid rock, soft loam, and eroding earth. There are many times when the hiking pole actually causes the side of the path to collapse and fall hundreds of feet down the mountain.
The steepness of the paths range from 10% to 40% grade. The trail switchbacks into a zig zag pattern to minimize the grade but takes longer. The Kokoda Shuffle is when you take really small steps with little height in an effort to use the least amount of exertion. The porters are very good at this. They are very good at walking slow and steady. You seldom see them walk fast unless there is trouble or they need to do something.
The porters are generally pretty young, Angie's porter was 18 and trekked the trail 21 times, Francine's porter was
18 and trekked the trail 24 times. They are not immune to the trials of the track. They get blisters when they wear shoes, some go barefooted the whole time and others are back and forth depending on the conditions. They get tired and take breaks. They often walk slower than the trekkers as they have better sense.
Today is a late lunch and the climbing of the mountain was extremely tiring. Angie is the only one of the group with blisters on her feet and has severely stubbed some of her toes and will lose several toe nails because of the abuse to the toes on the downhill sections. Arriving into the lunch area Angie has hit the wall!!--her feet are killing her and emotions are wearing thin and everyone is aware that she is exhausted. The porters do their best to cheer her up by chanting ORA ORA ORA (Welcome) and clap for her. Angie replies with the last bit of strength and does an impromptu jig and everyone claps and hoots. Angie then proceeds to tend to her feet. She has used all of the 50+ bandaids so with some borrowed bandages from Francine she patches
the feet and eats lunch and we are off for the long afternoon hike.
The hike continues up till we hit the ridge then the descent down the Golden Stairs to the camp site for the last night on the Kokoda Track. Now it is Francine's turn. Downhill is the challenge for her knees. The rest of her body and mind are fine. The toll on her swollen knees is sapping her energy and she concentrates on every step, making sure she doesn't twist her knees. All through the trip she has been saying, "we are fine, imagine not having legs like Kurt Fearnley and he did the track. And blind people have done the track. Sore knees, at least I have them. I'll worry about it when I get home." Anti inflamatories are an accompaniment to breakfast and lunch throughout the trip.
There is much to be happy about this evening. The journey of personal development, knowledge and the pursuit of historical awareness has made this the most challenging that any of us have ever had.
In celebration of this night the lead porter hands out beer to Gary and Donald, the men in our group.
The women are totally ignored. When Francine's asked where the beer was for the women, she was ignored. (Even a bottled water or coke would have been nice). This was just one of the many things that was noticed during this trip to PNG. It is truly a male dominated society. Women are not equal. When any of us women suggested things it was ignored. The lead porter did not want to talk with the women and wanted us to go through Gary who was designated by Duffy as our liaison between us and the porters.
As mentioned before I was the first American that this crew has ever had on the track and Duffy felt free to taking things from my bag and using them without my permission. I know that I should have said something immediately but my life on the track for 9 days depended on his direction. However, I did ask Gary to speak with Duffy about my watch which Duffy knew was mine and took off the outside of my pack (he said that it kept good time), a towel that had disappeared from my bag and the sports gloves that Duffy was wearing
that day, that I knew were mine. Duffy basically ignored Gary's inquiry and stated that the porter had my things. This was far from the truth. But my towel is mysteriously reappear attached to my bag the next day and Dufffy did return my watch at the end of the trip. But the gloves were kept by Duffy as was various other little things that went missing on the trip.
Everyone is in bed early as the weariness has reach us all and the anticipation of the morning is a real incentive to the night to end.
August 14, 2011
Goldie River to Owers Corner - 45 mins uphill
We can't get ready fast enough. The hike today is a little less than one hour uphill to Owen's Corner, the end of our journey. It should have been the beginning but circumstance made us start at the end and reverse the trek. It doesn't matter now. The women are leading the trail and as we appear at the bottom of the memorial arches we are met with a wall of palms. Behind the palms are the porters in native attire and they ask who goes
there and we answer that we come as friends; the wall is removed and we enter under the Arches of the Kokoda Track. The natives are signing and dancing and we are all crying, laughing and hugging with joy.
The last 9 days have been a journey and an adventure like no other. The track has been done by less than 1% of all Australians and I am sure only a handful of Americans if any. It is an accomplishment to treasure.
The mood is joyous and one of relief. The task has been accomplished and we are all so proud of the journey that brought us here and proud to be an Australian ( or a pseudo one as Angie and Donald are in spirit).
The journey on the track has ended but the adventure continues. We travel from Owens Corner by van to the War Cemetery. The cemetary is kept beautifully. It is funded by the Australian Government and maintained by Papua New Guinean staff. A peaceful place for our war heroes to rest.
It's on to Port Moresby and the markets where many of the people purchase bilum bags made by the natives
and Angie buy a large handwoven serving platter ( only 30 AUD).
We return to the hotel in Port Moresby and have to wait an hour for our rooms to be ready. The alternative, we head to the restaurant for lunch. Making up for the last nine days. We order burgers and club sandwiches and soft drinks. Great our rooms are ready and we had off to take well deserved showers, wash and sort our dirty clothes and have our back packs cleaned.
The personal porters are coming this evening for the presentation of the certificates of accomplishment and to receive there pay from us for all they have done to help us on the Track. The group try to arrange for a special certificate for Angie proclaiming her to be an Honorary Aussie. Unfortunately, this did not workout but the thought was there and Angie was indeed accepted as an honorary Aussie for her search and discovery of Australian historical sites in PNG and in Gallipoli, Turkey 2 years ago and on her recent trip to the Outback, Northern Territory and the Great Barrier Reef. A surprise and a proud moment for Angie to be part of
Our rappelling hill
after the track was blocked. Entwined vines and we climbed down
the Australian spirit. Even though she can't quite get the accent right.
The last evening was filled with chatter and talk about all the memories that the Kokodo Track has for each and everyone of us. We learn more about our porters and enjoy the various stories that fill the night's conversations. Hiking the Kokoda Trail represents many things to every individual who takes on the challenge and succeeds. The memories will always close to our hearts for what we personally accomplished and for those who bravely fought in this extreme environment to keep the world a safe and place for us all to live a life of freedom.
An absolutely massive pizza with extra cheese for dinner. And we all fall asleep in real beds with real pillows and real sheets. All clean.
Monday, 15 August
Port Moresby to Australia
We wake up and have another hot shower. Then to a buffet breakfast. Karen has already been up for awhile and is relaxing by the pool. We head off to a buffet breakfast. Then to the hotel gift shop. Fran buys a wooden mask. Checks it is finished well and doesn't have any
bore insect holes in it. Very strick customs import rules in Australia. A few decks of cards decorated with PNG scenery as gifts for family. There isn't really very much we can buy. We farewell Gary, Kylie and Donald, they are departing on Air Nugini, 30 mins before our Virgin flight.
We finish packing our bags and squashing it all back in our clean packs.
We head off to reception to check out and they try to overcharge us for our pack cleaning by one extra bag. Sorted that out and head off to the airport.
Arrive at the airport and look for the checkin counter for our flight. We can't find it. Check the board. Virgin Brisbane flight CANCELLED. WTF. Angie and I look at each other and laugh. It is all part of the experience. Customer Service advises, due to bad weather in New Zealand the plane did not leave. Next Virgin flight Wednesday, 2 days away. Karen is determined that she is flying home today. She heads off to check on flights with Air Nugini. Angie and I try to sort out refunds, credits anything on the other side of the terminal. We are
Water shoes for 18 river/creek crossings
you can see the marks from my socks, my legs a bit swollen. AND WORTH IT
calling out info to each other. There is a group of people gathering at the Customer Service complaining. We guarantee our flight credits and head over to Karen, she has made it to the front of the queue. We have 30 mins before the flight departs. 1 ticket saleslady, 3 hand written tickets and payment processings takes about 10 mins each.
10 mins before departure, wait in the queue for customs check and we are through and meet up with Gary, Kylie and Donald, we are all on the same flight. We board with only minutes until departure.
And we wait and wait and wait....... 30 mins later, the pilot announces we have to wait for four people on connecting flights. He states as you would understand, you wouldn't want to miss your connecting flight". Well we are now running late to catch our connectin flights in Brisbane. Phew take off. Frangie helps us relax into our regular fun, all part of the experience mood.
We land in Brisbane 90min until we depart from the domestic terminal to Sydney. Off the plane, race through to Customs and there is a queue.
Divert to duty free for
Drambuie, Scotch and Baileys. This will last Fran for the next few years. Shhh don't tell her friends, they will be over to share.
OK. Back to Customs, Angie is saving us a place in the queue. Passport stamped. Now to show our declared woodend items, Karen's PNG Coffee, check. OK now the boots, sorry still some soil on them. Take them off they need spraying for parasites. 60min till take next take off. Angie is through, must be the American accent. She's off to check us into our domestic flights at customer service. Boots back on. Race across to Angie, all ok, we check our packs in and they are on their way to the domestic terminal. Now we just have to get there. Waiting waiting for bus.
Bus arrives. 20mins until domestic take off. Arrive at Domestic 10 mins until take off. Running again with other people from the bus. Through security check. Lucky our departure gate is right next to security. 5 mins until departure. Ahhh we are on the flight. Laughter. Another experience added to the list.
8.30pm we arrive back in Sydney. Frangie gives a last farewell to our flight attendant and
we head off to collect our baggage. Karen's lovely husband Colin arrives to meet us and takes us all home to Gosford. We arrive home at 10.3pm.
WOW, THE LAST 13 DAYS. WHAT AN ABSOLUTELY AMAZING AWESOME, INCREDIBLE, INSPIRING, CHALLENGING, FULFILLING EXPERIENCE. These are only a few words, there aren't enough to describe The Kokoda Track.
YOU HAVE TO DO IT. START TRAINING NOW!!
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