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August 5th 2011
Published: August 18th 2011
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2, 3 ,4 August 2011 – PRE TRIP

Monday. The beginning of our journey began with a very rocky start. A call from the owner of the travel company the day before we leave Sydney warned us that some of the land owners had banded together to block part of the Kokoda Track. The trip was in jeopardy.

Tuesday. We talk to the tour company and it is decided we have to fly to PNG with the expectation of all proceeding. We (Francine) continue packing and ticking off our lists of required items. There is so much to take. Although only 16kg allowed. We succeeded to get it all in. But why do we need 10 cotton balls. (We never used them the entire trip). One of the many mysteries of our Trek.

Tuesday at 5pm, Karen rings and will be here to pick us up in 15 mins. I go to close my pack and the zips are stuck. Hair dryer to expand the metal, Vaseline (for our feet, which we didn’t use on the trip either) to help them slide. Brute strength and we have movement. The pack is closed.

We arrive at the F1 motel near the domestic terminal, ready for our early check in. The next morning we boarded the plane to Papua New Guinea, not knowing one way or another if the trek was going to happen.

The flight on Virgin Airlines was bare bones, no thrill type of flight but we made it to Papua New Guinea. We had transportation to the Gateway Motel that was only a few minutes away from the airport and arrived to a modern hotel with so many bell boys in the lobby all vying to carry our luggage. No tipping in this country, thank heaven it would have cost a small fortune.

There are four of us this trip, Francine, Angie, Karen and Frangie. But there are only 2 beds, a single and a double. We im mediately request a third bed as we had booked a triple share room. We arrange the furniture and wait, they deliver a mattress that they throw on the floor and cover with a sheet.

Francine is our negotiator and quickly seeks out the front desk and playing the exhausted tourist that needs help before she collapses, she arranges for a larger room but again the mattress is on the floor, although we can at least move around the room by using floor space rather than walking across beds. As the little floor space we had was used to stack our packs.

We are quickly discovering that PNG is a very expensive country. The most expensive we have been to, even with the exchange rate. This room is costing us 814 kina (407 AUD). We have never paid that much for a room ever, wait till you see the picture of it. Not the luxury suite that we could get in the AUS or USA for $400 a night. We wander around the hotel and soon discover that we are not able to leave the premises.

We inquire about a tour of Port Moresby and are told by the front desk that there are no tours and told us very seriously that it is not safe to be outside of the hotel. We inquire about getting stamps for our postcards and told that the post office is only 5 minutes away but again not safe even in broad daylight. We begin to notice the guards at all the doors and the razor wire around the perimeter of the hotel grounds and suddenly we find ourselves prisoners. We sit by the pool and spend the rest of the time waiting for the trip briefing on the next day.

The trip briefing is delayed by 2 hours. We gather and meet our fellow travelers, Gary, a triathlete from Brisbane, Donald a Scot living in Australia and his wife Kylie from Brisbane, Karen, Francine and Angie. Donald and Kylie are young and Gary, Francine, Karen and Angie are experienced.

When the briefing begins we are told that the track is closed from the South for about 20 km, and us flying to Kokoda and only doing part of the track with us personally paying a total of $4000 AUD to fly back from Menari to Port Moresby when done. This was not received well by any of us. Then within minutes and after a few phone calls, we discover that track is completely closed and we have to go home. But obviously not the end of the story. The company representative speaks directly with the Kokoda Track Commissioner and now all of the sudden we are allowed to trek the entire track but we have to fly to Kokoda and do it in reverse and we have to start the next day. Which was our start day anyway. Everyone is ecstatic. Angie is reserved, there is no turning back now, the trek is on!!!!

KOKODA TRACK - DAY 1 – 5 August 2011
Kokoda to Deniki 3 hours walking

Finally. 7am and we depart the hotel for the domestic airport. We are on a single engine 12 seater plane. We are all weighed and board the plane according to weight to balance the plane. Angie asks if she can sit up front with the pilot. The answer is yes and she is in like Flynn sitting in the co-pilot seat.

We fly up through the mountain range toward Kokoda. The mountain and trees seem only metres away from the wings. It was like in the movies where the plane manuevers through tightly knit mountain valleys at high speed and agility. It was the most amazing flight ! The cloud cover is low and the view is magical. 35 mins later we arrive in Kokoda. A grass airstrip in the middle of nowhere. We unload our gear, day packs on, our temporary porters loaded and we start walking. We are now introduced to the humidity. 15 mins later we arrive at the war memorial and a lunch break. Bread rolls, lettuce, tomato, cheese, deli ham and all fresh.

We are off walking again, for real this time. We head up to the memorial Kokoda Arches. It begins 96km in 9 days and 1 hour. And we walk. And we walk. All uphill at a steady incline. Thank goodness for all the training. After 45 mins we have our first break. We continue and after a few hours we arrive at our first nights camp site at Deniki. We are on top of a hill overlooking the valley and jungle below. Location, location. A short walk down hill (which means we have to walk back uphill again) and we have a small stream with a pipe coming from it to wash and freshen up. The water is icy cold.

We put up our tents with the help of the porters and prepare our belongings for the night. Dinner is being cooked. Tonight we have crumbed chicken legs and vegetables. Francine’s tent is facing out over the valley, what a view. Angie's tent is facing the opposite way and could care less about the view. It was a hard day of trekking.

The outhouse is the real room with a view. A slippery walk down the hill from our tents and facing out over the valley and no door, as a few more steps and you would be off the edge. A tricky walk when half asleep in the predawn darkness and mist. All part of the adventure.

7pm and we all head off to bed. The night was a bit cold and none of us slept very well. Francine’s new inflatable bedroll didn’t stay inflated and Angie didn’t take a sleeping bag, not thinking it would be as cold as it was. Angie did manage to stay somewhat warm with layering and her sleep sack. The group was learning that even with all the training, the Kokoda Track had its own set of demands that would challenge us day after day.

Additional photos below
Photos: 28, Displayed: 27


Now this is scary!!Now this is scary!!
Now this is scary!!

Keep her away from the controls!!!!

12th December 2011

Kokoda Maps
The Kokoda Track is an important part of Australian history. It has left its mark on the Australian people and is rightly now, within the last decade or so, being recognised. Peter Brune's book 'A Bastard of a Place' is the recognised authoritive book on the Australians in Papua. It is a very fine read and this movie does a good job at portraying this important period of Australian history. Kokoda Maps

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