We had a fantastic guide who had an extensive knowledge of the history of the track and the Kokoda Campaign……
- By SCOTT and JENNY COLEMAN | Goondiwindi Argus
AFTER landing in Port Moresby from our flight from Brisbane the first thing you notice is the intense humidity.
We had one night at the Gateway Motel before catching an early morning flight, flying over the Owen-Stanley range to Popendetta.
After a few hours in Popendetta to buy last minute supplies (believe me two hours is all the time you want to spend there) we jumped on the back of a crowded truck, with a hot carton of SP (their local beer) and headed to the Northern Beaches to begin our tour.
We had a fantastic guide who had an extensive knowledge of the history of the track and the Kokoda Campaign which covers the Japanese landings at Buna, Sanananda and Gona.
We abandoned our vehicle after getting bogged several times and walked the last few kilometres into the village of Buna.
The welcoming party was just beautiful.
We spent a very steamy night in one of the huts (due to the humidity!) before traveling by banana boat to the village of Sanananda.
Again we were welcomed with singing, dancing, and smiling children.
We explored the villages and looked at several historical places and memorabilia, we sampled their foods and bought fresh fruit and bilum bags from the ladies at the local markets.
We spent a night at this village as well and then again we traveled by banana boat to Gona where we were met by a truck to make the four hour, rough journey to the village of Kokoda.
Our night at Kokoda was spent on a mattress on the floor in accommodation at the local hospital.
We met our porters the next day (I would recommend one even if to carry supplies for the women and children in the isolated villages along the track) and said goodbye to flushing loos and warm showers and started our eight day trek.
Our first night was spent at the village of Deniki after a small days hike to get use to the humidity and the hills.
We stayed at Isurava the second night and we experienced a very moving dawn service over-looking the hills and the place of the first Victoria Cross of the Papuan Campaign which was won by Private Bruce Kingsbury.
It is hard to imagine that this place of such beauty was once the scene of horror for those who fought here.
A typical day for us was to be woken by a rooster, Lawrence, one of the guides, who crowed every morning at 5.
I was never woken by Lawrence as it was nearly impossible to sleep.
Breakfast of Weetbix and powdered milk and a cup of tea was at 5.30am and we had to be packed with our tents packed up and our backpacks on ready to move out after our war cry at 6.30 each day.
We walked until morning tea where we had a bit of a break and then walked again until lunchtime to have an hour’s break for everyone to regroup.
The plan was to arrive at our campsite before 3pm each day before the rain set in.
We had two really big days where we didn’t get to camp until about 4.30 in the afternoon.
We trekked over tree roots, through villages, muddy swamps, creek crossings, Brigade Hill, the most beautiful moss forest, Mount Bellamy, descended the golden stairs and spent a night each at Templeton’s Crossing, Naduri, Nauro, Ioribaiwa, Goldie Creek and finally arrived at Owers Corner before traveling back to Port Moresby and the Bomana War Cemetery.
The first thing we did after arriving at our hotel that afternoon was have a shower (there was no hot water!) and clean all of the mud, and believe me there was a lot, from our boots, backpacks, etc.
We went to a really lovely restaurant that evening that was manned by armed guards at the entrance and I think I ate my weight in food (except rice, I was so over rice).
The conditions on the track are not for the faint hearted.
You get used to wearing the same clothes day in, day out as everyone starts to smell the same anyway.
I remember pulling on wet clothes most mornings as it was impossible to stay dry with the intense humidity during the day along with the showers of rain that seem to come out of nowhere.
The toilet facilities – let’s just say they were not good! Oh and did I mention mud, there was a lot.
Falls were an everyday occurrence although I did manage to stay upright the whole trip.
One of our friends, not so lucky.
She ended up with two cracked ribs but still managed to complete the trek.
It is hard to imagine what our Australian soldiers went through but after trekking the Kokoda and listening to the history I hope I have a little more of an understanding.
The PNG boys that traveled with us were wonderful, humble people and so willing to help.
The people in the villages have very little and I loved seeing the children laughing and running around at the excitement of the bubble blowers, footballs, footy jerseys and stickers we took for them.
Scott and I had some memorable moments on the track, some of them funny – like retrieving an I-phone from the bottom of a long drop (not ours).
We met some wonderful people from all walks of life, all of whom were there for different reasons but we all had a common goal and that was to walk the historic track.
And we did it!