Sarah and Tony were part of our Hiking Group in 2017 who headed to Kokoda to walk the track in November 2017. Sarah updates us on her trip below.
Update: By day 5 we had a change in Trek Leader. Going back mid Day 3 when we were in a haze of uphill root battles and challenging whether conditions, Lee – our old Trek Leader, got the sack. Remember when I told you on Day 1 when we arrived at Owers’ Corner there was a ‘union dispute’ and Lee was causing a drama? Well now it was his missus causing the drama? On our way up The Wall Lee’s missus started bunging it on about something. She was yelling at him in their native tongue, he was yelling back and all us trekkers were half delirious and half super awkward. As the yelling continued Lee dropped his pack and legged it up the wall where his missus was and gave her a touch up (me being nice about it) Well that did not go down well at all with Jeffrey our Trek Master so Lee got the punt and in came John Scott as our new Trek Leader. To be honest, it was one of the best things that happened on the trek. From that time on wards our journey was more relaxed and John was really knowledgeable about the track and set a good pace.
Day 5 – Efogi 1 to Camp 1900
Now back to the journey….
Day 5 was our shortest day walking. Although it was short it was different to our other days as we spent most of the day walking in the direct sun away from the canopy. Also a little fun fact – around half of the days walking was not along the wartime track as some of the villages moved after WWII. Efogi 1 Village where we stayed the previous night was not the wartime Efogi.
After a restful nights sleep we were up and at ’em around 5am for brekkie and the first group on their way by 6am. This morning we broke into two groups as on the other side of the Efogi 2 Village was a very steep decent down to the Efogi River. The first group that headed off were a little more cautious on the descents and a little slower therefore left half an hour before the rest of us. Surprisingly the descents were far more difficult than the ascents as you needed more concentration and because of the wet weather it was a lot more slippery.
After a brief 15 minute climb to Efogi 2 Village we had a bit of a rest to let the front pack head down the decent before us. At this village I noticed that there was a monument that had no plaque on it. I later found out that it was Nishimura’s Monument and was told that some of the locals had damaged it, interestingly none of the Australian monuments had been damaged which I think demonstrated the respect the local people had and still have for the Australian’s that walk the track. Kokichi Nishimura was a Japanese soldier and businessman who was called the ‘Bone Man’ From Efogi 2 we looked out onto where we would climb up and over the shoulder of Mt Bellamy, the track at some points along the way no wider then your boot!
Once we descended down to the Efogi River we were back on the ascent (ha bet your sick of me writing that!) and were in the direct sun most of the time. You definitely noticed the difference walking in the sun to under the canopy, it was hot but a different burning my skin to a crisp type of hot. We stopped in Naduri Village for morning tea where Max our guide told us a tale about some of the local villagers walked a Bull and two Heifers along the rugged track to bring them to Naduri. The reason being that the village had an airstrip and the cows would eat the grass on the strip and keep it short for planes to land. Now, there is not a lot of protein in the jungle so three cows cruising around the village was too tempting for the locals and they ended up eating one of the cows quickly after getting them to their destination. Which one do you think they ate first? Yep, the big bull! Poor bull didn’t even have a chance to breed with the heifers, eating the heifers quickly followed the bull. Everyone loves a good steak right!?
After morning tea we were in the sun and on the up again passing some corn fields on the way. Being in the sun meant that in this part of the track the locals could grow veggies. After about two hours we were back under the canopy again which was a welcome change. Slow and steady we went through the dense root systems. “Stay behind” pits are scattered along the track, the larger (3 man size) indicate position of a machine gun.
Mt Bellamy is higher than Mt Kosciusko and the effects of such heights and the heat started to wear on me. We were still a few hours away from our camp so I put on a brave face and kept on keeping on. Bob could see I was on struggle street and was so good to me this afternoon and paid extra attention to my footing and helped me along the way.
We made our way along back towards the wartime track where we came to Propeller Junction. Firstly it was called Propeller Junction because there was a Propeller at the Junction in the War. This Junction lead to Myola 1 and Myola 2 which was a wartime camp and ammunition dump where the infamous ‘biscuit bombers’ dropped supplies for the Australian’s.
From Propeller Junction we head towards our camp for the night. We headed through the ancient arctic beech forest with giant pandanus and beech trees. The hour long walk to camp through the forest was by far the easiest part of the track. It was mostly flat but my poor legs were fatigued. I spent most of the walk into camp holding Bob’s hand for support and my legs were only moving because he was basically pulling me along. We arrived at Camp 1900 in time for lunch and just as the rain started. The boys quickly put our tents up and while we were winding down with some food we looked around us and realised that this camp was creep as sh@t. I can’t even explain how creepy but there was mist, rain, cold and the wind was whistling. After some food (homemade donuts – thank you boys!) and a change of clothes we all headed to our tents for an arvo nap. After an hour in my tent reading I was freaked out by what sounded like machine gun fire! WTF…is this 1942? I later found out off Max that there is a bird that breeds in the area called a machine gun bird. Good times, so excited for night to fall.
Dinner that night was pizza (3 hat meal on the track) and was delicious. It was one of the girls birthdays on the track and the boys had made a birthday cake, yep that’s right cake, with chocolate frosting and all.
Surprisingly I fell asleep quite easily although scared to death and had a great nights sleep.
Note: I later found out that this camp is bloody haunted! The skeletal remains of 4 Japanese Soldiers from the 41st Regiment killed in an Australian ambush by the 2/16th Battalion between the 3 and 5 September 1942 were found on the river bank here a few years prior.
Day 6 – Camp 1900 to Eora Creek Village
Day 6 was another long day trekking where we came to the highest point of the track.
We started our day on the mild ascent through the Moss Forest. Back under the canopy and it was full of green moss (duh!), pandanas trees, insects and it was super eerie. It was a nice walk and before we knew it a few hours later we came to a small clearing between two jungle gully’s called ‘The Kokoda Gap’ This was also the ridge of Mount Bellamy, the highest point of the track at 2190m.
We stop at a vantage that had magnificent views of the surrounding mountains. This was the lower part of the Owen Stanley Range. We had a short break and Max retold the story of Generals Blamey and Macarthur who wanted to dynamite the area to prevent the Japanese from coming through. Sitting on the gap between two massive gully’s I though to myself those two General’s were massive morons! I guess it was a nice plan for two men who never set foot on the track. The Kokoda Gap is over 12 km wide and the Aussies were not fond of the plan so told them to beat it.
By this part of the track we could hear planes overhead. On day 9 I would find out that what takes nine days for those walking the Kokoda Trail, an aircraft does in 35 minutes. The descent from the Kokoda Gap lookout was steep initially and we made our way to Templeton 1 for morning tea. The track up from Templeton 1 was an prewar mail track and quite steep which we were used to by now as we made our way to Templeton 2 for lunch. Along the way it started to rain which we were also used to by now.
It was at Templeton 2 (Templetons Crossing) that Lieutenant Colin Richardson was fatality shot in the chest by the Japanese and pronounced dead. He was found by the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels who carried him back to Myola where by a miracle he made a recovery and would live to the age of 94.
After lunch we made our way down through another boggy section of the track. There was intermittent rain overhead which made the track extra muddy. We went through an area that had so many leeches, no joke! To the point where you would look down and there were leeches climbing your boots. Now we were getting into the real nitty gritty of the track where there was a lot of action during the campaign. The area we were walking through were dotted with weapon pits and we eventually came to an area that was a defensive Japanese position above Eora Creek Village where there was still masses of ammunition including mortars and hand grenades and other paraphernalia.
It had been another long day and we were all keen to get to our next camp so the front group continued down the track ahead of the back group. The rain was still on and off and when Max said to John Scott ‘oh you keep going just down the hill to camp’ we thought you bewdy, we must almost be there. Hmmmm wrong, we should have learnt by now just ahead means about an hour. So off we went to Eora Creek Village down a track in very poor condition. There were no rocks and roots to hold the mud and small rocks so we slipped and slid the entire way down. There were fallen trees over the track so we climbed, ducked, weaved and slid into home. Once Max got to the bottom he mentioned to us that was the worst condition he had seen that part of the track in. Good time..another first for Maxy!
Eora Creek Village was in a gorge between two ridge lines. It was another creepy camp and we had a loud water fall running beside us the entire night. We slept in tents on different angles and it was wet and damp all night. My least favourite camp site but the days ahead would be the most special days I would have on the track.