06/10/2007 at 3:44 am #98879
What made me do this again I ask myself? It must have been around July last year the idea began making itself known. I was turning the big six O in April 2007 and I suppose one of my thoughts was how many sixty year olds do the Kokoda Track? That would be a challenge. Whilst I had derived immense satisfaction from doing the Track in 2005, it was all a bit of a blur.
We had more or less done the walk in five and a half days. Not much time for looking around nor was there much down time. In August I contacted Gail and made a booking for a nine day walk to finish at Owers Corner Anzac Day eve. I chose the same route, the same direction as in 2005 but more walking days. I also requested that the trusty Wallace be my porter again.
A little housekeeping here. I make no apology for wandering between the past and present tense, that is the authors privilege.
I then sent an email to all of the 2005 trekkers advising them of my intentions fully expecting a chorus of derisory comments as to my sanity. To my surprise and immense gratitude I found some like minded souls who also had some unfinished business on the Track. Dan the Spandex Man was first in, Barbie soon followed, as did Sir Kenneth from Melbourne. By default Alissa joined us at the last minute through the late withdrawal of Dans brother. A wantok of the Flight Centre crew, Shane Irwin joined as well. Already we had a core group of six, of which five are second timers. We were off and running.06/10/2007 at 3:45 am #98878
I commenced training during the first week of January. Not wishing to change the way of doing things too much from the first time around, I decided I would do more of the same but eliminated all of the running. I am training for a walk so I shall walk – uphill and downhill – same old Philip Street in Norman Park.
Running was eliminated as I thought if I was injury prone it would more than likely happen when running. I decided the Morningside railway station overhead bridge was too brain-numbingly boring so that got the flick as well. So it was up and down Philip Street for three months, six days a week. Santa had delivered an Ipod to this intrepid walker in the nick of time.
I am not sure if radio station 97.3 could have kept my brain from imploding a second time around. This is really monotonous stuff up and down the same street for so long and you need some kind of diversion. Music helps because it conjures up time zones as well. Certain tunes can be pigeon holed into events and this brings back all sorts of memories. A stand out is the classic American Pie, which, for me, flashes vivid recollections of the TAA Club and the parties in Lae 1972.
Only those who were there know what I am reminiscing about. It was a wonder I didn't get run over, be-bopping along, living in memory lane. It was a mixture of the 70's and 80's music played in the random selection mode. The Eagles, Elton John, The Boss, Bread, the BeeGees, America, Dire Straits, CCR and the best bopper of the lot Bryan Adams. I am really giving away my age now. Enough.
Footnote: I too lived in Lae from 1972 to 1986 so can relive these memories with which Bob refers to. After TAA it became Australian Airlines and I worked for them for a couple of years.
The author Bob Robertson seen here in the foreground (with hat) shortly after they arrived at Russell Eroro's family block in Kokoda along with other people on the same trek:
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A very steep descent to another creek crossing followed our brief sojourn at Alola. A short way out of this village an enterprising villager, make that plural probably, had cleared a piece of land for what will presumably be the site of his new dwelling or maybe a guesthouse.
I hope he has the wherewithal to complete the exercise because the views will be simply stunning, with a clear view up the valley towards the North, it stands perched on the side of a steep slope descending straight down to the creek where we are headed. Another climb out of the creek and then we are on relatively flat country (by Kokoda standards) until we reach Eora Creek and our intended campsite for night two of our adventure.
Two years before when we confronted Eora Creek there were palpitations of the heart as we crossed via a single log which only partially traversed the creek, which was running full and angry. However this time it was a tame experience, with quite a substantial bridge constructed a short distance up the creek from the previous crossing site.
The steep climb to the campsite had not changed though, but instead of rain and the time being around six in the evening, this time it was sunny and around 2.30 in the afternoon. In comparison we have travelled as far to where we are now, in two days this time, whereas in 2005 we had covered the same distance in one day plus an hour the previous day. And for us repeat offenders we are quite happy about that.
Pic 1: walking to Alola
Pic 2: Alola Village
Pic 3: Bob's porter Wallace Lemeki takes a drink (Wallace is normally a guide but because he walked with Bob on his first trek, this time round walked as a porter and an assistant guide. David Currie from this trek is walking agian in 2008 and has requested Wallace as the guide for his trek).
Pic 4: A trekker teaching our porter a new way of smoking
Trek_272_075__Small_.jpg06/10/2007 at 3:57 am #98887
We slept in tents this night for the first time, and it was cold enough for a few of us to break into our rum rations. At each campsite this trip we witnessed various improvements made over the two years we have been absent. Here we have the luxury of a roof over a crude but effective eating table and alternately, a card table for all those Melbournian.
There was also a hauswin for our porters. As we would discover though, at some sites large tracts of forest had been cleared for the intended construction of more guesthouses. At some sites new guesthouses are there in evidence, but at others just the trees have been felled and if the development is not completed these cleared areas in the jungle wilderness will become needless scarring. That will be a pity.
It would seem the area cleared is in excess of what may be needed for the guesthouse area. You cannot blame the locals for cashing in on the booming trade trekkers are bringing to their special part of the world, but you have to fear for what it may become. The rugged terrain and naked beauty of the track is why trekkers want to visit, and whilst the comfort of guesthouses is appreciated, it is not a necessity. Let us hope the path of progress is tinged with some rationale and caution.
Pic 1: Author of this article, Bob Robertson trying his best not to fall in
Pic 2 & 3: Eora Creek Crossing
Pic 4: Eora Creek Campsite (trekkers think its quite a hard climb just to do it once whereas the boys go up and down to fetch water and then back to wash the cooking pots)
Pic 5 & 6: Eora Creek Campsite area
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Day four, Thursday, dawned and whilst misty and cool, the rain had gone. We were headed for the village of Kagi where we would camp the night. This was to be a fairly easy day because it was only four hours trek. For the repeat offenders, we would cover new ground, as the route we took to Efogi in 2005, where we would stay the next night, did not pass through this village.
The track this morning was very muddy, as you would expect after the rain of yesterday. First port of call was the site of an American bomber brought down over sixty years before. It's resting place is about fifteen minutes off the main track. Two years before, the crash site was void of any villagers and we had a look around and moved on. Now there is a Papuan gentleman in residence who claims to own the ground and needs a five kina donation from each trekker to fund the cost of the site's maintenance.
Now five Kina is next to nothing ($2.00) but it is a sign of times. As long as trekking companies make trekkers aware of these little extras I am sure no one will mind forking over extra Kina. However, I can see the practice of selling these places of interest escalating to the point where trekkers are more or less held to ransom to visit the sites, the very reason why we all come here.
It would be a shame for this to happen because there is so much genuine goodwill between the people along the track and the trekkers, and for this to be soured by a greedy few would be most unfortunate. If all the 2006 trekkers visited this crash site, some three and a half thousand of them, this landlord, who is exercising his rather recently found landowner rights, would be better off by some 17500 Kina, a small fortune in this part of the world. And quite out of kilter compared with villagers who provide goods and services for trekkers and share the spoils, however big or small, amongst their numbers, not solely.
Another steep climb led us to a peak where an unbelievable view would have been possible if not for the weather, which decided to fog in. No rain just fog, but I am sure it hid a magnificent panorama but that's the way it is in this country. We cannot complain though, the weather has been reasonably kind to us, on both treks.
Later in the morning we passed the first group of trekkers coming the other way. Wallace and his band of minstrels put on a show for them and had them entranced. I am sure trekkers using alternate Australian based organizers are poorer for the experience of not accompanying Gail's bunch of musical amateurs who are porters for some of the time and pose as entertainers when they choose.
Photograph: Wallace Lemeki and other porters singing away. To us as Australian's unless we can actualy SING, we choose to shut up and not even try. By contrast all our porters sing whether they have fantastic voices or not – somehow it just seems to work and our trekkers love the music. I can recall when one of our staff carried a uke'ule for the very first time, a trekker remarked how good it was and why don't we encourage it. I asked Russell….how many of our boys can play and sing…..he looked at me like it was a very STUPID QUESTION! after a pause, he replied, we ALL sing, we do not have TV in Kokoda and are used to sitting around campfires; next to river banks and just relaxing singing with our friends and families….now couldn't we as Australian's learn from this.
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