Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Unforgetable memories of Kokoda

The famous rugged and mountainous 96km Second World War Kokoda track that runs between Oro and Central Provinces will never be forgotten by any one who had walked it.
It has undisturbed tropical rain forest inhabited with various wildlife’s, birds with icy mountain waters ranges from gentle shallow creeks to dangerous raging streams that flows along boulders.

Spectacular waterfalls are sights that will always be marveled by every one. Apart from these scenic surroundings, villagers living along the track will also contribute to your livelong memories of the track. With whatever available resources they will always ensure that tiring trekkers forget their grueling journey.
The outgoing Miss World Australia 2007 Caroline Pemberton crossing a slippery log bridge with the help of the local guides over the icy and rapid mountain Eora creek along the rugged 96km Kokoda track between Central and Oro Provinces

But the significance of this track is its war history.
This track had stopped the threats of the invasion of Australia and Papua New Guinea in 1942 costing 625 Australians who fought and died against the Japanese soldiers between July 23rd - September 26th.

Sydney man Ian Luff having a much earned rest next to an icy mountain creek along the track after leaving Abuari village

This is probably the only place where Australians and Papua New Guineans forgets their colonial differences to appreciate each other’s company as human beings to survive.
This track is now an icon for Australians to retrace the steps of their fore fathers as a pilgrimage to experience the hardship of how their (fore fathers) fought and died under rain and sunshine in the cold and muddy tropical rain forest mountains.
Queenslander Jo Clark with other Australians carefully descending the steep muddy track with the help of the local guides after leaving Alola village

I was privileged to experience the hardship that the Australians soldiers with the Papuan soldiers and carriers went through on this the track when trekking with Adventure Kokoda trekking company led by an experienced Kokoda war historian and former Vietnam veteran Major Charlie Lyn from April 14th -23rd .
And what an adventure it was to walk with the outgoing Miss World Australia 2007 Caroline Pamberton and New South Wales State cabinet Opposition Leader Barry O ‘Farrell with 32 other Australians and 70 local porters from Kokoda and the Koiari.

New South Wales State cabinet Opposition Leader Barry O ‘Farrell in front of a water fall near Eora creek along the track

It was a grueling nine days walk mostly in the rain slogging and sliding when ascending and descending the various steeps of the muddy and stony track. And if one miscalculated his/her steps one is heading for a nasty fall on to huge boulders.
Icy rapid flowing mountain streams and water falls of all sizes from big to small were encountered to refresh exhausted and thirsty trekkers.
Logs were placed across the dangerous streams with safety ropes firmly tied to strong trees at both banks to support one with the help of the porters when crossing of which the logs have become slippery due to the rains.
Local Adventure Kokoda trekking porters preparing their baggage’s at Diggers camp along the track

Various bush ferns and gigantic tropical rainforest tress grew wildly along the track and some times one cannot be bothered about the rain as the thick tree branches acts like an umbrella.
A fire in camp for the night is a luxury for every one to dry our selves and our clothes when getting wet in the rains.
Everybody whether Australian or local were always ready help each other when one needs assistance.
I got such assistance when I sprained my left knee while descending the steeps from Alola village to Eora creek on the third day of trekking after leaving Kokoda in the Oro Province enroute to the Owers corner at Sogeri in the Central Province to get home by vehicle to Port Moresby.

Gold coast man Phil Browning carefully descending the steep muddy track with the help of the local guide after leaving Isurava memorial park

The porters helped by having turns carrying my heavy bag as they also were carrying their own heavy bag with the group’s food supplies .
They also hold my hands steadily when crossing slippery logs and sliding along the muddy tracks.
Australians Kevin Boyton and Chad Sherrin helped by giving me voltaran (anti-inflammatory) tablets and strapped my knee with bandages as I painfully limped for the next six days to Owers corner.

Australian trekkers having a much earned rest next to an icy mountain creek after leaving Abuari village along track

Along the way Mr Lyn briefed us on the war events that took place at Kokoda, Deniki, Isurava, Alola, Eora creek, Templeton crossing, Myola, Brigadier Hill, Manari, Ioribaiwa, Imita and Owers corner when arriving at each spot.
Mr Lyn said that it’s good to start from Kokoda to experience the retreat of the outnumbered ill equipped, poorly trained hungry and sick young Australians of the 39th militia Battalion and how they went through when fighting along the track to stop the 9000 crack infantry Japanese soldiers who had fought and won battles in the tropical jungles of South East Asia.
Mr Lyn also told us about how the local carriers (fuzzy wuzzy angel ) took about three weeks to take the wounded Australian soldiers to the hospitals at the back of the frontline at Sogeri in the Central Province on make shift stretchers from as far as Isurava in the Oro Province .

A cold Australian trekker keeping warm with local Adventure Kokoda Trekking porters besides a fire in a tent at Diggers camp along the track

The locals made them comfortable in various weather conditions under enemy attacks when taking them to the hospitals and returning to the frontline with food and ammunition supplies.
To reinforce us more about the war events , Mr Lyn took us along the original war track between the Isurava battle field and Alola village to show us the Australian army headquarter during the battle of Isurava and the make shift first aid post at Alola.
Isurava battle determined the war’s outcome as it delayed the Japanese’s rapid advancement to allow the experienced Australians from 2/14 Battalion returning from the North African desert battle to reinforced the 39th Battalion.

The Reporter (with his sprained knee) and Queenslander Derek Munsell with other exhausted Australian trekkers and local guides having a must earned rest on Imita ridge on the second last day of trekking before descending to the final campsite at Goldie River during the nine days of trekking from Kokoda in the Oro Province to Owers corner in the Central Province

We also met a fuzzy wuzzy angle at Naturi village. 104 -year -old Ovoru Nidiki is one of the very few surviours.
Mr Lyn then took us along the original Ioribaiwa ridge and the golden stairs at Imita ridge.
Ioribaiwa ridge was where the Japanese turned back and Imita ridge was the last Australian’s defensive line.
Mr Lyn said that he discovered these tracks with a GPS and old war maps as the current tracks between Isurava and Alola and on Ioribaiwa and Imita are not original war tracks but are tracks conveniently used by trekkers.

New South Welshmen Chris Mitchelson and Dale Martin with local guides at Owers corner near Sogeri in the Central Province after completing the 9 days trekking

The ending of the tiring trekking will also bring satisfaction to any one who have successfully completed it as such experiences are rewarding.
For more information on trekking the Kokoda track , please acess