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Old 12-04-2003, 09:15 PM
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A plaque in the village square remembers the four days of nonstop fighting, for which two Privates were awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal and Australia's highest medal for bravery, the Victoria Cross.

In August 2002 the Australian Prime Minister John Howard unveiled an impressive war memorial at Isurava.] As for us, we slept well at Isurava, but were woken by what sounded like an attack by a chainsaw machine in the guesthouse, only to realise it was one of the Port Moresby boys snoring!

An energy breakfast and an early start were essential for us to accomplish the majority of the next day's walk in cooler conditions and before the guaranteed afternoon rain. Our friendly hosts bade us farewell and we headed for our next destination approximately eight hours away. A saddle on the range provided a superb view back at Yoda Valley, but also an almost disheartening panorama of the thousand mountains beyond, waiting for us.

Our bodies began to settle in as we stepped into a rhythm to maintain a comfortable pace as a team. It was a prolonged wet season and parts of the trail were very wet and slippery. The rain also provided the many creeks and brooks with fresh crystal clear flowing water, which we enjoyed often so as to minimise the weight of water bottles. From a 15-metre log crossing at lora Creek we climbed through sections of very steep renowned leech infested country, surprisingly without too many hanging on.
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  #42  
Old 12-04-2003, 09:20 PM
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We had made good time to Templeton's Crossing No 2 and enjoyed a cool swim while deciding how to cross the swollen river with its fast flowing current. The bridge was washed away, so some inventive ideas worked as we swam, pulled ropes, and joined logs to boulders to help each other across. We were glad to push on after a couple of lengthy hours in the freezing water. With the rain in pursuit, we chose to camp at a small shelter above the river.

Surrounding the camp on the crest of the rise were deep man- made trenches where the Australian troops dug in to halt the enemy attacks. It was also the location for a major Australian supply depot until the Japanese captured Templeton's Crossing on 3 September. Later as the Japanese retreated from Imita Ridge, they made their first major stand against the Australians at this same location. Sleeping in the absence of the comforts of our homes, this unique rainforest wilderness played eerie, but unthreatening night sounds with the river quietly humming below the spur.

We began the next day straight up the crest of the range then scampered the slippery moss covered track downward to Templeton's Crossing. The crossing is named after the popular Captain S V Templeton who commanded a protective force, the 39th battalion B Company. He was ambushed and killed by the Japanese at Oivi.
The log bridge :was gone and although we were crossing the same creek again, the streaming white water here looked even more challenging than the first crossing.

After some deliberation and aborted attempts at shallow sections, we chopped down a 12m tree with a bush knife. Eventually the tree fell just reaching the other side, its branches resting insecurely on a boulder. One at a time we straddled across a very wobbly log with the hungry rapids pulling at our legs. Accomplishing that, we then had to scale back up almost vertically a few hundred metres over buttress roots and slippery boulders through the jungle density to resume the trail we had moved off while trying to find an 'easy crossing'.

Reaching the trail wasn't much of a relief - a deluge arrived. Our waterlogged bodies continued the long exhausting upward grade among bamboo thickets and jungle until finally clearing at a saddle on MtBellamy. At 2,190 metres, this was the highest point on the trail.

Tired, hungry and shivering from the dreaded cold northeasterly blowing in through the Kokoda gap, we managed to pitch a long tent along the trail on a spongy three metre wide ridge. Recalling the day's events, we all agreed that today was the most physically enduring challenge we had ever had. Furthermore, no fife meant tonight's dinner consisted of hard biscuits and candy washed down with water. However, we stayed cheerful and shared varying lullabies and tallied the individual falls, eventually dozing off to the sound of the rain stabbing at the canvas.
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  #43  
Old 12-04-2003, 09:24 PM
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In contrast to the mist covered mountaintop and chilling wind on arrival yesterday, the early morning view from our bedroom window was spectacular. Looking back through the gap towards Kokoda, it was hard to believe such beauty and grandeur could conceal the track that had exhausted and tortured our muscles to the extreme.

Still unable to fmd dry firewood, we immediately broke camp and marched on through what would have been the nicest section of the trail. We followed an easy descent along a large cleared trail surrounded by a beautiful forest with every imaginable tree growing. Gigantic trees laced with exotic orchards and ferns poked through the jungle canopy photosynthesizing on the warm sunrays.

Meanwhile below on the ground, bush fowls and wild pigs scraped through dead logs and leaves to feed on the previous night's remnants.
The Koiari people who inhabit these ranges all belong to the Seventh Day Adventist Church and so do not eat pigs, chew betel nut or smoke tobacco. Being Highlanders, Joe and I tried to hunt the wild pigs for supper. But with no success, we had to settle for our light rations.

We broke through the forest accompanied by rain and down a very steep slippery garden path in kunai grass toward Kagi village and Mt Victoria Range ahead in the distance. We picked up pace to peg back the five to six hours spent at Templeton's Crossing, but the wet hampered our efforts. Resisting the slipping and sliding down this treacherous slope was neither good for our knees or boot soles.

A path to the left goes down to Myola, the area used during the war as a drop-off point for supplies. Due to its importance for supply purposes, Australian troops not only had to defend it as a strategic position, but also revert to offensive action. Howeyer the releptless attacks by the Japanese and the unsuitability of the terrain for defense positions, the weary Australians were forced to abandon Myola and withdraw to Efogi on 5 September.

After the steep descent to Kagi Gap, a small climb took us into Kagi village, perched on a shoulder of the main range at 1400 metres. Drenched and chilled by the rain, we stayed at the comfortable Kagi rest house with sleeping platforms, running water and a large outdoor kitchen. It overlooks the picturesque Vahume Valley and is the perfect place for healing and repairs.

With an abundance of dry firewood, we boiled vegetable soup, prawn noodles, curry rice and Lindsay even cooked delicious damper. Our host, Mr Gai told us stories about his father and other young village men who were supply carriers for the Australian army during the war.
An editorial in a popular Australian magazine said about the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels:

The natives had a willingness to serve the white soldiers with such devotion. We feel too that the heroism and friendliness of our troops have helped to change that willingness to eagerness. But still a debt remains. Many an Australian soldier will come home from the war because a black skinned brother carried him over the Owen Stanley Range. And in any plans for a better way of life when the war is over the New Guinea native must have a place.

After that good rest and recovery, we started toward Brigade Hill, a hard four hours away. High up from Efogi 2 village the clear morning allowed Peter to take good pictures ofEfogi 1 village and the surrounding valleys and gorges.

The disadvantage of walking through open areas was the stifling heat from the direct sunlight, making us lose so much fluid through perspiration that more frequent drink stops were needed along the steep ascents. A particularly nasty hill, 300 metres high, added the last straw to the midday exe.rtions before we crossed into the cover of the forest.

At times like this, no one spoke a word. Amid sweat and exhaustion, we stayed focused and concentrated on each step trying to ignore the aching pain in legs and shoulders.
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Old 12-04-2003, 09:29 PM
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Brigade or Butcher's Hill, also known as Mission Ridge because of the abandoned mission building on the ridge, offered the Australians advantages of terrain for the first time in the Kokoda campaign.

The Australians withdrew from Efogi, as they made their way up the hill and once again entrenched the steep hillside in preparation for battle. With roughly 1000 men against over 6000 Japanese, the Australians held off wave after wave of Japanese attacks.

The Japanese commander's objective was to squeeze the Australian perimeter between his reinforced attacks from front and rear until nothing remained. However the Australians' elusiveness and their refusal to acknowledge defeat denied him. In the bitter fighting between 6-9 Septembel; many men from both sides died. If Horii had pressed forward from Brigade Hill, overwhelming Potts and his handful of men, history might have recorded a different sequel to the Kokoda campaign.

The monument on Brigade Hill is well preserved by the local people. From the summit at 1415 metres, it commanded an unsurpassed view.

On every side, extending into the misty blue infmity, rose the peaks and serrated spurs of the main range, all dominated by the majesty of Mt Victoria, its crest wreathed in cloud. At 4040 metres, she is Papua New Guinea's fifth highest mountain. To the southwest stood Hombrum Bluff and Variarata Plateau near Port Moresby, still some three days away.

The track then took a steep tiresome downward course to a big log crossing and into prosperous Menan village. It lay at the junction of two creeks with fertile cultivated gardens on the hill slopes. After some confusion with other garden paths, we resumed the correct track which reared almost vertically up a saddle and pitched downward to the start of the swamplands.

By now it was late afternoon and we were four kilometres from today's destination and at the wrong end of the swamp. To drain the last remnants of our exhausted bodies, we pushed on through the waterlogged track and thick pit-pit tunnels hopeful of reaching Naoro village for camp. We moved in a circuitous route looking for a log crossing over the swollen ! Naoro River 20 metres wide.

Night suddenly fell upon us. The next three hours were the longest and most uncomfortable walk of the trail. Using pencil torches, we slogged through knee-deep stinking mud and crossed numerous logs and waist deep creeks while somehow staying on the path laden with fresh footprints suggesting a nearby village. We stumbled onto a relatively dry spot and decided to set up camp for a rest and reserve our energy to resume the walk in daylight.

Not realising our co-ordinates the previous night, we were merely 30 minutes from Naoro village. We spent a good two hours feasting and washed up ready for the next unrelenting climb up Maguli Range.

Another hot windless day in open grassland drained our water bottles and this particular hill had nine false peaks that cut in and out of forest and kunai grass. A glimpse of the sky through the trees ahead instinctively quickened our steps for a few paces until the spot proved to be a false crest, where the spur turned slightly to continue upward, its top still hundreds of metres above.

Most of us were on our last mouthful of water when we arrived at the refreshing Ofi Creek. From there the one metre wide trail scaled the knife-edged spur hundreds of metres above the ravine. I paused for a moment to envisage how difficult it must have been for the stretchers to be carried up here or for a wounded soldier to push his weary body to the extreme:

Soldiers were constantly tired, wet and hungry. It was incredibly difficult climbing the narrow, winding slippery ; track up and down the towering mountains covered in thick forest. Many fast flowing creeks had to be crossed and some soldiers drowned when they lost their footing and were swept away.

On some parts of the track soldIers had, to crawl on their hands and knees. It rained heavily most of the days and nights adding to the misery. Sometimes soldiers would have to wade through knee-deep mud that could pull the boots right off their feet. Clothes and boots rotted from being constantly wet. It was a test of a man S courage, endurance and fitness to keep going.
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  #45  
Old 12-04-2003, 09:37 PM
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We chose a good camping site under a large rain tree for the last night.

While looking for firewood, Tim stumbled across a dozen rusty hand grenades and mortars in the scrub beside the trail. These were some of the very few war relics we saw along the trail. At times as the troops began to withdraw, they would discard ammunition, food and other supplies either by burying or destroying. Over the years since the war, most have been removed from the trail and destroyed by Australian and Papua New Guinean Defence Forces.

On the seventh day our backpacks were much lighter with most of the food consumed or handed over to village folk. We moved on through the abandoned Ioribaiwa village and down to Ua-ule Creek at 300 metres, the lowest point on the track. For the next hour, we followed the creek valley as the trail crosses it ten times before the long tiresome climb up to Imita Ridge.

When the Australian troops withdrew from Ioribaiwa to Imita Range, it had to be the absolute last stand against the Japanese because it was uncomfortably close to Port Moresby and there remained no more ridges which might serve as natural defence lines. A communique between Headquarters and the commander of 25th Brigade quoted:

There won't be any withdrawal from Imita position. You'll die there ifnecessary. You understand that? ...
Yes I understand.


The plunge down from lmita Ridge was known as the 'Golden Stairs'.

Wartime engineers cut more than 2000 steps along the 380 metre spur.

Unfortunately due to weather and erosion, they no longer exist in their previous famous state. We reached the last river crossing at Goldie River. There were no logs, but the waist high water didn't present any problems.

We were all pleased to have a refreshing swim before the last climb to Owen's Comer. A gentle rise, then a steep 300-metre climb and one more false peak before finally arriving at the signpost at Owen's Comer (photo below). Our final experience was a PMV ride, which took us safely back to Port Moresby.

Looking back at the walk, it is a proud achievement and a time of camaraderie we will long remember. There were moments on the exhausting hills when we asked, 'Why are we doing this? Why put ourselves through such pain?'

But every hill and every range comes to an end and each day gone by was a day closer to home. We were encouraged by teamwork and the effort individuals put in to help each other along. However, I praise the guys, particularly the Australians, who were able to withstand the varying altitudes and terrain only experienced in Papua New Guinea.

They took back fond memories of a world famous trek.

Kokoda Trail 2000 walkers:

Tim Savage, Peter Savage, Lindsay Tytherleigh,
Ross Gillette, Chris Walker; Joe Holloway, Philip Rehder
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Old 12-04-2003, 09:51 PM
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Message from J J Tauvasa, MBE Air Niugini Chairman

The Kokoda Trail holds memories for many families in both Australia and Papua New Guinea. Last year was the sixtieth anniversary of the Battle of Kokoda, and the Prime Minister of Australia, Hon John Howard visited in August to unveil a monument at Isurava to commemorate all the Australian and Papua New Guinean soldiers who lost their lives on the Trail during World War 2.

The Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, Rt Hon Sir Michael Somare, accompanied Mr Howard to Isurava.

This issue of Paradise has a story about the first group in the twenty-first century to retrace the steps of the World War 2 Diggers, their supply carriers and stretcher-bearers. The author quotes extensively from a journal of one of the soldiers as the walkers of New Year 2000 make their trek, recalling the events at different villages and points along the Trail as they occurred 60 years earlier. It makes for poignant reading - a chilling account of the harshness of the environment and the horror of war.

For those interested in war history this issue offers another fascinating story - of the operations of PT boats in PNG territory during World War 2 by the Mosquito Squadrons.

J J Tauvasa MBE
Chairman

Air Niugini
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Old 21-04-2003, 03:22 PM
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If you have enjoyed the photographs so far, please click on the following URL below !

September last year saw a group of pilots from Airlines of Papua New Guinea (MBA) walk the Kokoda Track.

If you wish to share their journey enter our website and you too can go on a journey along the Kokoda Trail and share with them their memories.

pngbd wishes to thank them for allowing us to publish their photographs for your enjoyment.



CLICK HERE to view these wonderful colourful photographs of the Kokoda Trail :



Photo : Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels Memorial on the Kokoda Track :
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Old 28-04-2003, 12:01 AM
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Geoff and Daniel Trott from Melbourne have just returned to Australia today, 27th April after successfully walking from Kokoda to Ower's Corner.

They couldnt stop talking about their experiences since they arrived here in PNG and have loved every minute of it.

Daniel did not stand up to the trek as well as his 55 year old father but remarked yesterday, that he may be back to do it again !

Photo: Taken at the Port Moresby Yacht Club around midday on the 25th April, Anzac Day, 2003 the day after they arrived back from their trek.

The main point....make sure you have a good pair of waterproof shoes coz their main problem was that their feet got wet ! The other thing is to have good quality socks :
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  #49  
Old 28-04-2003, 12:05 AM
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For all your trekking needs, contact us at :

tours@pngbd.com


or visit www.kokodatrail.com.au
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