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War History World War II in Papua New Guinea. Australian and Japanese soldier who fought the battle, died and buried in Bomana (Port Moresby), Lae cemetary, Wewak, Relics and Wreckages.

 
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  #1  
Old 29-07-2003, 09:16 PM
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Black Cat Trail….. by Malum Nalu

The old Black Cat Trail between Salamaua and Wau, Morobe Province, makes the Kokoda Trail seem like a Sunday arvo stroll in the park.

This is because it is not an established trail like Kokoda, on which hundreds of trekkers regularly tread, but a forgotten World War 11 course that passes through some of the toughest and most – hazardous terrain in the world.

Leech and snake – infested jungle, moss – covered rocks and fallen tree stumps, precarious cliff crossings, and potentially – dangerous river crossings make the Black Cat arguably one of the toughest tracks in PNG and the world.

It is recommended only for the very – fit and experienced trekker.

Some Australian soldiers have described the Black Cat as the hardest walk they’d ever done.

Salamaua as seen from the hill overlooking it.
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  #2  
Old 29-07-2003, 09:27 PM
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The Lonely Planet guidebook quotes a local expat as saying the Black cat is “suitable only for masochists and Israeli paratroopers”.

The idea of walking the Black Cat Trail came to me after my painful struggle over the Kokoda Trail in June this year.

The Black Cat has always fascinated me, since I take an avid interest in WW11 history, and that my mother is from the Salamaua area.

In September last year, Salamaua marked the 60th anniversary of its recapture from the Japanese in 1942.

“So why not”, I proposed to Morobe Tourism Bureau project officer Heni Dembis, “we walk the Black Cat Trail on the week of Remembrance Day?”

On Monday, July 21, 2004, we found ourselves heading down the Huon Gulf on board a 40 horsepower dinghy from Lae to Salamaua.

Salamaua Point :
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Old 29-07-2003, 09:29 PM
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Pouring rain eventually gave way to sunshine as we dropped off some students at Salamaua High School on top of Kela village, before crossing the bay to Laugui village at Salamaua Point.

We spent a relaxing afternoon visiting the old graves around Salamaua, which date back to the gold mining days, as well as Japanese tunnels and anti – aircraft guns on the hill overlooking the isthmus.

After that, we went to the new – look Salamaua Haus Kibung, which after many years of inattention is now getting back its glory.

We checked into one of the chalets, which was a good deal, seeing that it came complete with electricity, gas cooking facilities, bathroom and toilet facilities.

After dinner, we chatted well into the night with caretaker Mathew Gomuna, a cheerful fellow from Garaina and some of the locals.

Mathew also lined us up with Lionel Aigilo, a young guy who would take us from Salamaua to Wau.

Windswept coconut trees at Salamaua :
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Old 29-07-2003, 09:32 PM
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Come Tuesday morning, heavy rain started pouring, and we had to wait until 10am before we left Laugui with Lionel and his hardy uncle Solomon Jawing.

We followed the coconut avenues past the colorful cemetery, walked further inland through thick mud, where we crossed the flooded Francisco River.

I found the going tough against the swift current; however, Lionel and Solomon were on standby in case I was swept away.

We walked through gardens, swamps, and creeks before engorging on a classic lunch of Lae Biscuit and Sita tinned meat, washed down with spring water, on the banks of the flooded Francisco.

We continued upstream to Komiatum village, and at 3pm arrived at the confluence of the Francisco and Tambu Rivers,

WW11 plane wreck at Skin Diwai :
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Old 29-07-2003, 10:07 PM
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This was when the hard slog started as we climbed through thick kunai up towards Mount Tambu.

Every now and then, we would come across shady bamboo, rewarded by panoramic views of the valley and sea unfolding before us.

Massive bomb craters from WW11 indicated the ferocity of the battles here in 1942.

Solomon recounted a story, which was repeated several times, of a Japanese assault of the Australian defenses in 1942.

The Japanese were charged down by a huge masalai (spirit) pig, which ravaged them and forced them to flee.

We continued up Mt Tambu, every now and then turning back to feast our eyes upon the panorama that continued to unfold, as well as the magnificent flora and fauna.

Hornbills and prized black cockatoos flew across the afternoon sky – a welcome sight for our sore bodies.

Wild pigs, cassowaries, cuscus, tree kangaroos, and other wildlife are profuse in these mountains of Salamaua.

Children fishing on the flooded Francisco River :
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Old 29-07-2003, 10:18 PM
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We reached the top of Mt Tambu at about 6pm and continued on to a mountain spring, in which we all washed and quenched our thirst, before descending to the hamlet of “Niukamp” (New Camp).

We had dinner of bananas, rice, tinned meat, and hot cups of coffee before resting our tired bodies.

Wednesday July 23, 2003 – Remembrance Day – is a day that I’ll always treasure as I firmly believe our small group honored the 60th Anniversary of Salamaua in its true spirit by trekking the Black Cat Trail.

Our thoughts were with the many soldiers and carriers of WW11 who lost their lives on this treacherous path in 1942 and 1943.

Solomon Jawing on the banks of the Bitoi River :
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Old 29-07-2003, 10:20 PM
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We were up early that morning, while the rest of PNG was probably still in bed, and descended down Guisep Creek, and made numerous creek and river crossings before arriving at Mubo.

From Mubo, we precariously edged our way past steep cliff faces as the flooded Bitoi River raged below, to an easier crossing further upstream.

We passed through a network of gardens, pebbly fords and steep jungle scrambles past landslides and difficult sections of the river before climbing up the steep ascent to the fortress – like village of Gaudagasul.

The villagers – who only have visitors once in a blue moon - welcomed us with open arms and literally stuffed us with food.

There were dishes of bananas, kaukau, taro, tapioca, and choko to go down with our rice and Diana tuna.

Heni Denbis (front) of morobe Tourism Bureau and Lionel Aigilo gingerly walk the banks of the flooded Francisco River :
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Old 29-07-2003, 10:25 PM
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After that, we talked well into the night, encouraging the locals to start building village – style guesthouses for trekkers who would pass through their village.

The response was very encouraging.

We pressed on the next morning through thick rainforest as the track steepened and deteriorated markedly.

My bulk and weight of the backpack on my shoulders caused the track to give way in many places, and on more than one occasion, I had to grapple on to salat – stinging nettles – for dear life.

We continued like this, scrambling down to creeks, back up again, over and around slippery log falls, landslides, and salat.

On several occasions, we heard the calls of bird of paradise, which tantalizingly weaved their way through the forest canopy.

Wildlife was in abundance and the forest was alive with raucous calls of other unseen birds.

Komiatum villager with smoking sticks on Mount Tambu :
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Old 29-07-2003, 10:29 PM
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One time, as I was climbing up a creek, I almost put my hand on to a brown snake which Lionel and Solomon later told me was poisonous. Talk about a close call!

Suddenly, Lionel gave out a yell, thinking that a snake had bitten him.

After close inspection, no, but it was a leech.

Thus marked our entry into leech country.

The insidious creatures crawled on the forest floor like tiny dragons, and once they sniffed out blood, clung on to our legs and sucked until fattened.

Shoes and socks were no hindrance as they worked their way in and continued in the same vein as miniature vampires.

Lionel and Solomon, who walked barefoot, had their feet absolutely devoured by the slimy leeches.

Every now and then, we had to stop, and scrape the leeches off with knives.

The leeches, however, were a blessing in disguise as they forced us to pick up the pace despite the heavy backpacks on our shoulders.

Climbing Mount Tambu with panoramic views of the valley and sea behind.
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Old 29-07-2003, 10:33 PM
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Many a time, I felt like opening my backpack and throwing all my wet clothes into the bush, as they were the ones really adding on extra kilos.

We persevered, and after eight hours of torture, came to a kunai clearing which marked our entrance to Skin Diwai.

We could push our weary bodies no more, and literally collapsed in a heap at Skin Diwai.

Skin Diwai is a detour from the main Black Cat Trail – which continues on to Bitoi and eventually Wandumi village outside Wau - and is now the preferred choice of locals.

Photograph - Councillor's house at Komiatum :

To continue reading this article - please click on page 2 right hand side below:
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