We depart Agulogo at 5.30am expecting to plunge knee deep into a muddy swamp, complete with leeches, mosquitos and whatever else lurks in these parts. We were pleasantly surprised by the low level of water in the swamp, although there was plenty of mud, we managed to move fairly swiftly through the spongy terrain for about an hour until we reached our very first creek crossing WITHOUT a bridge! Yeeeehah! I finally get to use those embarrassing pink crocs I bought for $15 in Newcastle a few weeks before. They’ve been hanging off my backpack for 7 days now, and I’ve not put them on once… All the travel guides talk about making sure you have something waterproof, other than thongs, to wear for the many creek crossings. I was wondering where all these creek crossings were, that we actually had to wade through, rather than walk across a log bridge. So the time had come, and we were all ridiculously excited. It was a bit like we all felt as though we’d been cheating up until now.
It was a pretty wide and steady flowing creek, but only up to our waist, but the porters were close by with a helping hand to stop the little people (like me) from floating downstream! The experience was quite refreshing, particularly so early in the morning. I suppose you could consider it our first wash for the day!
I realise this is beginning to sound a little repetitive…but yes, the next part was a 2 hour climb up to New Nauro Village for a quick rest stop, a few photos and some gift giving to a couple of local children standing by observing this motley crew. The kids weren’t quite sure what to make of us, but once they saw the little toy helicopters emerge from Chad’s bag, they began to smile and made their way over to us.
We press on for another hour and a half to the Japanese Ladder Camp. Theoretically, we are supposed to be on day 8, according to the itinerary, but we have now moved into day 9, making this the biggest day of all so far on the trek. We would walk a total of 9 hours in all, covering 21km in some of the steepest descents imaginable.
We climb up and over Iriobaiwa Ridge. It is not far from here that the Japanese offensive positions, became defensive as they were hammered by the Aussie artillery which had been hauled up onto Imita Ridge (more about this amazing feat in Day 9). A little further down the mountain is the furthermost point of the Japanese advance over the Kokoda Track. It was here, with Port Moresby nearly in sight, that the order was received to withdraw. Half starved and facing major shortages of munitions and reinforcements, the Japanese retreated with the Aussies in hot pursuit. It was the beginning of the end for the Japanese forces.
We endure one final descent into Ioribaiwa Village….and boy, it went on and on and on…we were all pretty glad we weren’t going in the other direction and having to walk up that one.
The campsite at Ioribaiwa was absolutely stunning. Set on the side of a mountain with spectacular views over the valley below. Port Moresby is almost in sight, just over the next mountain range!
We were pretty excited to find that there was an actual shower here, so our second official scrub (with soap and shampoo) was the go!!
Renea and I made a beeline for the outdoor shower, fully clothed of course, and ohhhh how wonderful it was! Amazing how simple things become so special, when you’ve been existing with the bare essentials.
After washing the day away under what felt like a fountain of youth, we sat back and relaxed in the cool breeze, hung our clothes out to dry and contemplated our achievements to date. As we sat amongst the village roosters we noticed a new trekking group appear on the horizon, so we immediately formed our guard of honour position and proceeded to clap them into camp! Turns out they were a bunch of ex pat women from Port Moresby. We’ve become to love the reactions of various groups as we perform our little ritual each time. Some are genuinely touched by it, others are less than amused…probably because they’re struggling to breathe and we’re always full of energy!
After the festivities, we settle in for a game of UNO and afternoon tea, while the locals have packed out the village outdoor church and are singing the most beautiful hymns. It’s almost a surreal experience to hear their harmonies float through the camp as we’re having a cup of tea. In fact I sit there and savour the moment, knowing that it’s something I’ll remember for the rest of my life.
The sun begins to set over the valley below us and I’m keen to get a few photos. Before long, we’re all lined up at the edge of the mountain snapping away, capturing our individual memories. We’re all a little excited and sad at the same time, knowing we only have one more night on the range ahead of us. So close, yet so far….
It may well have been deliriousness setting in at the thought of nearly finishing the trek, but I’ll never really know what inspired some of us to decide a push up competition would be fun…Perhaps it was just their competitive nature, in fact yes that was definitely it. The three most competitive peeps on the trek, Joey, Chad and Renea…the picture speaks for itself.
This competitiveness went on well into the night with stories of SERIOUS cheating going on at UNO. I had long retired to bed by this stage, earplugs intact, but could still hear the roars of laughter rippling through the camp. I smile to myself as I lay on that really comfortable blow up mattress and feel grateful to have met such a crazy, loveable, adventurous bunch of people. Wouldn’t want to be anywhere else for quids.
Steps taken: 29,737