How will I ever explain this experience? The people - trekkers, crew, villagers, the mountains, swamps, jungle - vegetation and sounds, the sunrises and sunsets, rain, storms, rivers, log bridges, food, smells… the list goes on.
It is all so unreal and with only a day and a half to go after today, I question where the time went. On one hand you look forward to each rest stop, lunch break or campsite and on the other you don’t want it to end, to go back to reality and ‘normal life’.
Today had intense downhills, steady uphills, swamps, mud, river crossings, mud, laughter, sweat, swimming in the river at lunch, walking to camp wet with no way of drying those clothes, nothing dries and at this stage the only clean things I had left were 3 pairs of socks.
The night on Brigade Hill was the first night I slept well in the tent, I won’t say I slept through as that would have been lying, but I slept the best of any night on Kokoda, and when we arrived in camp at New Nauro Village I found the team had put me in the shelter again - bless them!
Again this experience is so hard to describe, it’s not a holiday, it’s not easy, it’s not with any creature comforts, but it’s all worth it and I didn’t want it to end (note that 19 days later I still want to go back, so this is a good sign). I feel fitter than ever, I’ve learnt how to climb a hill at a steady pace - but I’m definitely not fast - I’ve detoxed from all normal foods and it’s now taken a couple of weeks to ‘retox’ so I feel I can eat normally.
As this day moved through, we walked down 700m and it was here that I let my concentration lapse and the track took me out… I went from careful steps down to lying on my back in the mud, moving my legs to make sure nothing hurt - thankfully I was all ok, as once we got to the bottom we were going up again for another 400m, before back down 400m (you see the pattern), it was on this downhill that we faced the infamous ‘Wall’, which I think was a lot easier to go down than to climb up, but we had done far harder on the track so far.
Post our lunchtime swim in the beautiful, but not aptly named, Brown River, the rain then came down as we headed off to walk through the swamp and it was here that we all learned our primary school gymnastics beam time came in handy, as we carefully manoeuvred ourselves across the maze of logs and magically no one fell in. As we were walking through one of the Porters turned and said something in Motu to Simeon and he laughed, turned to me and said “he said most people be quiet through the swamp, but not you, you keep chatting, smiling and laughing!”, so I took that as a compliment.
As we cruised up our last 300m climb for the day, we nearly saw a Bird of Paradise and this was high on my list to try and see, but once at the top we had a funny moment with Kanaeve taking off with Lisa’s backpack and running onto the village and even though it was a gnarly 300m we were all loving the view from the top.
At one point today Simeon and I were chatting and he said that he will miss me, which was so lovely and he had no doubt with only a day and a half to go that I would walk out. It made me realise that all of my training, the times Andy had me trudging the sled up and back, or when I was out climbing up and down the Golden Staircase, that these were all pivotal in my success and enjoyment of the trek. Had I had managed to lose more weight prior to going then, yes that would have made the uphills easier but that will continue to come and happen.
In my journal for this day I wrote ‘I don’t want this to end!’ about six times, so that really goes to show how much I was loving the experience.
Funny story to end on… I got to 40 without realising how pineapples grow! How did I never know this interesting fact, and how did I not get a photo of them growing.
This night I went to bed knowing it was my second last night in a tent, unpacking and repacking and that tomorrow would bring the nine false peaks and a it’s own challenges, but no challenge that I hadn’t already faced physically or mentally along the track.