I remember waking up today with excitement that today was my last day on the Kokoda Track and also the sad realisation that this journey on the track was on it’s last day. It’s hard to explain (as I know I’ve said before) that being on the track is so totally outside of normal life, it requires concentration levels that are far higher than ever doing back in ‘real life’, and it strips you back to who you truly are. As you go through the different challenges there are so many obstacles that could un do you and if you weren’t truly prepared then who knows what personality would come out.
Today we had our last stint, from Ua Ule Creek to Owers Corner, and it involved a couple of fun climbs! Heading up to Imita Ridge was a 500m climb that had me calling out for acupuncture needles as my hips started to hurt, and in true Kokoda style we were sweating, breathing hard, hurting, the potential for injury still high and yet on cloud nine, the elation of getting to the top of the ridge, knowing that we had only had 500m to go down to the Goldie River before the final 300m uphill climb was obvious on all our faces, and the Porters!
We had a quick break at the top, and most of us treated ourselves to our last warm Coke and then it was all downhill to Camp Goodwater where I pulled out the last of my beef jerky and gave it to Simeon in a covert contraband type affair, he then said he would share with Kanaeve as we walked. As we headed along this last part, I found myself walking at the front with Obed and Simeon and in one last funny moment Simeon lost his balance on the flat and as I turned to tell him jokingly ‘not to fall off the track’, I suddenly found myself sitting on tree roots on the track! Which prompted us all into fits of laughter at how gracefully I had ‘sat down’ and still have no idea how I got there.
We then got to a large clearing and the boys had all vanished on us, so as we arrived at the shores of the Goldie River and realised that we weren’t walking over in our boots, we then sat down and watched as they came back to us with our sandals and then took our backpacks and boots, leaving us with just getting ourselves across the river. Now, getting across meant I was wet up to mid thigh and well it was warm, so I asked Simeon and Max if trekkers normally jumped in to which they said yes and no - so I jumped and let the current carry me downstream only to standup and walk back up and repeat = it was perfect!
However, I didn’t think that I still had 300m to climb and now everything was wet! But up the hill I went and as we got to the point where the jungle cleared and it left us with an exposed last 150m in the heat of the sun and humidity, it felt great to be wet. My body at this stage has decided it’s done, it knows it’s the end and every step towards the arches was a battle, not due to pain, just my body said that’s it we are here.
As I walked through the arches I really thought I would be more emotional about completing the trek, but the feeling I did have was simply I stoked (is that a feeling), anyway, I had spent from November 2016 till September 2018 working towards and achieving this goal and I can tell you now that the emotion has come on daily since and writing about each day has brought self reflection and memories that has regularly had me in tears at what I achieved.
I achieved this even though so many said I shouldn’t do it (thankfully just as many said I could), it’s dangerous in PNG, or the track is too hard why don’t you start with something easier and the rest, but I did it and I freaking loved it and I’d go back and do it again in a heartbeat! Anywhere we travel has dangers, heck I live in Sydney and the crime stats here are likely worse than PNG (haven’t researched), if I let fear stop me then it will continue to stop me.
PNG and the Kokoda Track will forever hold a special place in my heart, the people are so beautiful, by our ‘standards’ they have so little and yet so much. The mountain villages of Efogi and Naduri were definite favourites, getting to watch the women weave bilums and the kids play with so much laughter. This makes me want to see more of what PNG has to offer and to see more countries where the money we spend as a tourist can go so far, it gives me a real appreciation for what I have.
After spending time at Owers Corner, having a cold Coke and a sandwich we headed off to Bomana Cemetery and here it was a reflective end to our Trek. To see the thousands of grave sites and so many are Unknown, was a sombering experience, I even found the grave of a fellow New Zealander and this was when I realised we did play a part in this war.
So this is the end, the end of a goal and adventure and the start of a love of hiking, goals and adventures. Where this will take me I’m not sure yet, but I’ll be sure to set a new goal and fall in love with a new country and their people. Heck it might even make me run away and do something crazy, who knows!