We are now in quite the rhythm… 430am wake up, re pack the pack, breakfast and then before we know it the boys, as we affectionately knew them, had the tents down and were ready to go and typically this was by soon before 6am and we would be off to our next destination.
Before we headed off we headed down to capture sunrise over the Isurava Memorial, but the sun eluded us and the Adventure Kokoda crew were having a dawn service, so we respected this and quietly headed off with the crew missing out on our morning trekking chant.
Stage one was to Alola Village where we had planned to stay and it was good to feel my body feeling strong and into the efficient walking rhythm or ‘I found my trekking legs’, so again we were headed ‘up hill and down dale’ for what was to be a 9 hour and 13 km day according to the map, however my iPhone recorded 19.5km and 11 hours (we had some big days!) to Templeton’s Crossing.
Some of my favourite moments along the track was capturing beautiful faces of the children at Alola, walking down a landslide (the photo has a lot going on), beautiful waterfalls, so many log bridges of all standards, seeing left over artefacts from the war, the fox holes where the soldiers lay in wait, taking our boots off and letting our feet dangle in the river and then seeing the generosity of our Porters and how much they cared for us as a team.
We learnt that a lot of the village children walk to Kokoda for school during the week and then come home for the weekends, this means they are are walking 20+ km to get to school, there are some small schools on the track for the younger children, but the rest need to head to Kokoda.
The day involved walking, lots of walking and the moment where we could see rain had weakened the track and whilst we were gingerly making our way along, my Porter Simeon fell off the track! How he didn’t go down I do not know, it seemed he was able to run along the vines back behind us and then jump back up onto the track. These guys seem to have magic powers, or feet to keep them safe!
After lunch at Eora Creek we climbed another 500m climb and entertained ourselves along the way, walking and chatting as the track was quite wide. Barbara’s Porter Budha laughed at us and told us to hurry up, as Simeon at this stage had run ahead. You see I thought we were close and said to him, “I think some of the Porters are going ahead to setup the tents”… now it turns out we were still a good 2 hours away and Simeon decided to run ahead, pitch my tent and then run back to make sure I was ok, before running to the back of the team to get KK’s pack and tent and then catching up to me again! This was yet another time when I saw this humble generosity of Simeon and how he worried for me, but yet knew I was ok so he was ok to help out the team. As he said to me “I knew you’d be fine” :)
Today is a day when I can say that we had settled in as a Team, the Porters had bonded with us and were there to encourage and support, their mission was to keep us safe and to reach our goal. And us a a Team of strangers only 3 days earlier, were all supportive, looked out for each other and you’d think we had known each other for years, I guess this is what a group coming together for a common goal and purpose looks like.
I have so many stories I want to write about, from Lisa and her ‘Advance Ponsy’ referring to a horse in France but now it’s called when we move on, to Jonah and his amazing ability to be joking and making us laugh, Leroy (one of the Porters) walking the track a year after his achilles had been sliced by a sheet of iron - ouch! Vince and his cheeky smile, always cheering when I came into camp and on this day suddenly appearing from within the jungle where he had been trying to get a bird with the slingshot, the boys catching fresh trout and baking in foil over the fire and then letting us sample and then the rumbling thunderstorm going over us as we went to sleep.
That night as I lay in the tent, the sounds of the jungle, the roaring river, cracks of thunder and rain, I didn’t want to be anywhere else nor have this experience end.
Day 3 - Isurava to Templeton’s Crossing
Approx 20km and 11 hours trekking