If there is one word for day 4 on Kokoda, I’d be saying it was BRUTAL - well it seems that was the word I kept writing in my diary after getting from Templeton’s Crossing to Naduri and on reflection it really was and I loved it!
Huge uphills, so much mud, a downhill that was almost a river on top of clay for an hour and a half and then a stinging bush that wanted to keep taking me out, not to mention a 12 hour day and about 22km trekking.
We left Templeton’s Crossing at around 630am and I got myself together to ‘confidently’ walk over the shaky bridge (I managed a lot better than the day before!), and then we climbed up and up, in mud lots of mud but no surprises there, we chatted to others coming down the track and whether they were off to Kokoda to pick up more crazy trekkers or gather supplies to take back to the villages we weren’t quite sure, but it was nice to see smiling faces as we carefully made our way up the mountain.
Once we had gone down to the river, the pattern keeps repeating, and then back up for a rest, we then kept climbing up to the Kokoda Gap, the view up here amazing and soon after we reached our highest point on the track at 2192m. Now, post here we were carefully walking through mud and looking back if I had known what I know now, I would have not cared and just walked… As the day was about to get a whole lot better and at the same time worse.
Soon after the Kokoda Gap we detoured out to Myola. The walk out to Myola was very different and felt like we were completely off grid and suddenly (an hour and a half later) we were overlooking this insane ‘lake’ but swamp and just vast open land when we were expecting jungle. After being in the jungle for three and a half days now it was hard to fathom this strange new landscape and it was just so beautiful at the same time.
Then we were off and the heavens opened, the thunder rumbled above us as we sped down the track to get to lunch (only slightly late by a couple of hours), arriving at 3 and all of us had a story, whether it was a fall, hit by the stinging plant, limboing with packs on under a fallen tree, or getting a leech, or three in Lisa’s case, but most importantly we arrived safely had a quick lunch of noodles and tuna with a coffee (staple for most days) and 30 mins later we were off.
Now at this stage in my head I’m thinking we are not too far from Naduri, however 2.5 hours later we arrived! But that 2.5 hours was full of marching through the forest, up the hill, trying not to fall, slip or other and at one point David did fall off the track as he was turning to make sure I was ok, watching his Porter scramble to make sure he was ok was just lovely, so this all provided bit of a laugh in our concentrated state. We arrived at a rest stop at the top of the hill to have Max point into the clouds below and tell us - Naduri is just down there!
Little did we know that between us and ‘just down there’ was an hour and a half (in my case) of walking down a clay track that was a cross between a track and a river. It was at this stage that I put my ‘independent female’ aside and followed Simeon, where he went I went, if there was more than one option I asked which way and every time I got down safely. Simeon would go ahead of us with a huge stick and break up the clay so that it was stickier for us to step down onto, or push the stick into the clay to make a step for us. As we were concentrating so much and walking carefully we still found time to sing, and Simeon and I would sing some hymns from How Great Thou Art to Amazing Grace, or Rod and I would be singing Raindrops keep falling on our heads, or Slip sliding away…
But even though the concentration, mud, clay, rain, thunder, 22km and 12 hours trekking, Simeon still turned round to me before we reached Naduri and said “you’re really happy and enjoying this” and yes I was, I feel so lucky that I really did love my experience and all the time and effort I put into training since setting the goal at the end of 2016 was worth it in more ways than one.
I took the approach on the track of taking in and enjoying the journey and each step of the way I was going to remember, whether I was struggling, emotional, tired, sore, that all paled in comparison to what others in the Team were going through or what those who fought in the war went through. Three weeks on and my thoughts whilst on the track of ‘I have to slow down and take this all in, as it will go too fast’ have come true and now it’s adjusting back to life, but I know I’m different for the experience, and that is hard to put into words or express to others. It really is an experience like no other.
Day 4 - Templeton’s Crossing to Naduri
Approx 22km and 12 hours trekking