Kokoda - Day 5 - September 8th 2018

I learnt today that roosters don’t only crow at sunrise, but more like 4am! His internal clock was certainly set rather early… Oh and I have a lot of tears to cry…

One thing I loved about going with Back Track Adventures was that they have a rest day and you get to experience the hospitality and beauty that is spending a day in the village of Naduri, learning more about the humble Koiari people.

We were welcomed the night before by Joel, the Elder of the Village, and invited to church the following morning, post doing our washing (which never dried), having breakfast and sorting our boots out to try and dry.

I heard the church bell about 6am and then soon after beautiful singing, that just seemed to go on all day or at least all morning, and soon we were lead down to church and into their building. Now funny story, as we were lead in we were pointed to seats and joined in the service but… only after sitting did I realise that Men are on the left and Women on the right and well, a few of us were on the wrong side - awkward!

We enjoyed a few songs, and then were invited up front and asked to introduce ourselves, we were then given a welcome and a lai was draped around our necks, it was an emotional moment and the first of many for me in the following hour. As we headed back to our seats, we strategically moved to our correct side out of respect for the Church and then settled in to enjoy the program.

The feeling of being so overwhelmingly welcome was just too much for me, and even as I type the memories of today I’m close to tears, seeing some of our Team who are from the village at Church with their children and then being surrounded by so much warmth by people who by ‘Western’ standards have so little, but from what I saw they are richer than most people I know and their generosity and acceptance 10 fold compared to so many I know, it made me not want to leave.

Thankfully I had worn by Buff to Church as it doubled nicely as a hanky for wiping my eyes, as I just couldn’t stop them from crying, each time we sang, or the choir started singing I just started crying, if the big brown eyes of the adorable babies of the village looked at me, I’d start crying, they got Jonah, KK, Barbara and I up the front to sing us happy birthday and yes I started crying, we lined up after church (about an hour we were in church with them) and shook everyones hands, and yes I had to try hard not to cry. But I admit, I’m an emotional one and I also cried on the flight home listening to the Team singing, and when I turned to Turia Pitts chapter in her book on Kokoda - I just couldn’t stop the tears.

Today really got me thinking about the future, what I want for myself, the sort of person I want to be and it scared me to think of going back to Sydney where it is just so polar opposite from my experience along the track. One thing I realised is that I love community and this city doesn’t give you that, especially if you are outside of the normal and don’t drink. Being in the village and seeing that community, or even being in our community as we as a team moved on our journey, as all together we had up to 60 people all taking care and looking out for each other, caring about our ability to complete the track, joking, giving advice, sharing moments. This was special and part of walking the track that just couldn’t be replicated again.

As the day continued, we created makeshift clothesline in the hut to try and dry clothes (as yes it rained), Lisa lead yoga in the medical centre and this was a nice cross between yoga and laughing, as we were all squashed into the ward and some of the village children joined in. We learnt more about the medical centre and how they staff it, and then as we sat around the fire or in the hut keeping out of the rain Jonah and Lisa entertained the children with antics involving a poncho, toothbrush and paste and a mandarin, hearing the laughter was just beautiful.

We chatted with our Team, who weren’t from a village close by and therefore stayed with us, we sorted our gear and had naps, it was the perfect day off. It also marked our halfway point, 4 days completed and another 3 days to go to Owers Corner, at this point I felt a bit sad as it was all going to fast. Even though I knew I had to be in the moment, I didn’t want the moment to end and Dr. Seuss said it well:

“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”

But, I will still cry, I will still have those moments of I just want to be back there, even though at times I smelt so bad, my gear smelt, it was hot, humid, wet, muddy, uncomfortable, challenging, long, hard, every step a careful placement, not sleeping well, inspiring, beautiful, comforting, crazy ‘Malaria tablet’ dreams, and more, I wouldn’t change it for the world (and yes I’m typing and crying, so as not to let anyone down). If I was asked I’d go back in a heartbeat, even though I know there are so many places in the world where there are adventures waiting to be had, this adventure touched me in a way i didn’t know or think was possible.