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Posts in the lead up and aftermath of my Kokoda Trek 2010..
Day 1 – Brisbane to Port Moresby
It all begins today. Woke up with the usual nerves I get before any trip. Try to make my mind go into a normal routine. Stop, think and go slow. Don’t rush and work logically. Force myself to eat breakfast and hope to clear out my emails before leaving. Internet down, which means no TV distraction either as Foxtel is out as well. Lock up the house and make sure all good. Taxi turning up early is a good sign and on the way with ease. At the airport right on time and all good. Nerves slightly less for the moment.
Easy check in and move down to immigration slowly. The lady does a double take, looking at my passport which I expected. All this distracting me and keeping my nerves low. Getting to the duty free and out again once stopped that’s where the nerves kick in. Mind going a million miles a minute and trying to understand what is really going on. Flight went off well, not a single problem and the service was fine. Reminded me of Norfolk Air so much.
Once on the ground in Port Moresby, reality hit pretty hard. I was actually here and there was no going back. I couldn’t believe I was doing this. Brian and Kila met us at the airport so that was a good distraction. Things are so different over here. The hotel was right near the airport and had amazing views. But looking around, the hotel feels out of place. It’s luxury in surroundings you don’t expect. We got out packs and started to pack them. This was less problematic and less Nazi than expected. We aren’t really carrying much, just a few clothes and bits and pieces. I saw the ration pack and this is where my mind went crazy. So much food. I don’t think I would have eaten so much a year ago. But I was under orders to eat everything and I will. Each and every thing in that bag, snacking a lot. We had dinner and a few drinks (still no booze) and chatted about what was going to happen over the new few days. We retired early as it was going to be a very early morning tomorrow.
Day 2 – Port Moresby to Popondetta to Hoi
Up early this morning and outside for a pick up to the Airport. We were to fly to Popondetta and then by truck to Kokoda. I have to get used to “Track Time” as it is a lot of “Hurry up and Wait”. Thankfully after the charter airline crash we are flying Air Niugini to Popondetta and this meant a nice comfortable Dash 8. My first time. What an awesome way to get my spotting Trinity on this trip. We flew a new Q400. A short 20 minute flight and we were in Popondetta. This was my first short field landing in a non jet aircraft and it was a little more violent than expected. Once on the ground we were into the back of a truck and onto Popondetta Township to pick up some water.
We figured the ride wouldn’t be long in the truck. WRONG. It was a good 4 hours of bone jarring, spine nudging, bouncing in the back of the track. It was not comfortable at all. It was around 1230 by the time we got into Kokoda. By god it was amazing to finally be here but yet there wasn’t much there at all. We finally ate our first meal of the day after missing breakfast. There was a Peanut Chocolate Slab in the pack and dear god that was amazing. My first taste of chocolate in such a long time. God yes. We had lunch in the guest house at Kokoda, which is essentially a hut with a table and chairs. We set off onto the track. Only a short day today, 5km to Hoi. It was a nice introduction to the track, an easy start. Enjoyed it. Once we got into Hoi it was getting used to camp life. Wash in a steam, ring out clothes and hang them out on the line at the end of the tent and then settle down to some dinner, some talking and hopefully a good night’s sleep. Dinner was Dehy 101. I failed this class. My meal was a little crunch, it was gross, but add Tabasco and it was edible. It amazes me how much food I can eat, I just can’t get over it. Hopefully tonight I can sleep. Brian taught us a few words of Pidgin today.
Mi Now – I’m ok, ok, yes
Lik Lik – Little
Pikinini – Child
Sweet Biscuit – Man who likes men (Andy)
Meri – Woman
Kakaruk – Chicken
Balus – Plane
Day 3 – Hoi to Isurava Memorial
Sleep was not easy. I must have been on a few rocks. But everything was muddy, yippee. We had breakfast early (6am) before heading off around 7am. We were doing the biggest hill at the start of our 2nd day on the track. It was up & up & up. First break at Deniki, 2nd by a waterfall, 3rd somewhere I forget. We stopped at the top of the hill at Isuravua before a nice long break. It was a fantastic lunch, lots of laughs and genuine good feelings. It was so good to rest. Even though we weren’t moving fast it wasn’t easy.
It was rough going in some places but once at the top it was fine. After lunch we moved to the Isuravua memorial. This was harder for me as my back was starting to hurt. I was sliding all over the place. Andy saved my butt several times over. We stayed tonight at the memorial and it was such an amazing view. We were camped on the side of the hill overlooking this amazing valley. We had a relaxing afternoon compared to what I expected. Dinner was more laughs and stories. More trading and good times.
I am enjoying it but worried as well that it is Day 2 of 8 out here and I may not make it. We told our stories tonight and as expected I was up first. After mine and Andy’s stories it was off to bed. Early rise tomorrow.
Day 4 – Isuravua to Templetons Crossing 2
It’s late (8pm), I’m tired so this will be short. I wanted to pack it in after today. 12 hours of this fucking shit. That’s right 12 hours on the track. I was ready to pack it in when we walked into camp covered in mud head to toe. Just totally over it. It was going ok till lunch. My back was doing just fine but this afternoon’s 3 hours took us 4.5 hours. FUCK IT. I did stack it today, Ass down which makes it 2 now. I need to calm down and just get it done. No more cranky pants, focus, calm, on my feet. It’s raining again right now so sleep is beckoning.
Day 5 – Templetons Crossing 2 to 1900
Today was as tough a day mentally as yesterday. Today started off looking ok but went downhill quickly. I had swapped to fresh underwear & socks to help combat the “sads”. But the rain came hard so the socks were not dry for long. But the problem was as we got higher and higher to the top of Mt Bellamy it got old. The rain came down hard and there was just mud everywhere. Up, down, left, right it was all over at one point before our morning smoko. We stopped and it felt like someone stabbed me over and & over in the back. It was unbearable. Brian gave me a tablet to get through the pain and then Andy took my entire pack off me for about 15 mins. Then when we had a break at Templetons Crossing 1, I got the pack back with nothing it in just food & water. This made it easier and much, much better for what was to come.
This was where it was so cold. I couldn’t stop shivering. It felt like it went forever. We did not stop for about 5 hours. When we got down to 1900 (the camp is at 1900m above sea level) even though it was cold everyone went straight to the fire, spent a good hour drying off and warming up. Took forever to get out of the “sads” but it eventually happened. I just have to get my head around focusing on keep going. Don’t feel bad, don’t worry. I am half way across the track time wise and I need to stay focused, and keep my mind on track to make it through.
I forgot to write that coming down into Templetons I was coming down the hill with no pack, I took a bit of a slip. I almost went head first down a hill. I was caught by a porter thank god. I was saved! As I sit here at 1900 freezing my butt off I bid you good night.
Day 6 – 1900 to Brigade Hill
Up before my alarm this morning but only by 3 or 4 minutes. 2nd day of squatting in the long drops… yay? I am still getting used to the process of squatting over a hole. Still a bit slow in the morning getting everything packed and stowed. We were out of camp by 6:30 and off onto the track. Through some absolutely giant Pandanus trees and up to the “Shortcut” and then down to the dreaded “Butter Chicken”.
Apparently there was meant to be mud that resembled the look of butter chicken. We got to a point where we could look down through the range to the villages we were due to go. Pretty soon we were coming into our morning tea stop at Naduri. No mud in sight and we made awesome time. We had a quick break and had some fantastic Bananas.
We moved on down and down to the bottom, then up and up and up to Efogi Tops. Again we had amazing views of the main Efogi. It is the distance half way point but not the real halfway point. This was a massive village with one of 2 air strips that are open on the track. We had a relaxing lunch in Efogi Main and then trekked up to Brigade Hill. The sun was out most of the day, which meant spirits were much higher. No rain, no mud. Fantastic. Being sunny meant hot and sweaty. It also meant sunburn was big. The malaria tablets make you more sensitive to sunlight. But you sucked it up and kept moving. The views were just amazing. Kept taking lots of photos, enjoying the day. I guess with only 3 sleeps to go it should be good. Big days to come though.
I haven’t written anything about the people I’m trekking with. There are a total of 7 trekkers, 2 staff and 6 porters. The porters are all very quiet. Very, Very quiet. They never talk to you unless you approach them but they are great. The head Porter/Guide is Kila. He is from a village called Alola which is at the northern end of the Track. The other porters are Henry the lead man. He is always out in front showing us where to go, David who always seems to be the one sent ahead to set up camp. Paul who is a personal porter and then there is another one whose name I don’t know yet. The only porter I haven’t mentioned yet is Nick. He is the guy who saved my butt several times including a head first spill that could of been nasty. He is always there to lend me a helping hand when it gets slippery. The 2 staff are Brian and Andy. Most people who know me know that Andy is my PT so he doesn’t need an introduction but Brian is the boss, he runs Adventure 1000. He has been a great driving force forwards, keeping me going. He is always updating my boss and I don’t think he has ever said a negative thing about me.
The trekkers are Darrell, Tennille, Chris, Stuart, Michelle & Kat. Darrell is the oldest and he is from Perth. He is the only one who has his own porter and he does need it. He is very unstable at times and has a reputation for big tumbles (worse than me). Tennille & Chris are both from North Qld (Mackay I think) and are both great. Chris is ex army, and it shows somewhat, and Tennille has a great sense of humour. Stuart and Michelle I have trained with and seen around the gym for a while. It has been great getting to know them better. I know that Michelle has been finding it tough, but she is upfront and we go at her pace and she does fantastically. Last but not least is my “buddy” on the track, Kat. She has kept me partially sane but both being young and single means we cop our fair share of flack. Either way she is a machine and just amazes me at how fit she is. I wish I had the ability she does. All in all it’s a great group. Each day we all learn more and more about each other which makes it great that you get to talk to people and learn so much.
Day 7 – Brigade Hill to Nauro
Up very early again (before 5am) and another morning routine underway. I don’t know if I will ever feel clean again on this trip as I have not had a real shower since Moresby. Beautiful start to a morning right beside the track, literally. A few porters passed through the camp as we were eating breakfast. The morning was nice and cool and made for a good start on the track. It was a big downhill this morning. 2 hours and 15 minutes. This was the first hill of many today. The plan was Brigade Hill to Menari to Brown River to Nauro. We made it to Menari Creek for a quick swim ahead of time, but I decided against going in.
We had a good 40 minutes in Menari in the Sun on the grass before moving onto crossing through the Menari Gap. This meant a quick 45 minute up and then down a long, long way, almost 1.5 hours. It was shocking and then at the bottom was our lunch stop. My back was aching, legs aching; I was ready to pack it in. But I am so close I can taste it. We moved along Brown River along the flat for about 45 mins and it was exactly what I needed. It was that little bit of relaxing walk that gives you the energy to keep going.
We crossed Brown River itself which was meant up to waist in water, since the bridge (made of logs) had been washed away. My boots are Gore-Tex and hold water in which was not ideal as I made the final hour long climb up through 5 of the 9 False Peaks of the Muguli Range in drenched boots. I had just gotten them clean and dry and now having to start all over again. As soon as we got in, it was boots off and by the fire to dry out. 1 more night left after tonight. 2 more bush toilet mornings. Can’t wait.
Day 8 – Nauro to Camp 44
Not much sleep again last night with rooster sand some guy in the next guest house over snoring like a freight train. Was all good to go this morning, Dry Shoes, Fresh socks fresh underwear. Was looking up till about half way up the Muguli range. It was getting stinking hot, really hot. Mal was not a happy camper. My back has been hurting since about day 3 on the track. By the time we got to the end of the hill at the bottom, I was in heat exhaustion and just about ready to fall over in Pain. Then the worst day so far had kicked in.
I was ok by the time we got to Ioribaiwa but then we went downhill, and so did I. My back was in agony, I was in excruciating pain, I had apparently pulled a muscle in my back and it was just not good. I was so hoping to come out of this with no injuries, I was trying to avoid not carrying a pack but that does not look good either. I’m really not looking forward to tomorrow now. My last day on the track is not going to be easy. It’s probably going to be a very long day, But I will tough it out. 8 more hours on the track to go.
Day 9 – Camp 44 to Owers Corner to Port Moresby
I have just woken up and although I don’t normally write this early in the morning, I wanted to jot down a thought before I forget it. This trek has shown me that through all of this I can do the things that I set out to achieve. Be it hard or not, I can do it. Most of all I have made new friends found old ones and absolutely enjoyed it regardless of the difficulties.
The morning started off like any other on the track. A Long drop, eating out of a cup and dry boots that became wet quickly. But it all seemed ok to everyone. Everyone had a spring in their step. We all knew what led ahead. 2 ups, 1 down and some flat in between. It was the final day on the track. We headed off along the creek below Camp 44. No rock hopping was drilled into us several times as this was our last day and no one needed to get hurt this close to the end. But we all knew it what was coming up next, Imita Ridge.
This was to be our final big test. A massive 500m up and it was steep. No fun to be had here. Brian had predicted that Imita would be the one that broke me. I was going to prove that it wouldn’t. I was determined to get up that hill. I managed to do it in 56 minutes. I was ecstatic to get through it but then I had to come down which is the one thing I hate doing. But we made good time and had a break at the bottom of Imita. We then just had an hour on flat ground; get across Goldie River and up to Owers. 2 hours was all it took. We were almost there. A quick swim in Goldie River (again I did not partake) but it was a good way to bring about lots of spirit for people. The final hill was not easy. It seemed to go on forever. And it almost did. But looking up to the top at the big arches that you walk through was fantastic, I loved it. Waiting for us at the top was our lunch. Roast Chicken, Fried Egg Sandwich, a Lamington and a Beer. I only had one of beer but it was enough. Tasted so good!
After a while we all piled into the bus and we head to the Bomana War Cemetery. This was amazing and reminded me so much of Arlington National Cemetery in the US. It’s sobering to see 3500 people buried in the one spot. All the people who gave their lives for us. After the cemetery we headed back to Moresby. I’ve never been to a third world country before, but it just shocked me how different it is, seeing the outlying areas around Moresby and it looks so much like another planet rather than a city just to the north of our own country.
We unpacked back at the hotel and a shave, shower and clean clothes and something comfy to sit on never felt so good. We had dinner in the restaurant and the eating goes back after the trip. Tonight was a ration pack I swear. It was so good to taste the foods I had missed. Now it’s time to sleep, in clean pjs, sheets and real pillows. Heaven.
Day 10 – Port Moresby to Brisbane
How good is it to have a real bed to sleep in. Even though my body had me up early, I did manage to keep myself in bed till about 630ish. I was going to get on the net and quickly check my emails and twitter that I’m alive but had issues at the Business Centre. So I just bummed around till Breakfast and enjoyed the feeling of not walking. I had my first taste of bacon in 9 months and dear god it was good.
After breakfast Kat & I headed off to PNG Art for a quick bit of shopping. Then we went to the Yacht Club for lunch with the rest of the group. While sitting around at lunch it was so surreal to be back in Normality so quickly. I had my last naughty meal on the trip with a Burger and Chips. The chips were great but boy did I feel guilty. We jumped back in the taxis and headed back to the airport. It was an eventful taxi ride. The driver seemed to want to go as fast as possible, while cutting around other cars and also talking on the phone, all at the same time.
At the airport we said our final goodbyes to Kila before getting through immigration and the duty free stores. Picked up a few things at Duty Free before boarding. We were heading home on Air Niugini’s old 767. I mean old. It was old school all the way. It was an uneventful flight home. The A Team was played on the old screens which were great and I declined the full meal service, just took some snack mix and the dessert from the tray. As we flew into Brisbane on final approach, things started to hit home. I got through Quarantine & Customs easily and met my friend shortly after.
Aftermath & Thoughts
Now that I am back home and have time to think all of this through. I am not quite sure what to think or what to say. I am very glad that I have done this and I think in the future I might try it again and actually see if I can do it all the way without problems (and perhaps a little faster maybe). But looking back over it all I can say that I am happy I have done it. 9 months ago I set out to achieve some goals and lose a lot of weight and now I have. The only thing is… where to from here. I am not quite sure what to do or where to go. Life is a little bit all over the place right now. I guess the next few days/weeks I need to sit down and work out where I am going in my life as now that I have finished these goals I have kind of lost direction a little.
What will be my next big adventure? Well I do have my nice big Round the World coming up next year and this week I will do some planning of that before I go any further. I need to work out what to do with my life I guess. Things are not always as easy as it seems.
So the big adventure begins tomorrow. Tommorrow I am going to take a giant leap into the new Mal and finally do Kokoda. The scary thing is I am wondering why the hell I decided to do this. I could of taken the easy option and not done it but no, I had to go ahead and take the hard way of doing things (like usual). But my brain keeps thinking to itself. YOUR STUPID! why are you doing this. What do you think is gonna happen. Its just my brain over thinking things which usually means I panic etc
But I am determined to do this. I have had the usual pre trip problems come to light. Last year before I went away I got gastro. This time i get a cold with days to go. But as long as my ears pop.. I am sure as hell going.
Everything is bought, ready to go (packing later this arvo). But my body is all ready to go. I am going to do this… I am going to do this.
I am going to do this!!
Every sunday for about the last 2 months I have been showing up at Mt Cootha around 6am and then spending a few hours hiking up and down the hills. The first week I did this, my trail runners I had bought months ago got a good work out, but then it was time to get serious.
So with new boots in hand each week I showed up to get myself hiking up and down those tracks. I also got myself a walking pole to help myself along and when finally kitted out I was downing those hills like a hungry mad man. Hah in reality though I struggled up and down hills, step after step for a few hours with a nice heavy back pack on.
Yesterday though was the big one. It was the final big training session. 6 hours was the goal. I had to clear my sunday schedule and it was a good day. Rocked up and it was only a small group with a few people out sick or away, or called into work at last minute. But it progressed well. I was wearing exactly what I would be wearing on the trek and it felt comfortable.
Backpack was loaded with 10kg of gravel and my water and a few bits and pieces so around 13.5kg i guess. But nothing I can’t handle. We hiked for a while and dropped off half the group after 4 hours and having to keep going after a 5-10 minute rest break was tough. I didn’t wanna keep going. But i powered on and pushed myself hard. I managed to knock through one of the tougher hills on my own, and kept pushing it.
After the 6.5 hours (we took a bit of time coming back down) we had hiked 27km and i felt really really happy to take off that pack..
WHAT A MORNING!!!!
though breakfast at 1pm was a bit wierd
So it has been a few weeks since I last updated about Kokoda and how everything has been going. Its been tough work and with a weekend off to Melbourne for my birthday, I really felt like I had taken a month off. Days just kinda drag out at the moment with it feeling like a month each. But i persavere. The training has been getting harder and harder, faster and faster. The nights on the hills around the Gym have been getting harder with last tuesday night spent fully in the pelting driving rain. It was cold and it was sure wet, but i am sure that is how things are going to be once I get to PNG.
However Sunday was a whole new experience. I spent 4 hours on Sunday morning on Mt Cootha. Not quite sure what the tracks where called but they were difficult and they were long, very very long in fact. in the 4 hours I covered 17.5km. That is the longest I am pretty sure I have ever walked in a morning. Now that seems pretty slow to some people but you have to remember, going up and down hills is slow going. And 17.5km in 4 hours is really good going. Being that Kokoda is only 96km I am sure we wont be covering that much ground in one morning or whatever (but if we do sweeeeeeet). One thing I did realise out of it. I have no padding on my shoulders any more. No more fat to provide that lovely soft barricade against my bones. O well.
As for goals, well when I got back from Melbourne I had actually weighed in. It came in at 97.7kg and i Freaked out. That was like 4kg in less than a week. I was not sure what was going on. I didnt know if it was some crazy fluid loss or it had been a real weight loss. But i stuck it out for a week, kept my head in check like i was taught and just gave it a week to see how the weight went this week. 97.3kg. Im under the 100kg.
Goal #2 COMPLETE!!!!
ok well ive been so busy the last few weeks I havent really had a chance to update everyone. But Kokoda is a go. I have had my medical clearance, my trainers are keeping me going and they believe I can do it, the only hurdle left now is for me to believe I can do it.
This is a big big thing for me. This will be the ultimate conclusion to everything I have done. Don’t get me wrong, I am sure there are going to be other experiences in my life that will be mindblowing. But to come so far and now have a real chance at actually doing this. Will be fantastic! It will be this crazy experience where I can just soak in the atmosphere and take the challenge and run with it. Surely I will be able to do anything by the time I get back from this.
Training for Kokoda is not easy though. I have 3 sessions a week specific to Kokoda. Tuesday nights is hiking around the gym area in Bowen Hills & Teneriffe (Dunkenfeld & Down Sts if you know them) and then Friday morning (530am mind you…ewwwww) is a gym session with lots of cardio and leg work. And then Sundays is the big session. Hiking at Mt Cootha. Not just one journey up the hill. at the moment it is 3 hours worth and the sessions will increase a LOT apparently. But if i can keep the falling over to a minimum, I will be very happy (two stacks at Mt Cootha so far).
In other news, My warddrobe has been emptied and some new clothes purchased. It has been crazy just buying clothes at normal stores. I can’t believe that i never thought i would do that. The one thing is though, I still find it hard to shop on my own. Places like target etc don’t phase me as I have shopped in their before. But other stores, I can’t do it on my own. That may sound really stupid but I get to overwhelmed and if I don’t know I just have to run out.
To give you an example yesterday I went to this Jeans store down the road from me which had 2 pairs of Levi’s for $40 which is a total bargain. Figured i could get rid of the old jeans that are way way way to big for me (and i only bought them in april so havent had much wear either). But i didn’t have any clue what size i was meant to be and so I go in and since its a factory outlet their was no real staff around, and after just looking and thinking to myself “what size am i” i just ran out of the store. I am so chicken. But after talking to Kat this morning at training she told me to just suck it up, put on the first pair and if they fit, they fit.
So i grabbed the biggest size (38) and I just put them on, and they fit. It felt wierd trying on a pair of jeans. I was like ummm but soon enough the fear went away and I managed to shop on my own. It’s not as bad if I have someone else with me though as I can usually just look at them for guidance/help/support.
Well with the 10k all completed and behind me, its now time to knuckle down and focus. I had hoped i could have some more time to train for this but it looks like its been moved up. If it all gets approved (leave etc) i should be heading to Kokoda on September 1st.
Thats right, only 2 months away. Im scared again! Jesus what am i doing. I am going to put everything i can into this. I will do this and i will try not to kill myself in the process. It is going to be one of those amazing experiences that will stay with me forever but I have to make sure that i can do it.
For that it means getting serious about my training and focusing and knuckling down. Lots of hiking and lots of steps i guess. Sunday morning is going to be my first ever hike at Mt Cootha. Will probably need to get some decent hiking boots or shoes soon as well.
This is just a wierd feeling right now. Everyone keep your fingers crossed it all goes ok!