Friday, June 28, 2013

Five on a Friday

OK, here's 5 things I'm thankful for this week!

1. Swan Hummus - latest (6 month?) addiction. So. Good.

2. A dry week - I guess someone out there will have wanted rain, but I was thankful that we've had some fine although cold weather.  hahaha you know I'm struggling when the weather is at number 2!

3. Good Health - my own that is - with several staff members off work over the past 2 weeks with a variety of illnesses I'm glad I'm well.

4. PT - love my personal trainer; most of the time, except when I'm attempting chin ups.  But I am learning to be less scared of them.  He challenges & pushes me every week & I'm fitter & stronger than I've ever been in my entire life!

5. PB - ha - you could say plumbing boy, but I was actually going for personal best!  I've hit a few of those in running over the past couple of weeks.   I'm signed up for the 10km Run Melbourne in the 55 - 60 minute bracket.  I've run the distance the last 2 Saturdays at 57 & 51.47 minutes respectively.  I suspect I haven't been pushing hard enough before.  I think I have a newly revised time of 50 minutes.  Still have 3&1/2 weeks of training left, so could do it provided I don't hurt myself before then!

Hope everyone has a fabulous weekend!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Day 11

DAY 11

Our early morning transport was a 40ft speed boat!  Very nice.  


Departure was scheduled for 6.30am which of course meant 7am by the time we cast off.  1 hour later & we were back in Lae & met by the blue mini van to transit us back to our hotel.  A final farewell to our porters with a group photo & a bit of an award ceremony to them.  


Originally we’d decided to leave everything with Kerry to distribute to the boys fairly  however Kerry had not proven himself to be as honorable as we’d originally thought, spending the other boys dinner money on Saturday night on 2 cases of beer & taking off to his brother in laws with it, not even sharing with the boys among other things.

Plumbing Boy gave a bit of a thank you speech while I handed out our gifts.  Dave had already given his boots to Ray who was wearing them & Ray had handed his old boots on to one of the other boys!  

The rest went as follows: 

#A pair of socks for every man who wanted a pair with at least one pair of my thick purple socks for Ray.  

#PB's shirt also went to Ray.  

#Dad left his day pack & stainless steel bowl & cutlery to John (remedying my quandary of how to thank him!).  

#We left our mugs & headlamps (K’s to Paul 1), Dad’s to Roger (who ended up carrying his bag the most), mine to Shadow (PB’s choice) & PB's to Sowi (I think!).  

#I also decided to leave behind my trekking shirt which was from the fun run I’d done in Warrnambool in January.  Unsure if any of the boy’s would actually want a girls shirt, I didn't leave it to anyone in particular, just if anyone wanted it, & if not, to give it to someone in their village who needed a shirt.  PB impressed upon them the importance of the shirt being that it was from the hometown of Dad & myself which was why we wanted to leave it.  One of the guys grabbed it put it on straight away.  I was so surprised that I cannot tell you who it was (Sowi according to PB!). 
 Back to the hotel for a lazy day of chilling out by the pool swimming, eating & having a few well earned bevvies.  We met 2 x newbies who were off in 2 days with Reg to trek the shaggy ridge.  They weren't that new though, having done (& met at) Kokoda last year with our tour company & we dinner with them that night at the hotel before a day of sight seeing around Lae to follow the next day.


Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Monday, June 24, 2013

Day 10

Dozed on & off til 8.30am when Plumbing Boy came in to tell me he’d been offered the last crewman spot on our hosts boat to go game fishing.  None of the others were interested so he jumped at the chance apparently telling everyone he had to go & ask his wife first!

Our hosts had generously offered us the use of her washing machine……………4 loads later, K & I decided to wash out our thongs in the sea, plus PB's muddy camel-back & go for a swim.  The water was lovely & warm, Dad decided to join us.  The sand was a dark brown/black & pebbly & a little rocky underfoot, but once in a deep gutter within 1 metre of the shore made for a good break with waves that would dump you if you came to close to shore!  Remaining just prior to the break allowed you to pleasantly bob about with the rise & fall of the ocean.

A quick shower revealed at least a cup of coarse sand & pebbles in my bikini top that I didn't even feel was there!!!  Dad said the same thing happened to him (except his was in his zogs!) – made an awful clatter on the shower floor!!!  

Spent the rest of the morning chilling out on the balcony catching up on this journal listening to the waves.After PB returned & a late lunch – we raided our ration packs & ate more 2 minute noodles & tuna - Reg took those of us who wanted to for a bit of a walk to the end of the point & up a bit of a mountain to see another war relic (big fixed gun).  










Dad stayed put as he had developed a few blisters on the last day of hiking & a couple of them had managed to suck in some sand, so I had to remove the flaps of skin & remove the sand so they didn't get infected.  Doused them with antiseptic & installed blister pads on them & then taped them right up as he knew he’d have to wear boots over the next few days & we needed to keep his feet clean & dry.  K was not up for any more walking (ever!) by this point!  LOL

As we were departing for our walk, we found the local women had again set up their wares, so did our gift shopping so they could pack up & go home.  It was very hot & humid & I recon I sweated more on that brief walk than I did the whole previous 6 days hiking.  hadn't thought to bring Barry with me either & felt clumsy & naked going up & down the hill.  It was surreal to believe we'd actually finished hiking although our journey was not yet complete!

Our hosts had gone on to a mother’s day function with their fishing club for the afternoon, but on returning, they shared the tuna they had caught in the form of sashimi!!  Yum!!!  This was followed by a lovely home made lasagna for dinner accompanied by salad & wine & once again we had an early night due to an early start tomorrow so hosts could be back in Lae for work 8.30am. 

Oh, & yes, our hosts not only had hot & cold running water with 3 showers, they also had 3 western toilets!!!!!!!!!!!! 


Friday, June 21, 2013

Five on a Friday

Five (fairly unexciting) things I am thankful for this week!

1. My heater!  Both home & work.  It's been bloody freezing!

2. Clementines - just discovered them.  Delicious!

3. The sun that is shining today - it's been a bit gloomy this week.

4. Treadmill.  Not that I really like running hills but it has been handy this week & much warmer than running outside!

5. Friends & Family - catching up with some of each this weekend!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

DAY 9

Day 9: 

Woke around 4.30am & put off going for a wee til Plumbing Boy got up as I had no idea where the lick lick house was & it was too far to squelch through the mud in search of a modesty tree!!  

Started to pack up a bit & catch up on writing my journal (wearing my head lamp to see).  As the light dawned, PB emerged & escorted me to the lick lick house for our morning constitutionals.  Then back to Daniels house to collect our dry by smoky clothes via the boys for my dry socks & damp boots.  

The boy’s had stayed in Daniels old house – old, because the roof leaked.  That blue tarp was somehow pulled up & over the roof of the hut thus repairing the roof leak for the night so the boys were able to light their fire & keep dry & warm up!!!  Most of them only had the clothes on their backs.  Some wore boots with socks, but not many.  Some wore runners & no socks.  Some had thongs, the rest walked in bare feet.  


This was removing the tarp.....

I’d noticed on the first day that Ray had purple socks like me, although one of his had an enormous hole where one heel went!  I showed him my purple socks so he could see we were matching & had then resolved to leave my socks with him when I left.  Ray was the rope man for the first few days & then the shovel man cutting steps into tracks where needed.  He worked bloody hard.  PB had found out that Kerry’s village had adopted him 8 or so years back & they’d made up their own sign language to communicate with each other.  You see, Ray is profoundly deaf.  Ray is the best hunter in their village & spend quite a lot of time out hunting on his own.


Ray 

I was then in a dilemma, as my own porter John, had no socks (wore runners), but he had taken on the role of helping Dad.  Dad & I had a chat & decided to leave all our socks behind for the porters as a thank you.  Dave had already decided to leave his boots for Ray as well.  Out of all the boys, probably Kerry, Paul, John & Ray had put in the most amount of work.  Dad had overhead Paul complain that all the other porters were lazy!!!  We were all pretty much in agreement that Ray was "best on ground".

John

Packed up as much of my stuff as I could without putting my boots on (to keep the mud out of my tent) then shoved my feet into said boots to find they were K’s!!!  We have the same boots (including size!) but lace them differently.  Feet were now damp/wet.  Back to boys hut to retrieve K’s socks & my boots, delivering K hers while swapping over boots.  You have no idea what a muddy chore it is getting gaiters & boots back on & getting the muddy laces done back up!

Breaky down (porridge, again!) & Dad & K headed off with all the porters bar 3.  Reg, Dave, Garry, PB & I headed for Mount Tambu with Daniel & 3 of our porters.  The weather had not cleared – still in the clouds without much view, but at least it had stopped raining!  As we started our ascent, Reg stopped to point out where Blue had been wounded, saying that this was probably going to be the best view we would get.  While it was approximately 2kms from where we stood, there was no direct track to that location & would have taken us maybe 6 – 8 hours to blaze a track to that location.  We’d lost the opportunity & time to even attempt it, so I had to be satisfied with that. 


Where my Grandpa Blue was wounded, 2kms as the crow flies


I started to feel quite overwhelmed at that point & more than a little teary.  I think Garry was the only one who picked up on this as he kept looking back to make sure I was OK as we proceeded up the mountain.  PB was way back speaking "shit" with Dave (a fairly common occurrence between them while trekking!!!).  

I think every memory I ever had of my grandpa came flooding back to me as I climbed.  From being 6 or 7 years old, to being a teenager, to being in my 20’s.  Blue was born in 1917 & passed away in 1996. 


 Grandpa (Blue)

It was funny, the night before, Dave had asked me what sort of a man Blue was & I found it very hard to articulate, leaving Dad to explain.


I don’t know if this is because I didn't want to box him in or more that its only my minuscule perspective & experience I can give; or that I haven’t taken the time to try to sum him up.  How can you do that to a person?  I don’t want him to be just a few words.  Sometimes I think about how I’d sum up Mum & Dad if they passed now…………I don’t think I’d do them justice.

We made it up Tambu in good time, around 30 minutes with me fighting back tears.  By the time we got to the top we were well & truly in the clouds with little or no view.  



Saw both Japanese & Australian fox holes on the way to the top – Japanese ones are round & dug for 1, Australian rectangular & dug for 2.  We also came across a Japanese mountain gun & a tripod for a woodpecker.  



We spent around 30 minutes on top looking around before making our decent.  I managed to roll my ankle halfway down – the same one I rolled 3 weeks before we left - & had to go gingerly even after tightening my boot.  When we got back to Daniel’s I whipped off my boot & taped it up while the others filled up our water containers.  

We picked up Dave & Reg’s full packs & headed after the others to Komiatum.  Again a steep slippery decent but this time on gradient most of the way with only a few step downs (my least favorite!) through long tall pampus type grass, the ends of which were at my eye level.  Almost stabbed me in the eye a few times – luck for sunglasses!  I actually found this section of the walk the most difficult & slipped over 4 or 5 times as did the others!!  Imagine a narrow goat track, mostly only as wide as your foot, with grass up to your eyeballs so you can’t see where to put your feet, with lots of mud & a steep gradient!!  I suspect we were all slipping over as we were going a lot faster without Dad & K. 






K, Dad & the porters were well rested by the time we’d arrived, having an 1.5 hours to chill & recover while we’d been up & down Tambu & followed them down.  K was very proud as she was the only one in their posse who hadn't fallen over porters included.  

There was a great map here & a 2nd/3rd battalion poster both laminated on the wall of a hut for us to look at & read.  We also had a look at the museum – a hastily erected outdoor show of war relics that usually lived under the adjacent hut.  Cost Dave 5 Kina a head for us to have a look.  









You could tell we were getting closer to civilization. Asides everyone being better dressed, there was a guitar, mic & electric piano set up on the balcony of a hut charging with a solar panel out on the their front lawn!  The was also a shop where you could purchase cold soft drink & I’m not sure what else as I didn't realize until after we’d moved on that it was there.  There was mobile phone reception within 2 minutes walk from the village as well.  Some of the villagers were selling “Black Cat” trekking poles, but I’d become too attached to Barry to trade him in!  It would have been a different story had our porters carved our poles while we trekked as they do on Kokoda, so another reason why these ones didn't appeal to me.

Time for a muesli bar then 2kms crisscrossing the river again to the rafting point! Kerry had booked 8 rafts & the porters were dead keen to raft with us, despite each raft apparently only good for 1 bag & p person (Reg thought mainly to make more money).  Alas, only 5 rafts were made & ready!!  PB & I went in a traditional dug out canoe with Stephen, the chief raft & canoe builder.   K, Dad, Dave & Reg each had their own raft with a few packs & Garry the last raft with 3? Of the porters.  The rest of the porters had to walk, but most of them arrived within 10 minutes of the last raft, using a combination of walking, running & floating/swimming down the river! 









The river was very shallow with Stephens paddle able to touch the bottom in most locations.  Our canoe was very fast & beat the last raft by 10 – 15 minutes despite 2 stops on the way – the first for Stephen to purchase some beetle nuts & again for him to pee? & eat some beetle nut.  I took the opportunity to pee then too!!  I have to admit I was well over “drip drying” by then & was looking forward to (& hoping it would be) a western toilet when we arrived in Salamaua!  The canoe itself wasn't as comfortable as the rafts looked being a lot less stable & we had to sit properly positioned by Stephen & as I was in the middle, I had no backrest & had to sit bolt upright!  Gave the abs a good work out!


Once we were all present & accounted for at the river mouth @ Salamaua porters included we walked the final 2km along the beautiful beach to the beach house owned by expat friends of Reg’s who’d agreed to let us stay there for a modest fee.  





They were actually out walking when we arrived so we had a 2 hour wait for them to come home & confirm the porters sleeping arrangements before we could crack a cold one!  Their house mary (maid?) made us at home with percolated coffee – who could say no, especially as it came with milk!!  We hadn't had any dairy while out trekking. 

The locals seeing us arrive had set up “shop” outside in the rear lane with their handmade wares, mainly Billums (the local bags), jewelry & some shells & as Reg explained to them, just for us to look at today, not to buy & while we were out looking, our hosts arrived home the same time as local fisherman came past with a large GT & a red emperor.  PB purchased them both, the red emperor for the boys & the GT for us.

With the boys sorted, we had a beer & our hosts kindly made us a nibble platter & supervised the house Mary in sorting dinner.  Phil manned the BBQ – PB’s GT & some marinated chicken steaks!!!  Bliss.  We also had a green salad, 2 sorts of yams, pit pit, water cress, choko stems & a potato & sweet potato bake.  With red & white wine to boot – I was in heaven!!!  

We stayed up late that night chatting (10pm hahahahah) & then I tossed & turned all night due to the coffee I’d had late in the afternoon.  And also not quite the rooster our hosts had warned us about, but the bloody dog who decided to howl along with the rooster crowing from 3am.  Joy.  In addition, I was coming down with sinusitis & had a delightful (not) post nasal drip onto my left tonsil…………yuk.



Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Monday, June 17, 2013

Day 8

Day 8:As we were near enough to back on schedule by now Reg didn't set revaly this morning & we go up & packed up as we pleased although we were all ready to go by 7.30 – 8am.  

We had one more 3/4 day hike tomorrow; & a full day today to get us up to mount Tambu.  There was no chance of getting any closer to where Blue was wounded as we’d been way to slow.  I was a tad frustrated, but realized that without Kez & Dad (they were moving slower than the rest of us being ill) the trip wouldn't have gotten off the ground & that we’d done the best we could do as a group.

Farewelled the village & children & made our way further up the river til around 2.30pm crisscrossing as we went.  Boots & feet water logged the whole day, but OK.  At least they were cool!  

Magnificent scenery & most crossings much easier than the previous day, although we now had larger rocks to climb up & over along the side of the river in-between crossings.  K was over the rocks by 10am.  







 Dad had recovered from his gurgly guts now & blazed on ahead with John & Paul & was 25 – 30 minutes ahead of us for most of the day at each stop!!  At one point, Paul who was leading they way had pointed out to Dave an alternate 

track to Mt Tambu, Dave said lets go & took off up it!

Paul did not understand Dave’s sense of humor & struggled greatly to communicate with him that this was not a good idea.  John was very unhappy about the unscheduled & un-communicated change of plan & took Dad back down the track to where we’d stopped for a brief smoko.  Paul felt he had to go on with Dave (being the owner of the company) & had reluctantly done so.  Reg decided we should now stop here for lunch while Kerry went to retrieve Dave.


While the boys made a fire & put the pot on to boil, PB decided it would be a good opportunity to wash his shirt out in the river.  I decided to join him & having a proper sports crop on whipped of my shirt & got washing!!!  I poured wilderness wash all over me & pretty much had a bath while doing my laundry in the river including shampooing my hair.  No point putting a dirty cap back on so that got a wash which Dad decided was a good idea & I gave his the once over too.  Reg followed suit & washed out his shirt as well.



The rain started when we left the river not long after lunch to climb towards the side of Mount Tambu.  We stopped briefly under a metal structure where Reg had planned on pointing out where Blue had been wounded but we couldn't see a thing due to the rain & cloud cover & considered our options. 



We had planned on climbing Tambu that afternoon while Dad, K & the majority of the porters went ahead to Komiatum where we’d planned to stay the night.  Considering the conditions & the fact that we wouldn't be able to see anything from the top Kerry suggested we stop an hour ahead at new Camp (Daniel’s) for the night & attempt Tambu in the morning.  Plus it would be another 3 – 4 hours to Komiatum for the slowest team members on a steep downhill which would be very slippery & difficult going in this heavy rain.  And the reason we’d come on the trip was about to climax with being so close to where Blue was wounded, that we should give ourselves the best possible opportunity to see the most we could, with Kerry confident the weather would be clear in the morning.



 We waited 15 minutes hoping the rain would stop – Ha Ha – it eased a bit & we took off, but then it just got heavier & heavier!  Made it to Daniels soaked through & I was starting to get cold like some of the boys – they laughed at me shivering like them!!!  



The last porter to arrive was the one with the big blue tarp, Dad, Zac & I helped hold the tarp up over the boys while they went about laying banana leaves under, then setting the tents up atop the banana leaves & digging trenches around each tent to help keep us dry.  It must have been a funny sight, especially as we finished one tent & shuffled as one to the next location with lots of laughter!!!





By the time the tents were set up I was very cold & shivering & both hands had lost blood to all fingers.  I could barely manage to get my wet clothes off & dry thermals on in order to get into my sleeping bag & warm up!!!!  I’d left my boots socks & gaiters out in the rain not caring if they got any wetter & had certainly found respect for the locals who live like this every day (but without the socks & boots – they mainly go barefoot!).  I also got a feel for Blue who’d written in his diary during the war “no hot tea & slept in the rain”.

After I’d warmed up a little Reg came around with dinner instructions.  I clambered out of my sleeping bag & out of my tent to rescue my boots & socks which had mysteriously disappeared, planning to sit them undercover on the other side of my fly not housing my pack. PB had rescued them & asked the boys if they could attempt to dry them out overnight by their fire.  PB had also given his clothes to Daniel’s family, giving his kids life savers in exchange for them drying them out!  We went & asked if they could dry mine & Dad’s too – K was ensconced in her tent by now & was not planning on coming out for anyone or anything!


We wandered up to Daniel’s brothers hut (100 metres away) where Reg & Dave were sleeping, to the hot water with my bag of milo.  I’d never been so happy to be slurping down a hot cup of milo, without milk, EVER!!!!  It had been a precarious trip to the hot water in thongs & the rain was still lightly falling.  After a second cup of deliciously hot milo, I decided to brave a trip back in thongs to K’s tent with a cup of hot water for her to make herself soup or tea, as she really had chosen to stay in her tent & even forgo the hot evening meal.  I knew a hot drink would lift her spirits & warm her up, even if I did have to get wetter & muddier myself.

Dinner arrived (Daniel's wife had agreed to do the duties) & was eaten while the rain got heavier & heavier.  Again more mixed slop in a pot, Reg I think only had Teriyaki beef meals!  The rain continued to fall & eventually I had to pee – couldn't wait any longer.  I found a tree close by which did little to keep the rain off me close to the hut & then slowly squelched my way back through the mud to my tent.  Quite damp I wiped the mud off my feet with the only dry item of clothing I had left (other than knickers) not being worn & snuggled down into my sleeping bag pulling my hood up around my wet head & went pretty much straight to sleep praying my tent wouldn't leak!