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
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.
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".
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!
(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.
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
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
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
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
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