Thursday, June 20, 2013


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.


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!

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.

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