October 20th 1983

posted in: The way back | 0

20th   Not a bad night’s sleep, tho’ much colder than we’d expected.  And I spent the early hours of the morning lying there worrying.  All the doom stories about the trail had got to me, I suppose.  Eventually, tho’, I moved myself, + Paul took that as a signal to start cooking breakfast, so everyone had to get up.  We were being charged K1 for the room each, and K4 for breakfast, but it seemed to me we couldn’t really have one without the other.  It still wasn’t at all bad value tho’, especially since the breakfast was pretty remarkable – fried barramundi (that’s a big fish), plus juice, toast + coffee.  And with the price of the alternate accommodation around… well.

After breakfast, Paul gave us a ride to Boroko, the first village, or suburb, in, + he dropped us off at the police station.  He’d given us the name of Andrew Sterns, an acquaintance of his who worked there, (he turned out to be the Chief Superintendent) to ask him for any information he could give us about the trail.  So we fronted at the reception desk, + gave his name, + eventually, after several calls upstairs, I was let thro’ the gate, since I was the one who had presented my name.  I then had to negotiate the entry of the other 4.  And then we were in the office of C S Sterns.  He looked rather puzzled at the 5 bedraggled specimens in front of him, wondering, I think, why they had come to see him, wondering even more when he discovered we were seeing him about the Kokoda trail, about which he knew next to nothing.  (Tho’ there was a flash of enlightenment when we mentioned Paul Cox’s name, as if to say, Aha, that bugger pushing problems onto me.)  He was, tho’, helpful within his abilities, taking our names etc to register as being on the trail, + suggesting where we might buy a map.

That was at the military base, not too far away, + again they were very helpful indeed, providing us, after a bit of a wait, with what looked like a couple of good, detailed, topographical maps.  Greg, Val + I then went back to Boroko, Greg to buy shoes, we to buy a compass, (if possible.)  The other 2 disappeared to another part of the barracks.  Our compass search was futile – we were directed to another couple of shops, but eventually cottoned on that they thought we were looking for an implement to draw circles. 

So we left Greg, talking + worrying (I worry too, but I keep it inside), + returned to the Aero Club, ready to pick up our gear + set off.  However, we met Bill, an ex-pat there, + he said 2 things which changed our mind.  I should explain that the other 3 were waiting for 2 more friends to fly out on Friday night, + were then starting the trail Saturday morning.  We were wanting to leave on our own as soon as possible, but Bill thought we would be dangerously foolish to do so, + on reflection we realised it would be against sensible bush practice to do so – if one person was hurt, that would leave only one other to look after him, + no-one to go for help.   In addition, he offered us a ride out to Sogeri tomorrow morning, so we decided to take that offer, + then arrange to meet the others somewhere early on the track.

So, all that was left for us to do now was sit + wait.  Which we did.  Greg appeared, with training shoes + a bush knife.  Then Paul + June, with much fruit, + 5 bottles of insect repellent supplied free by the PNG army.  A lazy afternoon, sitting, reading, writing, tho’ Val + I did do some shopping in the local supermarket, next to the airport.  We even went so far as to buy a loaf of bread, + so provided ourselves with dinner (a cheese sandwich.)  In the evening, Paul, Val + I played euchre, to be joined later by Paul Cox.  Val + I won too – very pleasing.

The two photos show the contrasting aspects of Port Moresby at the time – occasional modern buildings, but big open areas too, not much more than scrub. I imagine Port Moresby is very different now, and even then there may well have been more modern areas that we did not see, but the general impression was of something not like a modern city at all.

Performed chores while we still could, though our encounters with officialdom were quite funny – once again, harking back to a different time.

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