October 23rd 1983

posted in: The way back | 0

Val’s letter extract, Day 2.

“Not an early start the next morning, by the time we made breakfast and packed up the tent.  We were hanging on in the hope that the five others would catch up, but by nine o’clock there was still no sign of them, so we set off.  However, by this time the sun was strong enough to be sapping our strength almost immediately, and by the time the others reached us, at about midday, we were wilting.  Rather than hold them back, we arranged a place to camp that night and they marched off.  By mid-afternoon, every little incline seemed insuperable.  At the sight of each crest, we would need a rest to contemplate it, a couple of breaks part way, and when the top was reached we would collapse and gaze back at what we had just done.  All we could think about was getting to the stream where we would camp, and sit in the water washing away the aches and pains.

It took all the energy we could muster to cook, eat, and set up camp for the night.  As we lay awake in the early hours of the morning, we felt we had cause to worry.  We were exhausted after making only five or six kms that day, and we were in danger of getting left behind.  Tomorrow would tell – 16 kms in prospect.”

                    Food.

The food we ate on the Trail: for breakfast, we had bread + marmalade while the bread held out (it finally went mouldy, with 2 or 3 slices left, in Kagi.)  We had a huge bag of muesli, but we ate that just twice.  The second time (at Ofi Creek) we ate it because we thought we should, even tho’ we didn’t want it, felt sick, + couldn’t face it again.  We finally gave a lot of it away to Greg, at Kagi, having paid a lot of money for the stuff, + lugged it more than halfway along the Trail.  We then, much to my delight, switched to porridge.  I’ve developed a real taste for it again, tho’ Val is still (after Alma) not keen.  For lunches, we ate fruit if we happened to be in a village – otherwise we didn’t bother.  There was always paw-paw, usually bananas, once a pineapple + once some mandarins.  And once, in Alola, we had cucumber, eaten with salt – beautiful.  We had 7 dinners on the Trail, tho 2 of them (marked *) I couldn’t eat.  Day 1 – chicken rice (rice flavoured with soup mix and/or stock cubes) with peas.  Day 2 – beef rice with peas *.  Day 3 – bacon + tomato rice.  Curry chapatis.  Banana custard.  Day 4 – Paella *.  Day 5 – Sweet potatoes, dried veg, instant mash, cheese sauce (this meal we had on a shared basis with Terry + Heather.)  Day 6 – pea + ham soup, cheese.  Day 7 – mushroom rice, cheese.  In addition to this, we also had nuts, dried fruit, + barley sugar, plus one packet of ginger nut biscuits.  The fruit we bought for cash, tho’ we did tend to give them presents of food, such as coffee, sugar, flour + sweets for the kids.  I’ve never liked paw-paw, but the one we had when we staggered into Nauro village was beautiful, just nectar.  I’ve gone off them again now tho’.

                  Drink

The most obvious one, of course, was water – I’ve never had a drink that tasted so good.  We never had any problems with it, only using a purification tablet once, in Goldie village at the very beginning of the Trail.  And then it took us 2 tablets.  Val popped a dry tablet into the bottle, + then we asked a guy fishing in the river if he would fill it for us.  Which he did, very obligingly, only first carefully + considerately rinsing the bottle out for us.  On the first day or 2 we drank too much water.  Not that it was in short supply at that point, but it tended to bloat one out + slow one down.  And I’m sure that that was the reason I couldn’t eat the second night out, since I staggered into camp + took great draughts of water, followed by cups of tea as soon as it was ready.  Later on, we were more prudent with our water, tho’ largely because we had to be since there were long stretches without any water at all (we were lucky to have Val’s copy of the itinerary from the South Pacific handbook, since this detailed those particular stretches very well.)  Not only did we want to conserve as much water for drinking as we went, in case something went wrong, it would be vital to have as much water as possible to last us if we camped out, both for cooking + drinking.  So we learned to take tiny mouthfuls of water, swill them around the mouth, + then allow them to trickle gently down the throat.  However, we were always able to replenish our water supplies at night, either from a nearby stream, or, in the last 2 days, when the rain came beating down, we set out cups + plates to catch as much as possible, even setting up a system with a poncho to help us.  We also drank a lot of tea + coffee, basically whenever we’d gone to the trouble to set the stove up for cooking something else.  Plus hot milk occasionally, especially when I couldn’t face food.  And particularly was a packet of Tang instant orange juice that we’d brought along.  It was supposed to make 1 litre, tho’ we somehow stretched it out to make 3, + it was marvellous at the end of particularly hard or difficult days, to get some sugar into the body in a pleasant way.

At the end of our second day, we still had not encountered too much native life, but those joys were yet to come. We were struggling with the sheer amount that we had to carry. Because we had to have everything with us, and not just the stuff required for the walk, we had books, electrical gear, extra clothes… Which is why we both needed to carry it all.

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