October 24th 1983

posted in: The way back | 0

Val’s letter extract, Day 3

“We set the alarm and rose early to try to get a head start on the others.  As we started up the steep hill, we decided that we weren’t doing so badly after all, and although the others overtook us during the morning, we were looking forward to coming into a small village, called Nauro.  It was a beautiful sight to see the little wooden houses on stilts, nestled in the hills.  Our excitement grew as we walked closer, and were greeted first by some local children, all rather shy at first.  We asked for some fruit, and they brought a big, ripe, juicy paw-paw from a hut.  They halved it for us and we ate the pink peachy flesh with relish.

We discovered the others sitting by a hut across the other side of the stream which ran through the village, and they presented us with some fruit they had bought – bananas and paw paw.  The village children were thrilled when Chris got the Frisbee out (it doubles as a plate) and we were surprised that they had either played it before or picked up the knack very quickly.

After an hour or so, it started to rain, and after a short conference we decided we must walk a little further that day, so we put on our rain-proof gear and set off into the wet.  Although it wasn’t raining very hard, the ground underfoot was becoming very boggy.  And when we missed the path and ended up in someone’s front garden by mistake, we sat under some shelter and decided we should stop for the night.  The house appeared to belong to a missionary, but no-one was at home.  We made tea, but by dark the house was still empty so we laid our sleeping mats on the veranda and bedded down for the night.”

                    Weather.

On the whole we were very lucky.  On days 1,2 and 4 it didn’t rain at all, + tho’ it rained heavily on days 3 + 5, they were days, in any case, when we’d only planned to travel a short distance.  Day 6 was the worst – the rain came at 2.45, but it was a day in which we had to walk a huge distance, so we had almost 3 hrs of plodding (+ then slithering + sliding) in torrential rain.  We walked in the rain the next day too, + were brought up short by it, but we’d already made such appalling time that day that it really made very little distance.  And only on the last day did it actually rain in the morning  too.  In general tho’ one was shielded from the worst excesses of the elements by the dense forest cover, providing shade from the sun, + bearing off some of the force of the rain.  The worst effects of the rain are to turn much of the trail to mud, making it difficult , dangerous + messy to go up or down (this was particularly bad just before + just after the Kokoda Gap, where everything was soggy + sodden all the time) + to swell the streams + rivers, so that they are difficult to cross.  Tho’ we were nearly always incredibly nervous about these crossings, + nearly always took far longer over them than we should have, we were only seriously held up once, on Day 7, when I tried to wade a river when in fact one was supposed to rock-hop, tho’ the rocks concerned were both covered with fast-flowing water, + I didn’t know how slippery they would be.  We waited for an hour, + I was in the process of trying to wade again when, luckily, a local woman came along, + not only demonstrated the right way  but helped us both across as well.

                    Relationships.

3 couples, so I’ll deal with them first.  (Nothing deep or psychological, just observation.)  Paul + June seemed to be very unsuited.  They rowed quite a lot in public, + tho’ it was sulky + brooding rather than loud + aggressive, it’s still a rudeness I can’t abide.  Their compatibility is their own affair, but the public display is everybody else’s.  Terry + Heather seem to get along much better, tho’ that is understandable, since they have been together for much longer, are now married, in fact.  Even some people in one of the villages we stayed in commented on how much alike they were.  As for Val + me, we got along in our usual way, on the whole very well, occasionally tetchy + irritable, + only very rarely having anything approaching a row.  The one time I was angry with her was when we were pushing on thro’ the rain on the 6th day, + I felt we should have stopped + pitched tent, but in fact it worked out alright, since we ended up at a corrugated-iron roofed shelter,  but it could have been very nasty.  Greg was the obvious loner of the group, tho’ he was quite closely attached to June.  A bit of an odd situation there, since he didn’t get on with Paul, + obviously disapproved of the way Paul treated June.  Val + I were obvious outsiders too from the other 5.  We hadn’t known them as long as they knew each other, we were much slower than the others so didn’t spend much time with them, + didn’t really have the same interests.  Nonetheless, everybody got on, at least on a superficial level.

So much better in all sorts of ways to encounter a local village – a place to sleep without putting up the tent, some company, some (mutual) entertainment…

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