October 25th 1983

posted in: The way back | 0

Val’s letter extract, Day 4

“Our first traumatic experience of river crossing on log bridges came the flowing morning – two very long and thin tree trunks strapped together lay from bank to bank across Nauro river.  As the river was too deep and swift to wade we had no choice but to step shakily onto the logs.  With nothing to hold on to and the logs bending unevenly under the weight of me and my pack, it’s no wonder I felt dizzy as I looked below to the rushing water.  The main reason I kept my senses was the thought that I had the camera, the tape recorder and the documents.”

                    Social occasions

Very few + far between, at least so far as Val + I were concerned.  Being so much slower than the others, we were either ahead of them, having left early to try to gain a bit of a start, or behind them, struggling to reach the agreed rendezvous before nightfall, so the opportunities for social contact there were very slight – even between ourselves, there was very little chat as we went; we were far too busy concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other all the time.  And in the evenings, generally each little group prepared its own meal, + then crawled exhausted to bed.  However, on the 3rd night out we sheltered under a hut at a deserted (only temporarily) mission, having wandered in the rain off the true path, + we chatted quite a bit that evening.  To my mind, tho’ the only social event of any note was the evening we spent in the rest hut at Kagi.  It had been an easy day’s travelling there, + in any case we had broken the day by washing our clothes + bodies in the stream halfway between there + Efogi, so we were relatively fresh.  The rain had set in during the afternoon tho’, so we had lit a fire on an old oil drum lid fireplace in the middle of the hut.  In the evening there was the most gorgeous sunset – we were up above the clouds, + could watch them change under the light being thrown down.  And then we sat around the fire (always a wonderful aid to social occasions) + talked.  Val played the penny whistle, I sang some songs (practised under my breath while plodding up the hills) + then we went to bed.  This was, tho’ we didn’t know it at the time, our last evening with the others, so it made a pleasant finish.  The next day was the big one, up over the Kokoda Gap, + then down to a corrugated iron shelter by a river crossing.  Unfortunately, confusion set in.  There were 2 such shelters, by 2 such crossings, + when we arrived at the first, we found a  note from the others.  They had arrived there early, + so had pushed on to the village,5 kms relatively easy walk on.  Except that the village was 5 kms on from the 2nd crossing, + we were only just able to make that second one before dark.  The others must have had their disappointment too, of course, but still had enough time to make the village.  Which, as we later discovered, is what they did.

It was definitely the river crossings that Val found the most challenging, so all the more credit to her for facing her fears. But although neither of us found the going easy, matters had improved by the feeling of achievement in appearing to cope.

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