October 26th 1983

posted in: The way back | 0

Our big day came when we tackled the climb up to the Kokoda Gap, the pass in the mountains which leads over to the Popondetta valley and the village of Kokoda.  The twenty kilometre walk started well; we set off at first light and had reached the gap, 2300 metres above sea level, by mid-morning.  But our troubles started in the early afternoon when the rains came.  We were held up a couple of times by tricky log crossings over rivers swelling with rain.  We only just made the shelter before dark, and found that the other five had walked on the next five kms to the village.  The rain was pouring, and we pitched tent under the shelter, collected run-off water to make tea and soup and lay down exhausted.”

                    People.

We only passed one other group of white travellers, heading down the Trail the other way, + we’d have preferred to have seen none.  Not that we were in a position to judge them – our meeting was far too brief – but it would have been nice to have been the only ones thro’ at one time.  The local people that we met along the way were uniformly marvellous (with the single + possible exception of the man in Efogi, who collected K5 each person from everyone who stayed in the rest hut.)  But everyone else was terrific.  The 2 guys who guided us up from Goldie village, who patiently waited for us when we had to stop, with heaving chests, to regain our breath, who grabbed my hand firmly, + dragged me up the steep + muddy parts.  The hordes of kids in Nauro village, who squealed with delight when I dragged out my Frisbee + we played with them – they’ve either played with one before, or they’re very fast learners.  There was the group of villagers, walking thro’ the stream just before Minari in which we were bathing, each one stopping to shake hands + say good morning to each one of us.  John, the young boy who guided me back in the dark from the stream in Efogi – Val wasn’t so lucky.  She left a little earlier, + tried to make it back to the hut on her own.  As a result, she was wandering lost around the village for 10 mins, desperately listening out for English voices.  The people who brought us fruit, vegetables, water in the villages.  And everybody, but everybody, that one spoke to, said good morning to, smiled at – they were all marvellous.  Just about the only slightly aggravating thing was their seeming inability to judge time + distance.  Whenever one asked how far the next village was, one received a gross under-estimate, usually given in terms of hours.  Whether they were far quicker themselves, or unable to adjust their estimate for unfit, unsure white people carrying huge packs; or whether they were genuinely anxious to give an answer we clearly wanted to hear; or whether they are simply incapable of dealing in such abstracts, I really don’t know.  But once we learned to ignore the estimate, it became an endearing rather than annoying attribute.

Approaching the end of the trail now, which both of us are very much looking forward to, if only to clean ourselves properly.

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