February 17th

posted in: The way back | 0

Up at 6 to go down to the Park entrance building to meet out guide by 7 – naturally things weren’t as smooth as that, + it was nearer to 8 before we finally set out.  Just 3 of us to share the cost, which is $50, so pretty expensive.  Our guide was another of the strong + silent types, in that he spoke no English, so we (ie Val + I) christened him Binjang II.  The first stretch was by road – they asked us if we would like a ride along this section, but as the charge for that was $20 for about 2 miles, we declined.  Not very much to report about the walk itself – the mountain was heavily clouded in, so there were no views.  The trail was by no means difficult to follow – there were steps cut + made using wood, + even handrails over the steeper sections, + plenty of benches + shelters – but it was very tiring, for the way led relentlessly up.  At first we set off at a fair lick, were over-foolishly complimenting ourselves on our fitness, but in time, the climb took its toll on our muscles, + by the last third or so we were struggling, adopting our Kokoda trick of pausing for breath every 50 or 100 steps.  So we were very, very relieved to reach the hut.  It made a pleasant change not to be bringing up the rear, tho’ one shouldn’t be smug.  Joan was a fair way behind us all the way, tho’ she had Binjang for company.

Our refuge for the night was nothing like as comfortable as the one we had left behind at the bottom of the hill, the most important lack being heat.  It was bloody cold up there + there was no heating at all, so that we had to wrap the sleeping bags that we had been provided with around our shoulders like shawls.  And I immediately cooked the meal we had carried up – beans, taters, bangers – as much for warmth as nutrition.  And then, because it was too cold to do anything else, we just sat, huddled around the paraffin stove that we’d brought out of the kitchen – an inefficient heater, but the best we had.  And at about 6 o’clock we went to bed – we had, in any case, to be up at 3 am to make our ascent to the top.  Val + I tried to double-bag our sleeping bags + climb 2 into 1, but that wouldn’t work, so we clipped them together + kept warm in a time-honoured fashion.

Rather a weary plod, and without the attraction of a warm hut at the end of it.

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