Even knowing that we would have to climb Mt Belamy, the highest peak of the track at 2190m, could do nothing to deter my spirits today. I knew that today would be a shorter day of walking ensuring that I would actually arrive in camp well before nightfall, and this combined with the promised ‘track fitness’ starting to kick in made the walk much more pleasurable than on the previous days.
Even walking uphill all morning, toward the peak of Mt Belamy, I was feeling great but I could see that a few other trekkers were struggling both physically and emotionally so I stayed back to help them along. I knew that there would be days that I would be feeling less than great and would appreciate a friendly face and a smile so figured it was the least I could do. Our merry group was was quite large and was made up of a student, a teacher, a couple of sponsors, a colleague, tour director, tour organiser, paramedic, a group of porters and myself. The majority of the walk was uphill but there were sections that involved steep descents, usually heading toward another river crossing.
At one such river crossing we planned to stop to refill our water knowing that there wouldn’t be another easily accessible water supply until we crossed Mt Belamy. I took a few photos of others crossing the river ahead of me and then crossed over. I had just taken my pack off and was getting my camera out to take photos of another trekker was crossing when I heard a tremendous cracking sound. I looked up to see a fellow trekker splash into the fast moving river he was trying to cross. I flung my camera to the ground and grabbed on to the guide rope that he was frantically hanging on to, and threw myself to the ground behind some rocks for support so I wouldn’t get dragged into the water with him. Two of the other girls who had crossed ahead of me also grabbed the rope and we began our tug-of-war. The tour guide and paramedic were on the other side of the river also grabbing on to the guide rope. The porters jumped into the river to help the trekker who was struggling with the weight of his now very wet pack dragging him into the water. Luckily the porter was able to get the pack off him so he could regain his footing in the fast moving water. It wasn’t until he regained his footing that we realised that the water was only knee deep!
Once the wet trekker was dragged from the water and was assisted to a nearby village to re-group, another sponsor of the program began to fill everyone’s water bottles, only to slide headfirst into the same river. With 2 very wet trekkers in a matter of minutes, all we could really do was laugh, partially in shock of watching people fall into the river and the subsequent adrenaline rush it produced and but mainly at the fact that both splashes were actually hysterical to see if they weren’t such precarious situations. In actual fact the first ‘swimmer’ was really lucky he fell into a body of water and not directly onto the rocks that were within a meter of where he fell in many directions.
We left the wet trekkers to dry out at a nearby camp and began our ascent again. Next stop the summit of Mt Belamy. The trudge up Mt Belamy was still exhausting and mud filled. The rain had continued to fall throughout the night and we had light rainfall for much of the morning. Rumour has it that this section of the track was the muddiest it has been in many years!
When we made it to the top of Mt Belamy I had planned to take about a million photos but was disappointed to find that a heavy fog had set in and visibility was reduced to less than 20 meters and it wasn’t worth dragging my camera out. We did stop to chat to a few other trekkers who were walking in the opposite direction. They took one look at us, sweaty, wet and covered in mud and wondered what they were in for. They told us that the other side of Mt Belamy was dry and dust was the biggest issue that they had faced as they walked up the mountain. I was looking forward to drying out so didn’t sit around for too long.
The other trekkers were right, this side of the mountain was much drier. Not only had it dried out but the scenery had changed dramatically. The trees here were draped in a beautiful green moss. It felt as if we should have been walking through the set of a Tolkein movie.
When we made it to 1900 Camp, the sun was shining and the rest of our group were swimming or relaxing in the sunshine. I took the time to wander down to the river to rinse out yesterday’s still wet and muddy clothes in the hope that they wouldn’t get too smelly before we made it to camp later that afternoon!
The next walk was through a forest of the most amazing trees I have ever seen – pandanus trees. The palm like trees all had a teepee like root structure that was well above the ground. In fact the root structure was often many meters above ground level.
We continued through the forest to stop at Bombers Camp, a campsite that was situated in a clearing that was home to the wreckage of a US B25 Mitchell bomber that had crashed during WWII. When the bomber crashed, the bombs onboard exploded causing a huge crater to be blown into the jungle. As a group we paid our entry to the local landowner to look around the crash site. The reality of war hit home again.
From the Bombers Camp we kept on walking to the camp we would call home for the night – Diggers Camp. As I expected, we did make it into camp early in the day with plenty of time to have a leisurely lunch and to relax.
Q. What do a group of trekkers do when they have some free time?
A. Go for a walk – A 2 hour round trip, just for the hell of it!
The extra walk was stunning, we walked to Myola, the crater of an extinct volcano. The view was amazing, beautiful sun shining over lush green grass that filled the crater. Originally the area was sacred to the natives but during WWII they allowed Australians to use the crater as a landing site.
Even after the 2 hour extra walk, it was still daylight when we returned to Diggers Camp. The feeling of being in camp not only during daylight hours but also dry was amazing. Dinner was early enough to allow us to sit around and chat for a few hours. Most of the students decided the chatter around our campfire was too boring so they went off to sit around the fire with the porters to have a sing-along.
Although I was dry, it was cold and the air was really crisp. Every time I took a deep breath I could feel my breath catching in my ribs, I think the strain of ‘playing tug-of-war’ had done some damage to my already strained muscles around my ribs. As a precaution, and to ensure a decent nights sleep I was given a couple of nurofen to make sure I could breathe fully throughout the night. I have to admit that I am generally not one to pop pills for the hell of it but as it was so cold throughout the night, with a cold breeze blowing through the floor and walls of the huts I was relieved to be able to breathe a little easier.