After a fairly ordinary night of sleep where the cold kept me awake and coughing for much of the night, I am sure I also kept my ‘room-mates’ awake as well! I still felt tired when the wake up call went out at 5am. Despite the rough sleep, the walk to Naduri was another pleasant walk. I started off slowly on the uphill climb with every breath catching in my ribs. I made it to the top of the peak before the rain really hit and used the time to rest a little and to cover my pack (I finally had some dry clothes so I wanted to keep them dry!) It was actually perfect timing, the paramedic happened to catch up to us at the top of the peak so I was able to grab a few more nurofen (or was it panedine forte?) to take the edge off before setting off downhill through the mud again. Whatever I took worked and it took the edge off so I could breathe deeply without feeling any pain. This in turn helped me to walk harder and faster.
Being able to walk fast again, I caught up with the others and even overtook some of the walkers as we headed across the ridge to Naduri. I had a chance to walk with one of my favourite porters, Eric and talk about our families. We both have 6 year old daughters so we were comparing stories about their lives. Again it was illustrated just how different our live are.
We arrived in Naduri before 9am and sat around enjoying the sunshine again. Some of the more energetic members of the group had a kick of the footy with the porters as we waited. Me? I felt good but didn’t have the energy to play footy, instead I enjoyed munching on a banana and a chocolate bar!
When the rest of the group arrived at Naduri we moved to the lower area of the village to meet a Fuzzy Wuzzy Angel, Ovi Ondenki – one of the original men who helped Australian soldiers during WWII by carrying equipment, food, water and even injured soldiers. His son spoke to the group about his involvement during the war and how it had impacted on him and on the wider village. As the son was speaking a group of school aged children came to sit nearby to listen to the stories that were being told. When the stories were told the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angel began to sing to us. He was so old and gentle with wise eyes. There was barely a dry eye in the group. We all had our photos taken with the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angel, with thoughts at the back of our minds, hoping that he will still be around for the group to meet next year, that he will be around to support his village for years to come. This however isn’t all that likely, his current age is reported as being 104 years old.
After meeting the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angel we picked up our packs and set off walking again. Whatever was in the chocolate and bananas that we had munched on earlier had re-energised us all. The next part of the walk was downhill with hundreds and hundreds of steps, some man-mad steps and some naturally occurring. Instead of walking down each step one by one, we ran down many of the steps, letting gravity and momentum help us down the mountainside. Parts of the walk were so steep that it is amazing that we all didn’t fall over far more frequently than we did. The painkillers were starting to wear off but I was on a roll and didn’t want to stop running.
More river crossings at the bottom of the climb and more people falling in. I wasn’t around for these falls but apparently they were quite spectacular with one student getting her leg stuck between the logs of the bridge.
The climb back up was tough and there was no way I could keep up with the crew that I had insanely run down the mountainside with. I let them run ahead and began my plod up the mountain. I decided that I should time my painkiller taking a little better – going downhill doesn’t take as much energy as going uphill, I don’t need to breathe as deeply so I didn’t need really need them for the downhill journey through Naduri however climbing uphill takes much more energy and made breathing more uncomfortable. The deeper I needed to breathe the slower I walked in an attempt to not have to breathe deeply. I was lucky that I had some amazing kids around me who kept encouraging me to climb all the way to the top of the ridge and a small reprieve from the uphill slog.
We stopped at the village on the ridge for directions to our campsite at Efogi 1. We also happened to find a small stall where we could buy some bananas from the villagers to munch on. From here we could see Naduri on the opposite mountain face. It seemed so heartbreakingly close, almost close enough to want to shoot out a zip-line and fly across in seconds rather than the hours it took to walk.
The walk down to Efogi was fun. Like most downhill walks it was steep and treacherous but the sound of the river running through the valley at the bottom urged us forwards. We were promised that there was a great swimming hole that we could wash and relax in when we arrived. Instead of waiting for the rest of the groups, we continued on, eager to cool off in the river.
By this stage of the trek there were some trekkers who were suffering with severe knee pain and injuries. For them every step downhill was painful but they continued on, also looking forward to sitting in the river with the cold water numbing some of their aches and pains.
Many of the trekkers stopped at the river to have a swim before heading up to Efogi and camp. I decided that I would enjoy the swim and wash much more knowing that my bed was set up and my clothes were hanging out to dry so I headed up to camp. A colleague had made it in to camp before me and had saved me a bed spot. I was surprised to find that we were staying in luxury huts – huts that had matresses on the floor for us to use! I couldn’t have been happier if I had walked into a 5 star hotel.
Once my bed was set up, I grabbed my toiletries and wandered back down to the river with another trekker. He was much more adventurous than I was and he was in the water in seconds. I wasn’t so brave and it took me forever to climb into the freezing water. The water was so cold and refreshing and I surprised myself by actually getting right into the water to soak completely – I even braved the cold and washed the sweat out of my hair! Once I was completely wet and had become almost accustomed to the cold I began to really enjoy being there. I could have stayed longer but it began to rain and I was conscious that my camera was sitting on the rocks on the banks of the river. I new I should also move my clothes that were hanging out in an attempt to dry so it was time to get out of the river.
Back at camp there was still plenty of daylight hours to explore and relax. I went for the sedate version of relaxing – calling in to the paper the daily update, sipping on a hot chocolate and sitting around the campfire as fellow trekkers played guitar and sang. Those with excess energy to burn played touch rugby with the porters, followed by a game of soccer with local kids and even a sing and dance. I continued my leisurely activities with a foot massage – one trekker had packed peppermint foot cream so we spent plenty of time enjoying a foot massage.
Our tour guide took all who were interested on a walk around the Village. Efogi was a huge village, home to about 1000 people. As a result it was well set up and had many community facilities including a large school, church and medical centre. It wasn’t until we walked by the medical centre and saw the posters on the walls that I realised that HIV/AIDS was a huge issue in Papua New Guinea.
On our walk we chatted to local women who were cooking vegetables for dinner. As the women were cooking the younger children were helping. It never ceased to amaze me that the kids were always seen with knives or machetes in their hands. They were so confident in their use of a knife that they seemed safe playing with such sharp objects!
Our group purchased the vegetables they cooked to supplement our ration pack dinners and to provide an additional income for the village. It was the best dinner I had eaten all trip; steaming rice with baked sweet potato, sago and choko vine. I have eaten choko before, the fruit of the choko vine that is kind of like a funny looking squash, but I have never eaten the vine itself. The sweet ends of the vine were boiled or steamed and served as a green. It was so delicious that not only did I have seconds, I scooped up another bowl-full to save for breakfast!
It wasn’t until we were sitting around the table after dinner, listening to the kids and porters singing that the realisation hit me – we were half way through our adventure. Sure I had had times when I questioned my sanity about what I was doing (the first 2 nights in particular) but the overwhelming thought was about how wonderful a time we were all having, how the people we were spending our days with were amazing and how we didn’t want the trek to end.