After a great nights sleep, I woke feeling refreshed and ready to go. The only problem was that I couldn’t eat. I nibbled on some rice but apparently turned green pretty quickly. Instead as everyone else was eating their breakfast I was going through my ration packs giving away all the food I didn’t eat yesterday and couldn’t imagine eating today. I sipped on more gastrolyte to try and build up an energy reserve.
I set off walking with one of the first groups to depart knowing that I was likely to run out of energy quickly. I was walking with a colleague to motivate me and it was working. The final two peaks were apparently a steeper walk than the first seven peaks but I was just happy to be able to walk them under my own steam. I was carrying my pack again but I still wasn’t allowed to carry the entire pack – my sleeping bag and mat had been shipped off to others to carry for me. Feeling better, I actually enjoyed the climb to the top of the Maguli Range at 135o metres.
The descent down the mountain was enjoyable. It was about a 3 hour walk with the last hour of the descent being marked on our maps as being ‘very steep and muddy’. The map was accurate. All of the way down we had to constantly help each other. In parts the path was so steep that I had to sit down and still I couldn’t reach the lower steps without a small jump. We were constantly slipping or tripping on tree roots that completely covered the paths. We knew not to step on the tree roots, that they were slippery but in places they were so close together that you had no choice but risk it and hope that you kept your footing. The sound effects that accompanied this section of the walk were entertaining, plenting of ‘whoops’ and ‘ouchie’ interspersed with swear words to accentuate each ankle roll and slip!
At the bottom of the hill was yet another river crossing. The porters stood in the water with a large branch resting on their shoulders so that we could cross on the log bridge and have something to hold on to.
Most trekkers stopped for a rest on the banks of the Ofi Creek to cool off for a little bit in the water and to eat something but I decided to keep walking knowing that I still couldn’t eat. I was glad to keep walking knowing that the day was only going to get hotter and every step was one step closer to camp.
The next ascent was a big one, filled with false peaks and frustration. It felt harder than the false peaks we had climbed yesterday and this morning. The climb was unforgiving and long. Every time I thought I had reached the top it was a false peak and there was another peak just waiting to be climbed. The climb felt endless. I was walking with a guy who had hurt his knees way back on day 2 so we were walking at a similar speed, I would start up the hill then he would follow. I would rest and then follow him up, then repeat over and over again. This continued for a couple of hours before we reached our lunch camp at Ioribaiwa.
Ioribaiwa was on a plateau on the side of the mountain and beautiful. There was a typical stall where you could buy twisties and soft drink but I couldn’t bring myself to try either. I thought about eating some protein bar but the thought of it was pretty disgusting. Instead I filled my water and gatorade before wandering over to the guest house for a quick nap in the shade. I didn’t get much of a chance for a sleep as others were using the guest house for a noisy game of cards. Instead of lying about, I wandered around the village and had a look at the war relics that were lying about.
I soon heard that the first group were planning on walking on to camp so I convinced them that I should be walking with them. They thought that I should wait for the paramedic and have more gastrolyte before walking again but I was feeling good and insisted on walking on, especially when I knew that the walk was only about another hour and was all downhill. I ended taking off with the fast group and managed to keep up. As a result I was walking with guys that I hadn’t walked with in the previous week so I was good to chat with ‘new’ people.
The walk was beautiful. We crossed a creek a number of times as we walked down the hill. We were to cross the same creek 13 times in the next 2 days. We started off jumping from rock to rock trying to stay dry but decided that it was inevitable that we would get wet so ended up wading directly through the creek. The water was crisp and refreshing.
Before we knew it, we were in camp. I couldn’t believe that I was in the first group to make it into camp! I had a chance to set up my bed, put my shoes and socks out to dry before heading down to the creek for a wash and a swim. The water was beautiful, crisp and cool. I even managed to convince someone to wash my hair for me (my hair has never been so clean – 3 washes in 4 days!). My hair really didn’t need washing but the massage was delightful!
We splashed about in the water for about half an hour before the next group of trekkers arrived in camp and another half hour or more before the last group arrived. By then I had had enough swimming and climbed out to dry off.
It was hard to believe that this was our last afternoon on the Kokoda track. Despite the illness and ickiness of yesterday I was feeling fantastic. I wasn’t ready for the adventure to be over. I was really enjoying the company of the other trekkers and wanted more time to get to know them. I loved sitting around the dining table chatting to such amazing people.
After dinner, well after more gastrolyte for me and ration pack food for everyone else, we had a surprise presentation. One of the porters and one of the students had decided to put on a show for us. They re-enacted the arrival of white people in Papua New Guinea. It was a fantastic presentation and had us all in stitches.
We made plans for our departure in the morning. We were told that the last climb would be in full sun and unbearably hot so we would need to start extra early with the first group leaving at 4am. Knowing that I was running on empty and that there were two major climbs to come in the morning I decided to go out with the first group. With that in mind I wanted to get my pack organised early. I got rid of another days worth of uneaten rations and most of the rations for the following day, keeping only some museli, the protein bar, chocolate and lollies in hope that I would feel well enough to eat in the morning. Getting rid of extra food lightened my pack considerably!