Once we left Ower’s Corner we drove back to towards Port Moresby.
I sat in the comfort of the front seat of the troop carrier and everyone else was jammed into the back or on buses. (Did I mention passengers safety is vastly different in PNG compared to Australia!) We stopped along the way to bid a final farewell to our porters as they headed back to their villages. I didn’t get too involved in the farewell but a few porters came over to say farewell to give me a walking stick that they had carved for me a few days earlier but hadn’t had a chance to give it to me as I was ‘a little preoccupied’! A few of the students had seen my walking stick and had told me how amazing it was, they were right, it was beautiful. I really must take a photo of it!
It was suggested that we would head straight back to the hotel so that I could rest and recover but I was seriously feeling heaps better now that the anti-nausea injection had worked its magic and I had cooled down thanks to the wonders of the airconditioning. By no stretch of the imagination did I feel good, but I felt capable of making one last stop on the way back.
We stopped at Bomana War Cemetery where the full impact of the war in the Pacific really hit home. Row after row of white marble tombstones lined up on the green lawns, each one representing a life lost during battle. The number of tombstones marked as ‘Unknown Soldier’ was heartbreaking.
Prior to leaving Melbourne, a digger from the 39th Battalion spoke to the group about his experiences on the Kokoda track. He spoke about the admiration he had for the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels and the men that he fought alongside. He also spoke of a mate that was killed in action whilst at Kokoda who was buried in the Bomana Cemetery. He pleaded with us that if we had the opportunity, to pay him a visit and leave a poppy beside his headstone.
We went through the records of all who were buried there in order to pay our tributes to the fallen soldier. Walking through the
Everyone ate lunch before getting back on the buses to head in to Port Moresby. I still wasn’t feeling up to eating but from all reports it was the best meal ever – a salad roll! I was hoping that I would be able to stomach something for dinner.
Back at the hotel we had to get our regular luggage out of storage and get cleaned up and packed ready for the flight home tomorrow. My room-mate, and other colleagues (including the paramedic) were still concerned about my health so I was sent to lie down and she did all the running around collecting everything we needed for the night and sending our hiking shoes to the laundry to be cleaned (Australian customs require clean boots at a minimum after walking the track).
After a week of no showers or cold showers, I was really looking forward to a long hot shower. I think that was the thoughts going through the head of everyone else so when I did make it to the shower, it was far from hot – it was barely above chilly but it was still relaxing.
After the shower and rinsing out all my sweaty smelly hiking clothes I was feeling cooped up. I was tired and still felt pretty terrible but I didn’t want to be stuck in a hotel room so I headed up to the bar to get a bottle of water to sip by the pool. We were soon joined by most of the group, some via the bar for some liquid refreshment and others via the pool. It was great to just sit about and chat, to reminisce about our last few days. Naturally my story was repeated over and over and over!
By the time dinner rolled around, I wandered down to the pizza shop with the rest of the crew. I nibbled on some salad and ate some cheesy goodness off the top of a slice of pizza. It could hardly be called a meal but compared with what I had eaten in the past three days, I was happy. I hated the amount of food that I couldn’t eat but I stopped before my stomach began complaining. I couldn’t drink enough to quench my thirst.
After dinner it was back to the pool side deck to relax and share more stories. The tour operator joined us and presented us all with t-shirts to commemorate our journey.
It is hard to imagine that the journey we had been training for over the past three months was over. Instead of complaining about how tired we were, surprisingly we weren’t tired we were all energised, we talked about how we all wanted to return to Kokoda at some stage in the future. For me, I hope that I will return next year. Our plans for an early night went out of the window and we sat poolside until the bar closed at 11pm. It wasn’t until then that we realised that we had been awake and active (well for most of the time anyway) for 20 hours and we really should sleep!