With the changes in the schedule this year, I would be missing out on one of my favourite days of last years trek. I love this day last year because despite being unwell, I was full of energy and in the first group to make camp for the day, that meant I was first in to the creek to relax. The camp we stayed at last year was beautiful and I would miss being there but I was also thankful that we wouldn’t be required to start walking at 4am on the first day and doing multiple river crossings in the dark!
Day 7 this day would now be a combination of my favourite walk, the section from the beautiful Ioribaiwa to Va Ule Creek and also my least favourite walk, up Imita Ridge and the IV! I was interested to see how I would go on such a crazy day.
We bid our farewell to Ofi Creek and the guesthouse we stayed in, knowing that it would be the last guesthouse available to us – there was no guesthouse at Goldie River waiting for us.
By now all sections of the track seemed to blend into one another. You would walk up for hours and then down for hours and repeat. Starting from Ofi Creek, in a valley meant the day started with an up. I preferred to walk downhill but at least getting the first section of uphill over and done with in the cool of the morning would be a great thing. I started out with the slower group and tried to keep everyone motivated as we climbed. I still hated walking uphill but at least by now my ankle had stopped hurting every step, either it was just my new ‘normal’ or there were no more ligaments left to damage. Either way I was thankful for the need for fewer pain meds (morning tea was only a single nurofen rather than 2 and I skipped the panadol with lunch completely!)
Walking in to Ioribaiwa was a beautiful sight. I beautiful village with magnificent views of Imita Ridge.
From Ioribaiwa it was a great downhill section of track and the beginning of more than a dozen creek crossings. We stopped briefly at Va Ule to chat to a group of trekkers who were resting there before walking further towards Imita Ridge.
It was as we were walking through the creek heading towards the ridge that we saw tv cameras filming – they were filming a story on the last group of trekkers we had passed in Va Ule and the group they were travelling with. The group was made up of returned soldiers, many of whom were injured in Afghanistan, as well as family and other supporters of the RSL in a effort to help rehabilitate the injured soldiers whilst promoting the needs of the returned soldiers. The group included the amazing Damien Tomlinson who was seriously injured in Afghanistan, losing both his legs and suffered serious upper body injury as well as Ray Palmer, the father of one of his colleagues who was killed in Afghanistan. We spoke with Ray not long after Damien passed us and he was so inspiring that we all wanted to cheer and wish them every success on the journey ahead of them. I am really looking forward to watching the full story on Sunday Night when it airs in a few weeks.
After the last few river crossings, it was time to start the climb up Imita Ridge, my nemesis. Even feeling fit and healthy it was a really hard climb. Again I had the task of keeping everyone moving and not giving up and I was glad to have something to focus on other than how difficult the walk was.
A fellow trekker was really struggling and for a while we thought that the IV on Imita would become a feature of this years trek also. This was me last year
and this year in the same place with trekkers from last year and feeling so much healthier!
Fortunately he was ready to go after a decent rest, a serious dose of electrolytes and other magic provided by the paramedic. Like me last year, when he regained his energy he really flew down the Golden Staircase. Not wanting him to be trapped walking at the speed of slower trekkers, I kept pace with him for the descent and it was a bloody fast pace, we kept overtaking other trekkers! We did stop for a photo or 2 on the way down but really didn’t stop moving until we reached our lunch destination. After a quick break for lunch, the 2 of us were off and running again, this time with a porter to ensure we didn’t get lost heading toward Goldie River.
Before long we could hear the sound of the river in the distance and soon after the screams and squeals of other trekkers enjoying the cool of the river. We weren’t far from camp and that kept us going at our crazy speed. Naturally our campsite was on the other side of the river. It was probably a good thing, who wants to cross a river first thing in the morning when it is still cold and dark?
It was great to make it in to camp but strange to have to set up a tent before I could sneak off for a swim.
It was hard to believe that the trek was almost over, only one more sleep and a mere hour of walking was all that remained. I wasn’t sure that I had reached the headspace I was searching for during my journey but I was loving being back in the jungle and meeting new, wonderful, inspirational people that I can now call my friends. I would be sad again to leave the jungle but ecstatic to say that I walked the track, this time without major medical intervention.
The other Day 7 from 2010 when we walked from Naoro to Va Ule was very different to this years experience but they were both extremely enjoyable.