Monday, August 31, 2009

Day 8 - Efogi 1 > Brigade Hill > Nevlogo > Menari > Agulogo

Bloody roosters! Woke me this morning at 4AM - and kept me awake till 5:10 when I got up for a wee. I wanted to kill the bastards! Last night was a warmer night, but still needed the sleeping bag. Paul had let rip a few times during the night - which I'm sure isn't making Catherine too happy. Paul again looked pretty haggard this morning. I asked him about it, and he admitted that he was having trouble sleeping. Apparently, he is having the same trouble with his pillow as I had originally had with mine - and that is causing him to wake constantly during the night. Poor bugger - I know how he feels...

After the usual breakfast, we visited the local museum within the village. Within were unexploded grenades, bullets and mortars, along with Bren Guns, 2" Mortar, helmets, rifles and boots. But these were special boots. They still had the foot bones in them from the poor bugger who died in them. It seemed so normal for the locals - to me it was quite disturbing. I walked away still a little shocked. Not sure how the others felt.

Catherine was quiet again this morning. There had been a few good farts let go overnight - and I don't think she is impressed. Whatever it was, she was quiet - and quite often turned away when being spoken to. Perhaps it was the emotional journey we took through to Brigade Hill...

You see, from Efogi 1 we went downhill for quite some time, then tackled a pretty big uphill. This uphill led us past Mission Ridge, where the diggers had dug in in an attempt to slow the Japs down. We heard their story a bit later, after more of an uphill, when we arrived at Brigade Hill. Here, Peter took all our trekking poles, and stuck them in the ground in two rows, about 2 metres apart. We sat down on Brigade Hill, and heard the story of the diggers on Mission Ridge. About the ones that were cut off, and travelled back through the jungle desperately trying to rejoin their unit. About the shot that almost killed the commanding officer as he headed to the loo, but instead hit his assistant. About the heroics, and the deaths. The deaths. We turned around and looked at the trekking poles. Then we noticed. Two long, long lines of indentations across the ridge, from one end to half way to the other. Over 80 graves of diggers who had died defending the hill. Yet another one of the major battles along the Kokoda Trail that we never had a chance to learn about in school. We were both saddened and angry that this important part of our history is ignored. So, perhaps the emotion of that was too much for Catherine. I don't know. I do know that she isn't herself.

After the Brigade Hill briefing, we walked another 100m to where some villages had the equivalent to a local Woolworths set up. Twisties, Coke, and local pineapple and bananas. The pineapple was amazing! So sweet and juicy - it was heaven. The bananas were pretty damn good too. It was good to recharge, as the legs were feeling a bit weary after the mornings big uphill. Perhaps that had contributed to Catherine's withdrawal - I don't know, but Paul noticed it as well. He also noticed the cross words Alex and Catherine had exchanged yesterday morning. Then again, he had seen me have a bit of a dummy spit when 3 times in a row as I was trying to take an action photo of the group coming down a hill, Catherine had jumped out of shot at the last second, leaving me with a photo of her half in shot. It annoyed me, and I had my first dummy spit of the trip. Oh well. I'd better calm down...

After Brigade Hill, we took a detour to a little village called Nevlogo. This is the village of one of the senior porters who works for Adventure Kokoda, and was waiting for our arrival. We were to have delivered the rugby ball, books and pencils that I had brought with me as a donation to the villagers. We were told in our final briefing email that the porters would carry them for us. At Sogeri Lodge, I had specifically put aside the 4 books for the "Bring a Book" programme that were to go to Port Moresby Grammar School, and kept them separated from the gifts for a village. I was suspicious at Sogeri when Warren Bartlett (who organises things for Adventure Kokoda there) said "The villagers don't need gifts - they're better off than you think". So I had confirmed with Peter that the gifts would go to the village - he had even said that I could present the rugby ball to a kid, and have a photo taken doing it. You see, my son had heard that the villagers didn't have much, so he had offered to give one of his rugby balls to the village. He had chosen the ball with the most grip to give away, because, as he said, "it rains a lot up there, so they will need the good one".

I was pretty pissed off that a private school in Port Moresby was getting the ball, books, and pencils, while this village got nothing. And I let Peter know. But, this is New Guinea, the land of the unexpected, and things going buggaup is a way of life. So, I just need to get over it.

The villagers had put on a special treat for us (which made it even worse when I couldn't give something back)(get over it). They had laid out the red carpet, in the form of banana leaves covered with red flowers. They had also put on a feed for us - the most amazing cucumber, bananas and cooked stuff. The cooked stuff was taro, and a cake-like thing called sago pudding. Peter told us it was like banana cake, but actually tasted like pumpkin mixed with cement! I had a piece, and then didn't discourage Sam or Alex from having some too. The looks on their faces was priceless, and they chewed away, trying desperately to swallow the stuff! Really hilarious! Meanwhile, I'd asked Sam how his bowels were after his recent stomach bug. Catherine got huffy, asking why we had to talk about bowel movements. Paul took this as a cue for him to describe his, I threw my description in, and we asked Catherine about hers. Alex tried to stay clear, but he was also brought into the conversation, admitting that his movements had been a bit soft for the past couple of days. Catherine was pretty pissed off, and stayed that way for the rest of the day. A little chink in her armour, which had been exploited to stir her up. Not the right thing to do, but we were all a little edgy, and I guess this was the result.

It was a really tough walk after Nevlogo. Uphill and downhill and uphill some more to Menari. When we arrived there for lunch, we were all pretty buggered - Alex in particular dropped down to the ground in relief. Despite having had a swim half an hour before Menari, in a beautifully cool creek, I was finding the day tough too. It was hot, we'd done a lot of hills, and a lot of distance. Everyone was a little edgy. Sam had been trying to lighten the mood by dropping his guts every time he exerted himself - which Paul and I found somewhat amusing - but it just seemed to piss Catherine off more. At least we got a laugh out of it. Even Warren, our "Spademan", gave a wry smile on a couple of occasions. It was good to see him enjoying himself, and also good that Sam was on the mend, and starting to have a better time.

It was great to have lunch in the relative cool of a hut at Menari. The villagers had again provided bananas, along with some cherry tomatoes. I almost had one, then remembered Peter's advice, to only eat food that has a natural wrapper on it - you don't know what has been on the food that doesn't. Paul had a couple, and said they tasted great. Catherine said nothing all lunch time...

After Menari, we had an almighty uphill. In the heat. After a big morning. It was hard work, and I was sweating like never before. Two drops per second of my sweat were hitting the ground when we stopped at the top. We all looked pretty hot and bothered, but we were at the top of "The Wall". It is called that, because coming from the other direction, it is like coming up against a vertical wall. We started off downhill, and trekkers coming the other way looked shattered. There were a couple of kids - about 9 and 10 - with a porter, who asked us how far to the top. For them it was about five minutes. Then over the next half hour, the rest of their group came past. They all looked just about ready to pass out.

I led the way down the hill, and I was really glad to be going down. I seem to be able to go downhill quicker than the others - picking my footing quickly, and just moving the feet. I don't know if it as a result of a bit of mountain bike riding, where you're always looking for the best route, or some other reason. Whatever it is, I quite enjoy the downhill - and this was a doosey! I headed off at a pretty quick pace, with Sam hot on my heels. I suppose it was him close behind that made me go a little quicker, and eventually I hot about 10 metres ahead of him. By the time we got to the bottom, we were about 3 minutes ahead of Paul, and 7 minutes ahead of Alex and Catherine. They didn't look happy.

My knee had taken a pounding on the way down - a bit silly of me to have gone at that pace. So I was pretty happy to go along the flat through a swamp, which due to the dry weather, wasn't too muddy. We were still going at a good pace, to the extent that when we arrived at Agulogo to camp the night, the boys hadn't finished putting up the tents. I chose one, threw down my backpack, got some soap, and went down to the creek. I jumped in clothes and all, and sitting in the cool, fast flowing water, slowly took my clothes off and washed them, then washed myself and rinsed my hair. Because there was another group already there with a view over the creek, I kept my skins on, and washed my nether regions under the water. After about 15 minutes Sam, Paul, Alex and Catherine joined me. I'd finished and was heading back to the tent when another 2 trekkers arrived - one guy in his 30's, the other in his 50's. They were heading in the opposite direction, and the guy in his 50's was struggling with a bad knee. I didn't envy him with what he had ahead of him - was a nice guy - hope he makes it.

The camp dogs made a nuisance of themselves this evening. Luckily, we have wooden panels we can put up at the doorway to the eating/drying hut. A couple of the dogs snuck in while we were having dinner, and tried to get what was on the table. There seems to be about 15 dogs in the village - apparently they are pig hunting dogs, and the boys have asked the villagers if they can get a pig for us to eat tomorrow night. I don't know if I like that idea or not.

A quiet evening this evening. Everyone is pretty beat after a big day - which started at 7:00AM and despite the quick pace, finished when we arrived here at 5:15PM. My knee is really sore. Due to swelling, I can only straighten it to 165 degrees, and only bend it to 85 degrees. I've taken two Nurofen Plus - hope they bring the swelling down overnight. I had trouble walking back up from the creek after my wash. Really hope I'm better in the morning, because despite the big day and feeling tired, I'm still feeling really strong.

Before heading off to bed at 8:10PM, I lent Paul my other wet pack for him to use as a pillow. With any luck he will sleep better tonight, and his bowels will let us sleep better too...