The Kokoda Track – Difficulty: hard I step off the small 10-seater plane at Kokoda Station having just flown over the very mountain ranges we are about to traverse. They look endless and impenetrable. I can’t believe what we’re about to do.
We gather together for introductions, our porters step forward in turn to tell us their name and the number of times they’ve walked the Track (there’s one first timer, and one guy who’s walked the track 100 times).
Mary our trek leader explains that opportunities to work as a porter are shared among the villages to ensure financial benefits are distributed. One group of porters will be carting our food, tents and cooking equipment. Another group are assigned as personal porters to carry our gear and look out for us (you can choose to pay for a full porter, a half porter, or carry all your own gear).
My porter Mevin tells me he’s walked the track five times. I’m glad to see he’s wearing sandshoes and socks, some of the others have only thongs/jandals or bare feet. I can’t help but feel embarrassed when handing over my pack for him to carry, it weighs 15kg, and I know he still has to add his own gear and water (the pack on my back is around 8kgs including my water).
Finally the moment arrives – ‘packs on’ – after 3 months of training and anticipation we set off. The track is wide and flat (might not be so bad after all). It starts raining as we all pose for pictures under the arches at the start of the track – I hope the rain stops soon.
We pass an old rubber tree plantation, the scars on the trees still visible. I spot cacao pods dangling from branches, the jungle is glowing green and fresh from the rain. The track is flat for the first couple of hours and we make several creek crossings. We stop for a late lunch of 2 minute noodles at a little village called Hoi. Nonstop rain.
Following Mary’s advice I change into my sandals to save my boots from being dunked during some deep river crossings ahead. I fill up my water bottle from the stream and drop in two purification tablets to make it safe for drinking.
Flat gives way to steep as we head up our first mountain. Muddy and very slippery. Hard yakka. One of my poles gets stuck in the mud. As I yank it out, it over-extends and comes apart. Blow out! Luckily I manage to force it back together and carry on.
Deniki. The joy of arriving at camp! We wash off the mud and sweat in mountain water that gushes from a pipe, cold but refreshing. My hands and feet are pruney from the wet. The porters have put up out tents. Tiny tent, OMG so small, I do my best Houdini impression to get changed, then chill out for a bit before dinner.
A big bowl of warming pasta is served up for us. It’s Doog’s birthday today and Mary has hiked in cake so we can all help him celebrate. Dressed in a green safari suit (which goes with him on all his travels) we sing him happy birthday as he blows out his candles. Long drop loos, not so pleasant – toilet paper up the nose helps to keep out the smell. Mevin takes my boots to dry them by the fire for me.
Day one. Done.