KOKODA - THE TALE OF TWO TEAMS & TWO TREKS
Tim Hazell & Todd Beames
Tuesday the 17th of April saw 5 very keen trekkers lead by Todd Beames depart their respective states and arrive in PNG, physically & mentally ready for the massive task of completing the Kokoda Trek (96k). Some had never met each other before so anticipation & excitement were at an all-time high! Tuesday the 24thof April saw yet another 16 head off lead by Tim Hazell.
Kokoda is a single-file foot thoroughfare that runs one way 96 kilometers overland through the Owen Stanley Range in Papua New Guinea. The track is the most famous in Papua New Guinea and is known for being the location of the World War II battle between Japanese and Australian forces in 1942.
The track typically starts at the Kokoda station (after a quick 30 min flight into Popondetta & then a 3-hour truck ride) & ends at Owers Corner in Central Province, 50 kilometers east of Port Moresby. It reaches a height of 2,190m as it passes around the peak of Mount Bellamy. We were set to start walking on the Wednesday arriving into Owers 6 days later.
Hot, humid & mostly wet days with cold nights, torrential rainfall and the risk of endemic tropical diseases such as malaria make it a challenge to successfully walk it.
Todd gives us an overview of the Alfred team:
Being the first trip run out of the Alfred, as well as my first trip as a leader we were in for a great time. For me, I was looking forward to how the trip brought us all closer together and work towards that one common goal of successfully completing Kokoda. Kerrie Allen was the first to jump on board the trip. Kerrie, currently living in Perth has a friend who did Kokoda with us a few years ago and thought she would jump on a trip. Emma Bailey was the next to sign on. Linda Bradford, Dan Thompson and Isobelle Smith all jumped on the trip later in the campaign. The guys trained hard for 5 months leading into it and I had nothing but confidence that they were all going to do a great job in PNG.
During the first night at the Holiday Inn it suddenly dawned on the group that their journey was about to begin, with a bus ride to the airport before a flight to Popendetta. It was D-day for all of us. 12 months of talking, training & preparing – it was about to begin & everyone suddenly felt really excited but really nervous at the same time, including myself. With a re-scheduled flight, the trip was made even tougher when we lost 3 hours walking on the first day.
And Tim an overview of his team:
Having done Kokoda a few times I secretly love watching all the trekkers come together the night before and nervously ask last minute questions & start to over analyse the lead up to the trip. Statements like ‘have I trained enough’ ‘have you packed too heavy’ ‘what happens if this happens’ etc.. It’s brillant & it’s something I would never want to change. Kokoda is the great unknown, all the reading & googling never quite prepares you for what’s ahead. All you can do is trust you are ready & get ready to dig deep & enjoy this amazing week ahead of you.
For me I was excited to have Phoebe apart of the team, Phoebe is a huge part of ProSport & the fact she was coming for some experience had me really excited.
The crew was assembled from all around the country. Brad from WA, David from Sydney, Doreen from NT, Marcus from Brisbane & the rest from Melbourne. Most had connections throughout the group but once we were all together I got to witness a great group of clients all ready to connect, support & enjoy this experience together. First of all we had a 4am wake up to get ready for, we were really lucky & honoured to be able to attend the Bomana War Cemetery Dawn Service. This service provides us with a few individual grave sites that are highlighted, the bugler weaves his magic with the Last Post, the choppers roar low and fast overhead and the traditional instrument of the isalnds, the bagpipes are played – this being my 4ththe morning peaks again to being a huge hightlight for me & the group. What a way to get fired up to hit the Kokoda track later this afternoon.
We left Bomama & headed back to the hotel for breakfast. 9am came around quickly & we were ready to head to the airport and make our way to Kokoda. We had a smooth flight into the Kokoda station where we met the 24 porters that were going to help us have a successful trek and our local trek leaders Clement & Gai. A quick history lesson & we officially hit the track at 1.30pm. Deniki – here we come!
Our boys give us a day-to-day recap of the trek – two very different experiences just a few days apart!
DAY 1: TODD
PORT MORESBY – POPENDETTA (30 MIN FLIGHT) – KOKODA (3 HOURS BUS RIDE)
Wake up at 4.30am, flight to Popendetta is scheduled for 6.25am departure, however at 5am we are told our flight has been re-scheduled to 4pm on Wednesday afternoon. With a 3-hour bus ride awaiting on arrival into Popendetta airport, the delay meant we would miss our first 3 hours of walking for the day. We managed to get on a 3pm flight and arrived at Kokoda by 7.30pm, 8 hours behind our scheduled itinerary. That first day is really important to set up the whole trek, giving the trekkers 3 hours of walking as a bit of a warm up for the next 6 days. We had missed that, but I had every bit of confidence that were could make this up over the next 6 days. We all knew it meant we were going to have to dig deep and find out what we were really capable of.
DAY 1: TIM
PORT MORESBY – KOKODA STATION (25 MINUTE FLIGHT) – DENIKI
3HRS OF WALKING | 6239 STEPS
Almost the perfect day. 4am wake up, Dawn Service followed by breakfast & then a charted flight straight into Kokoda. We left Kokoda station around 1.30pm and arrived at Deniki at 4.30pm.
DAY 2: TODD
KOKODA - DENIKI - ISURAVA - ISURAVA BATTLEFIELD - CONS ROCK
After a quick breakfast and some history at Kokoda, we set our sights on Deniki. We pushed through after morning tea to arrive at Isurava for lunch at 3pm. A late lunch, meant we were in for a long first day. We arrived at Cons Rock, about 4 hours short of our scheduled 2ndnight stay at Eura Creek. It was our first real night on the track, and with the rain coming down, it made it a tough start to the trek.
DAY 2: TIM DENIKI - ISURAVA - ISURAVA BATTLEFIELD - CONS ROCK – ALOLA VILLAGE – EORA CREEK VILLAGE
9 HOURS OF WALKING | 19483 STEPS
First full day ahead of us, we left camp at 6.30am & headed to Isurava Battlefield. Isurava is where the 4 pillars are located - Mateship |Endurance | Courage |Sacrifice. We did some history & took in the amazing views back through the valley. We kept pushing to Alola for lunch & then headed down to Eora Creek for the night. Eora has a great swimming creek so this was a great reward for the guys on day 2.
DAY 3: TODD
CONS ROCK - EURA CREEK - TEMPLETONS 2 - TEMPLETONS 1
After a restless first night, we had a good day ahead of us. Morning tea at Eura Creek in the sunshine gave everyone a chance to dry out some clothes and enjoy a cup of tea. On our way to Templetons 2 for lunch, the trekkers experienced what is was like to walk in the rain. It was heavy and rained right throughout lunch. A warm lunch lightened the mood and we headed for our campsite for the night. The girls got themselves a hut to sleep in, albeit over a raging torrent of water. Initially not fazed by it, they laid wide awake from 2am when Linda almost went thought the floor in the middle of the night enroute to the toilet. Dan and I enjoyed a nice peaceful sleep in our tents.
Day 3: TIM
EORA CREEK - TEMPLETONS 2 - TEMPLETONS 1 – MT BELLAMY – KAGI
11 HOURS OF WALKING | 23872 STEPS
Today was always going to test the guys mentally & physically. We had a huge day ahead of us and I woke up praying the weather gods were on our side. We headed off at 6.30am, this day starts with an up & it keeps going. We climb up over Templetons 1 and then Templetons 2 before hitting the highest peak of the Kokoda Trial – Mt Bellemy (2190m) We stopped at 1900m for lunch before embarking on a challenging afternoon of walking down hill for 4 hours into Kagi. We all made it safely which made me very happy. No rain & plenty of smiles. Today was a great test & the guys all passed with flying colours. The only downer was no pizzas as promised by me (I think the porters stitched me up) & no water for showers. This group were all stars so everyone moved on pretty quickly (that’s a lie, all trekkers gave it to me for the next week) We where lucky to have the kids from the village come up & sing to us. At the end of a hard day, watching the kids sing & laugh made all the sore spots disappear.
DAY 4: TODD
TEMPLETONS 1 - 1900 - KAGI
A short day, the guys were looking forward to getting into Kagi at 3pm. After a walk up to the top of Mt Bellamy (the highest point on the track), we stopped at 1900 campsite for morning tea and lunch. The sun was out and the kids were playing, which gave everyone the boost they needed. We set our sights on the 2 hour walk into Kagi just after lunch, but with another 2 hours of walking in the torrential rain, that 2 hours quickly became 3.5 hours and we arrived at camp at 4.30pm, cold and wet. The village came out to meet us and brightened everyone up. The guys knew they had two big days ahead or we were going to be leaving ourselves too much to do on the last day.
DAY 4: TIM KAGI – EFOGI 2 – EFOGI 1 – BRIGADE HILL – MENARI
9 HOURS OF WALKING | 19349 STEPS
Today is my favourite day. A steep down hill to start with & then a steep climb back up to Efogi 2 for a quick drinks break. Then we head through Efogi 1 which is the half way mark of the track. We then walk around the ridge of the mountain to Brigade Hill for an intimate service which includes planting a poppy and listening to the last post. Lest we Forget! We have lunch and set off for Menari which is a 2 hour down hill walk. Some opt for the creek 40 mins from camp & the others push through for showers & pop corn. Today was a great day!
DAY 5: TODD
KAGI - EFOGI - BRIGADE HILL - MENARI - BROWNS RIVER
Our biggest day by far. Kagi to Menari is normally a big day, but we pushed past Menari for 2 hours, meaning the guys were on the track from 6am-5.30pm. A service and lunch at Brigade Hill broke the day up and it really hit home for the guys why we were here, to honour those that had gone before us. We were all a little bit bruised and sore and the cracks were starting to appear but we held together well. After a nice dinner and nap by the fire, we were geared up for another big day.
DAY 5: TIM
MENARI - BROWNS RIVER – WARTIME NAURO – NAURO 1 – OFI CREEK
9 HOURS | 20459 STEPS
The weather gods had been on our side the whole time & when we hit Browns River, we were able to cross it quite quickly (boots on & no one got wet – amazing) we decided to push through the swamps to Nauro 1 for lunch and then head out to Ofi Creek at 1pm for a 4.30pm arrival at Ofi Creek for a swim and another great day. With no rain the swamps were ok & our afternoon trek was a huge success. Ofi Creek was a huge highlight for the guys, they were tired and with a peaceful creek for a swim, everyone was mentally & physically in a great place.
DAY 6: TODD
BROWNS RIVER - NAURO - OFI CREEK - IORIBAIWA
Starting in the swamps, the guys pushed through to get to Nauro for morning tea. 2 hours of climbing to our scheduled lunch spot, the rain came down meaning the boys were unable to get the fire started. We pushed on and had a late lunch down by Ofi Creek. Walking into campsite at Ioribaiwa, I was super proud of the guys. We were now back on track at our final night campsite set out all those months earlier. We had managed to pick up those 3 hours missed on Day 1 and with 1 day remaining, we were all ready to get to Owers and have a beer.
DAY 6: TIM OFI CREEK – IORIBAIWA – UA ULE CREEK – GOLDIE RIVER
8 HOURS | 17456 STEPS
With the finish line well in our sights this morning the team where up & about. With a short climb up & out, today was going to give us everything. Hills, views, creek crossings & then a sing off with the porters at the top of Imita Ridge. We sang the Australia anthem & then the porters with their beautiful voices sang theirs back to us (they were so much better) from there we headed down the Golden Stairs to lunch and then pushed through to Goldie River. We had another swimming hole which is gold, we knew we were exactly 45 minutes from the finish & the group where all safe, healthy & very very happy. Tonight we had Clement & Gai chat to the group about their lives, amazing stories. The way the porters dedicate themselves to protecting us every step of the way is amazing. They are so resiIlient, humble, honest, hard working & the real reason I love going back every year to see them (plus they don’t pick on me which is brilliant).
DAY 7: TODD
IORIBAIWA - UA ULE CREEK - GOLDWATER - OWERS CORNER
With a stack of creek crossings, we decided we would walk through the water today with our boots and socks on. As a group, we really came together on that last day. We arrived at Owers just before 3pm, meaning we had done the track in 5.5 days (other groups had completed it in 9 days). I was so proud of everyone and we had a well-deserved beer to celebrate.
DAY 7: TIM
GOLDIE RIVER – OWERS CORNER
45 MINUTES | 1893 STEPS
This is it, a later start to the morning we packed up & headed off around 7.30am. At the bottom of the hill the group decided to put Chris up the front. Chris, Ben & Marcus have been raising funds for the Solider On foundation – last I heard they had over $16k raised which is amazing. A few side bets had been arranged back home that if Chris walked over the line first another few thousand would be donated.
We are so very proud of both teams and are taking expressions of interest for our next Kokoda trip. Email us today at email@example.com