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Rob Horne's kokoda challenge

DATES

On behalf of The Cauliflower Club, I look forward to sharing this impactful experience with you as we raise funds for Spinal Injuries along the way! 

Rob Horne.


The trek takes place from 26th July - 2nd August 2019


Details of the trek are laid out below.  Rob has not set up a funding page, but if you wish to make a donation, please email us at members@cauliflowerclub.org.au and we can process a tax-deductible donation and issue you an invoice.  

Alternatively, you could encourage someone you know to join the Cauliflower Club.  Membership is not tax deductible, but it still supports the work that we do.


ESPN did a recent feature article on Rob's journey.  Read it here at https://www.espn.com.au/rugby/story/_/id/27115546/no-division-rob-horne-inspiring-kokoda-trek



THE TREK

Papua New Guinea is a young nation, but has endured a colourful and, at times, bloody history. The Kokoda Track is one of many walking tracks that existed long before Europeans came into this part of the world. During the course of World War II, the Japanese decided to use this trail as a means of launching a ground attack against the Australians in Port Moresby. This trek will explore the complete route of the campaign starting from Kokoda Station to Ower’s Corner (Japanese Advance). In completing this track, we will have trekked across the central spine of Papua New Guinea, having seen all the main battle sites and also gained an appreciation of the rugged beauty of the region, as exemplified by the Owen Stanley Ranges. 

 

The start of the journey

Day 1: Fly from Australia to Port Moresby transfer to hotel for briefing  on what to expect the coming few days and be  officially welcomed to PNG. 


Day 2: Port Moresby Kokoda – Kokoda Isurava 

Travel to Kokoda from Port Moresby on board a single engine light plane. This flight takes approximately 25 minutes. Upon arrival make way on foot from the airstrip to nearby Kokoda Station, to be welcomed by local trekking team, and introduced to personal porters and food porters.  

Commence first day of trekking and head to Isurava village, travelling through Deniki village which was the first village the 39th Battalion were forced to retreat to after Japanese forces occupied Kokoda. 

We pass through Kovelo and Hoi village along the way and, after the final crossing at Hoi we commence our first steep ascent up the Owen Stanley Range to 1000 meters above sea level. We follow the ridge around to Deniki, which sits at about 900 metres above sea level. 

At Deniki we are greeted with spectacular views across Kokoda Valley. The trek to Alola commences with a 2-21⁄2 hour walk to Isurava village. We pass through a number of choko gardens planted by Deniki and Isurava villagers, as well as a number of good water holes where we can fill up our water bottles or camel packs.. Isurava is located at 1100 metres above sea level. The village has been relocated several times since World War II, but now sits in a very tranquil location with good access to water and sunshine - very important for the local villagers and their gardens. 

We will push onward to the Isuarava Memorial site one of the significant World War 11 battle and now one of the most – sacred sites along the trail where we overnight after 8 hours walking 


Day 3: Isurava – Templeton’s Crossing 2 

The trek to Templeton’s Crossing II commences with a 45 minutes to an hour, hike to the famous battleground and now memorial ground – the Isurava Battlefield. Here we enjoy a good break and have the opportunity to see the battlefield and its surroundings. This memorial was built by the Australian Federal Government and is maintained by the Australian War Graves Department. The four pillars encapsulate the battle along the Kokoda Track with the four words - ‘Courage, Sacrifice, Mateship and Endurance’. These are four words we are sure to take on board with us for the remainder of our journey to Owers' Corner. This battle is attributed to the heroics of Private Kingsbury, a real estate agent from Victoria who was enlisted to fight in New Guinea with the 2/14th Infantry Battalion. His heroics at Isurava earned him a Victoria Cross when he was said to have held off an onslaught of invading Japanese soldiers with his Bren gun. This event was enough to give the retreating Australian troops enough time to escape from total annihilation and the opportunity for the reinforcement troops to arrive. The unfortunate death of Private Kingsbury occurred on the rock when he was struck in the head by a Japanese sniper. His story is one of the many legends that we will encounter throughout our journey along the Kokoda Track. Following our break at Isurava we continue for 11⁄2-2 hours to the village of Alola. This is a beautifully located village that sits on the mountainside overlooking Iora Valley and Auberi. At the time when the Australian troops commenced their retreat of Isurava, they decided to split up with one party trekking across Iora Creek to Auberi and the other following the ridge down to Alola. This split was planned to act as a diversion for the Japanese and to place the Australian troops at the best vantage points across the valley. We continue the trek to Templeton’s crossing which takes roughly 5 hours. This leg of the walk passes through beautiful and lush rainforest and is complimented by a multitude of creeks and rivers that feed straight out of the mountain springs. We commence with a 30-minute steep descent down to the first river crossing, followed by a number of ascents and descents, which follow the ridge around to Iora Creek, where we enjoy a short break and get to refresh ourselves in river. During the war, Australian troops suffered a high number of fatalities at Iora Creek. The Australian supply and storage facility was located at Templeton’s Crossing. It was also a burial ground where Australian soldiers from the Battle of Iora Creek were laid to rest. At our cooperative guesthouse the burial ground is marked by iron rods symbolising each individual soldier or body found at the site. These bodies were removed at the end of the war and relocated to Bomana War Cemetery. The walk from Iora Creek to Templeton’s Crossing will take approximately 21⁄2 to 3 hours depending on the speed in which we trek. Upon arrival into Templeton’s Crossing II, we settle into our guesthouse, which is owned by our cooperative partner and can treat ourselves to a refreshing swim in the fast-flowing Iora Creek. 

Intensity Increases

Day 4: Templeton’s Crossing 2 – Efogi - Today is by far one of the hardest days of trekking we will face on the track as we climb to the highest point of the trek at Mount Bellamy 2200 metres above sea level with spectacular views across the Owen Stanley Ranges. 

The track towards Digger’s Camp can be muddy and slippery and once there we make camp for the evening and take a quick walk to Myola, which is a beautiful flat plain of grassland with little creeks flowing through. During the war, Australian troops had utilised Myola’s airstrip to drop in supplies. When making their advance to Port Moresby the Japanese completely missed Myola, which probably played a significant role in the ultimate chain of events. There were once many aircraft remains scattered around Myola, but since the war local villagers have salvaged much of what was left for scrap metal. 

After Lunch we start heading towards the northern face of Mount Bellamy, where spectacular views can be shared looking over to the villages of Naduri, Kagi, Brigade Hill, and Nauro and, in the distance, Imita Ridge. The leg down to Naduri is a long and steady descent and we will be exposed to the harsh sun as the majority of this sector passes through open Kunai grassland and onto Efogi. 

This leg is relatively short but will be exhausting and energy sapping as it will be the middle of the day and there isn’t a lot of canopy protection. 

Breaking the back of the trek

Day 5 : Effogi – Nauro Village 

An early start as we head towards the village of Menari where we will have lunch. The trek today involves a decent climb up to Mission Ridge following the path taken by the retreating Australian soldiers, which ultimately lead to the ambush that took place on top of Brigade Hill. The Aussie troops had occupied the Seventh Day Adventist mission during the war, using it as a shelter and storage facility. 

After the first climb of the morning we can turn back and look over Mount Bellamy, Efogi I and II and Kagi villages in the distance. Just imagine the sight of 20,000 Japanese troops marching down Mount Bellamy towards Kagi village with lanterns lighting the sky, which seemed to the Australian troops like a sea of fireflies lighting the night sky. Their advance was so swift and clinical that within a few days they had completely occupied the base of Brigade Hill. The walk to Brigade Hill from Efogi takes approximately 11⁄2 hours. It is a decent walk following the ridge of Brigade Hill or Mission Ridge, as it was referred to during the war. Upon reaching Brigade Hill we first come across a huge tree trunk that looks big enough to shelter a person. This is what took place during the war and there is a story about a Japanese soldier who hid himself in the tree trunk after losing his band of comrades in battle. Before they were executed they promised each other that whoever survived the war would need to return to the Kokoda Track and locate the remains of their comrades. The remarkable story of this Japanese soldier, who is now known as the ‘Bone Collector’, tells of his amazing will to survive during the war and the fact that he marked this particular tree that saved his life and ultimately fulfilled the promise he had made to his fallen comrades. 

At Brigade Hill our trek leader and local historian will relate the story about Brigade Hill and how the Australian troops were engulfed or ambushed by fast-approaching Japanese troops. Over 75 Australian soldiers fell at Brigade Hill and this is commemorated by a plaque, which sits at the top of the hill. Glorious views can be enjoyed from the top of Brigade Hill and, on a clear day, we can see across to Mount Victoria - the highest mountain in the region. To the southeast are views to Nauro village (our evenings camp) and Magulu Ridge. After a quick break at Brigade Hill we head down the back of Mission Ridge for about 2 hours - this is a steep and sometimes very slippery path to walk. At the bottom of the valley is a beautiful waterway and from there it's a 40-minute climb to Menari village. At Menari we are welcomed by the local villagers including one of the three last remaining Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels, Faole Bokoi, who is the father of our cooperative partner, Saii Faole. Faole is a lovely old man and is more then willing to share a few yarns about his time during the war and his involvement with the Kokoda campaign. We will be having lunch here before we set up for the Afternoons march,. 

We set off after lunch by initially climbing up to the top of Menari Ridge. This is a steep climb should take approximately 11⁄2 hours to get to the top and once again there are some spectacular views towards Nauro and looking back towards Brigade Hill. Mentally this point is a great psychological boost as from here on we should feel as though we have ‘broken the back’ of the Kokoda Track. 

After a short break at the top of Menari Ridge we then trek down the back, which is an extremely steep and sometimes slippery walk that should take us about an hour. At the base of Menari Ridge we enter Nauro Valley, where we pass through Agu Logo campsite and then cross the mighty Brown River. This section can be swampy and unpleasant during the rains, but for most trekkers it should be a more comfortable walk. At Nauro we are accommodated at our cooperative partner's guesthouse which is situated at Old Nauro near the original airstrip. There is a pleasant stream to wash and bath in and a nice sitting area to relax under and enjoy a warm campfire. 

The final crossing

Day 6: Nauro Village – Va’ule Creek 

This morning we start our day by tackling the Nine False Peaks to the top of Maguli Ridge. This involves roughly 21⁄2 to 3 hours of serious uphill trekking. We pass by New Nauro village and enjoy have a quick recovery break before pushing on to Maguli Ridge. From here we commence our first of many descents, with our first break being at Jap's Ladder. We have a good rest at Jap's Ladder and then continue our march down towards Ofi Creek (approximately 2 hours). 

At Ofi Creek we plan to have another break and then continue to Ioribaiwa,. It was here at Ioribaiwa that the Japanese troops were turned back. From Ioribaiwa we will be able to see quite clearly Imita Ridge, which is less then 12 kilometers away, and in the background (if lucky and only on clear days) we may be able to see Port Moresby. From Iorribaiwa our journey continues down a steep slope that leads to UauleCreek. At the base of the Ioribaiwa Ridge we make our way across a myriad of river and creek crossings (nine in total) until we reach Uaule Creek and set up camp for the night. 


Day 7: Va’ule Creek – Owers Corner and Port Moresby 

In the morning we begin the day by crossing Va’Ule Creek's 14 crossings, so expect wet boots from the start. At our final crossing we commence the trek up the back of Imita Ridge, which takes up to 11⁄2 hours to climb. At the summit of Imita Ridge we enjoy a stunning view looking back across to Ioribaiwa and Maguli Ridge. From the top and looking southwest towards Port Moresby, we trek down what was known as the Golden Staircase. This flight of stairs was built by Australian troops during the war to help with transporting artillery and other supplies from Port Moresby. The ‘staircase’ no longer exists, but some historians and operators believe that they have identified its original location. After a good break and recovery at the summit of Imita Ridge we head downhill towards our campsite at Goodwater. 

Today is a long day of trekking and a good example of why trekkers must be sufficiently prepared mentally and physically to take on this arduous and testing walk. we make our final push to Owers corner. From Goodwater we travel onto Goldie River which takes close to 3 hours. From Goldie River we climb our final hill towards Owers' Corner. After a short 30-minute climb up to the top, we can finally say that we have completed the Kokoda Track!