Day two on the Kokoda Track was the hardest, taking around six and a half hours of fast paced hiking in high humidity to cover about 17km. There are almost no flat sections on the track, and today was near constant hill work, mostly uphill. It was also one of the best days on the track though, with the physical challenge rewarded by welcome views and a wonderful end to the day.
A wake up call at 4.30am was manageable, particularly when at a pleasant temperature, a nice change from cold starts hiking in New Zealand. After fueling up on Wheet-Bix, and canned apricots and crackers, we started the track by 6am, with just light enough to walk. For the first 50 mins we walked in hiking sandals as we had to cross the same river as yesterday another eight or so times.
After a warm up hill climb we reached Ioribalwa, the first village we passed through on the track. There was another informative plaque in English and Pidgin, and expansive views behind.
There was a village stall selling what is seemingly standard issue at almost all the villages on the track, soft drinks and crisps. I’d expected fresh fruit along the track for sale but they were pretty rare.
Further up the hillside Ioribalwa Ridge was home to a neatly stacked collection of Japanese shells from WW2, apparently found while excavating a garden a few months earlier.
There were also some sweeping views, not that common on the track, which makes them more appreciated when they do appear between the trees.
Along the ridge were sections that reminded me of hiking in Australia, with eucalyptus trees.
Down a hill was Offi Creek where Adventure Kokoda have built a pleasant campsite.
Back up another hill to the huge bamboo and long grass of Station 88 where cunning Australian soldiers left poisoned food for the staving Japanese.
We pushed on for a solid hour and a half of mostly uphill before stopping for a welcome pasta lunch. Further on were some great views from a ridge.
After another hour and a half of more steep hill climbing I was pretty tired but also enjoying the physical challenge. As a regular hiker I’m a fan of hills (going up more than going down) but I can see why people who aren’t (which seems to be most people who walk the track) may struggle, particularly in hot conditions.
Reaching Nauro village was memorable experience, emerging from the forest to stunning views of both the landscape and the small village with some unusual erosion.
Just down from the valley our campsite was very welcoming, particularly when I discovered the shower with a scenic view.
It was pleasantly cool place to stay, with the open sided hut working well. Lower humidity and sunshine meant some dry rather than slightly damp clothes, welcome in the tropics. After dinner the crew sang us three more songs, one in their local language (not Pidgin, but one of the 800 unique to Papua New Guinea), and their team song ‘Is Not An Easy Road’ again, which was starting to get stuck in our heads.