Kokoda Track – Templeton’s Crossing I to Isurava Memorial

My penultimate day walking the Kokoda Track. I’ve been off the grid hiking or at sea plenty of times before but never as totally or for as long. It wasn’t until the end of this sixth day that I gave a thought to what might be happening in the world beyond my immediate surrounding in the Papua New Guinean forest. I hadn’t had any mobile or internet coverage, or seen a road or car, in nearly a week and didn’t really miss them.

I was however missing a little the warmth of earlier parts of the track. Templeton’s Crossing I was a cold, damp and dark place 1,850m above sea level. The usual 4.30am start felt much tougher today, having to leave a warm sleeping bag, and my body was getting a little achy after endlessly walking up and down steep hills.

Which continued with a 45 minute constant uphill from leaving the campsite. The mud from yesterday also continued though as it is mainly clay it is more slippery than particularly deep. New Zealand mud is far more unpredictable and deep in places, likely to swallow your boots, while gaiters weren’t even really needed here, just had to be careful not to slip.

We walked through atmospheric cloud, and thankfully there were none of the leeches that apparently can be found along this stretch of track.

Just off the track were more neat piles of varies types of ammunition from the fighting here in 1942. It’s all small arms, the rough terrain prevented the use of anything that couldn’t be carried by hand.

Eora Creek was the site of one of the major battles between the Australian and Japanese forces. Here we passed another large group of about 14 heading the other way, on the third day of their eight day trip with Kokoda Courage. The different guiding styles and group demographics were clear, with them removing their packs to cross the river, holding onto a porter in front. We always crossed with packs, with our porters behind in case we slipped. I’m definitely biased towards the later approach…

There were some impressive red trees in the forest, though our guides only knew them as red trees, not very imaginative with the naming…

This was a fallen palm I assume, interesting structure, and there were some attractive hanging plants and colourful berries.

From the track continued to be steep and slippery, though as much from rocks as mud. On this section of the track the terrain was very similar to hiking in New Zealand. We headed down a steep track toward the river where I hoped the village was as I getting pretty hungry and tired after over five hours of walking. Instead we had to cross and climb up the equally steep other side. It was a great relief to finally reach Alola by noon.

Alola was a lovely and very welcome lunch spot, with views down the valley and across to Appaleo, though unfortunately the local museum wasn’t open yet. One of the houses didn’t look entirely sturdy…

Two of our porters left the group early from here to walk a further five hours onto Kokoda in order to make the Friday night church service. As Seventh Day Adventist’s they don’t work on Saturdays, but we would catch up with them again in Kokoda the next day.

The final hour of walking after lunch went fast. I could have happily have walked for longer, but Isurava Memorial campsite was a great place to end the day. The impressive memorial pays tribute to the fierce fighting here as the Australians attempted to hold back the advance of the Japanese.

The campsite was wonderful, the best sleeping hut of the trip, with an even floor and clean floor mats.

I continued to work on filling my new sketchbook, drawing the memorial and surrounding landscape.

After dinner heavy rain arrived and stayed for the evening, enjoyable to hear when in a dry place.

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