Day 4 – Kokoda Trail – Efogi 1

Breakfast was the usual hot milo and weetbix, a comforting meal to start the day. After prepping for the hike and packing down camp, we set off on a 3.5 hour trek on a moderate incline. Eventually, the trail began to descend and we would continue descending for the next 1.5 hours.

I spent much of this morning at the back of the group, together with Sarah and Andrew. On the descent I suddenly got a burst of energy and sped ahead, down the track, overtaking everyone. It was single-file on the path which skirted a steep, muddy embankment, however, I saw a path through it, trudging through while Auda held onto my backpack tightly, providing stability.

We continued on a slight incline for another hour before finally arriving into a village, Naduri. There, the porters broke away into their working groups to prepare lunch for us all.

We were free to explore the area and visit the village. We paid 10 kina each to meet a Fuzzy-Wuzzy Angel, Otta Kiri, one of the last two surviving fuzzies from the wartimes. The other fuzzy was living in Menari, who was actually the father of one of our porters, Sai.

The son of Otta Kiri relayed a story from the war. Otta Kiri would carry wounded soldiers from Brigade River to Ower’s Corner, often in as little as 2-3 days! To give perspective that’s about 50km as the crow flies, but add the climb and descent of the range then it’s an unimaginable task to achieve.

As this story was being told, I was observing the frail, 106 year-old man and noticed the ring finger on his left hand was missing. The story goes that he was courting a young woman and spotted a bird in the tree in the distance. He shot it with a shotgun and hit it in the wing. As the bird fell to the ground, he followed it down and tripped a snare, which was attached to a gun – a trap! As he realized what had happened, he raised his hands to protect himself, the gun discharged and a bullet shot his ring finger off. An Aussie medic wrapped up his hand, but could not save the finger.

As if that was not enough, he then began to tell us a story of another time he narrowly avoided death. It was after the war and he was flying over Kokoda when the plane crash landed into the jungle. As the plane hit the ground, inertia threw him through the windscreen, breaking the glass with his skull. Moments later the plane exploded in a ball of flames, he was lucky to survive.

This was a touching moment for us all. To hear the stories of bravery and camaraderie and to see the ravaging effects of time, really resonated with the group. I think some of us imagined our own grandparents, seemingly frail people, who had such brave stories to share.

We wandered back to where the porters had served lunch, a delicious meal of curry pasta and spam. There was a tree-house built into the top of a tall tree, very much how you’d picture a playground incorporated into nature. I had my lunch up there, a lovely outlook over the tree tops over the jungle – not much of a view, but an enjoyable high vantage point nonetheless.

We all wolfed down lunch, and everyone worked quickly to prepare for the next leg of the day. The track continued to descend and we did so for about 1.5 hours – the path then shot up into a veritable climb. It was another 30 minutes from the top of the hill where there was a small village. One of the guys in our group handed out crayons and paper to the village kids – they were all very excited, you could tell by the squeals of happiness and excitement.

We had arrived into Efogi 1, a large village, flat and open. Here the jungle did not close in tightly at the edge’s of the village. We had a sense of openness and space.

There was a group of trekkers who were making camp for the night, as we walked into town, they greeted us:

“You’re more than halfway! Congratulations! Well done!” as they clapped altogether, a very motivating energy.

Efogi 1 had more established infrastructure and the buildings were raised on stilts, probably to keep high above a potentially rising water-level from the nearby river. There were separate dorms, so Luke, Anthony, Andrew, and myself shared a room, while the girls shared another dorm.

I hung up my clothes to dry and went to freshen up. There was a proper shower with a tap and a door! The only thing was that it was smack-bang in the middle of the village. I turned tap, water dribbled out and didn’t warm up, so it was a cold but refreshing shower.

When I came back to the dorm, the boys all had their pocket knives out. My porter knocked at the door and asked if I had one, so I dug through my bag and handed him mine. I think he will try to make something.

While dinner was being prepared, the porters offered popcorn as a snack to tide us over. We could smell the steak that was being braised, I was ravenous. All of this hiking really does work up an appetite and of course, as soon as the spaghetti and braised steak was served, I was ready to inhale before anyone could blink.

The porters sang together, their harmonies beautiful and haunting, yet warm and inspirational. They bid us goodnight and we retired to our dorms. I fell asleep almost instantly, the moment my head hit the pillow.

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