For most of the trail we have been happily wearing our hiking boots. But today we were destined for a much wetter adventure, owing to the seventeen river crossings we would make on the trail.
The first section was in boots, this was no big deal – the path was relatively flat and the ground fairly compact. But very soon we reached the river, albeit more so a tributary which would later feed into the main part of the river. And here we had a quick costume change and slipped into our swim shoes, providing waterproof protection to our feet.
Many of the crossings were easy, we could simply walk across. Look mom, no hands! Little streams of water, barely deeper than your ankle.
Some crossing were more challenging. Several had makeshift bridges made from logs, to which the porters secured ropes to provide support as we made the crossing.
And due to the rain, the ground was super soggy which drew creepy crawlies out into the open. Have you ever seen a worm this big?
As we made it past the river crossings, we were able to put our boots back on – the next section proved to be difficult with vines and clay on the trail. We hiked about 1.5 hours and reached Imita Ridge, at the top of the Golden Stairs (some 3,000 steps of clay). It was here that the Australian Army brought a cannon onto the ridge, though a difficult terrain it proved effective as they were able to hold back the Japanese assault from the East at this vantage point.
We spent some time here taking in the scenery before pushing forward down the Golden Staircase towards Goldie River. The descent took us about 2 hours and reached the river around 2PM.
We basically had to swim across, although it was nothing like the strong currents we experienced days prior. Here we could easily reach the other side without much assistance. And while we were already wet, we simply dropped our bags off at camp and headed straight back down to the river to bathe. A welcome clean, as I am sure the funk was beginning to ripen.
You can see how close our campsite was to the river, conveniently located. I spent some time cleaning the mud off my boots and getting everything in order – of course, this was our final night of camping and tomorrow we would reach the end of the trail at Ower’s Corner.
The hut where we slept was a simple construction of poles and stretched tarps. The porters laid tarps on the ground, so we weren’t sleeping directly on the dirt.
Our last night and our last dinner in the jungle. Dinner was spaghetti with braised steak and onion – again served from the can – yet it was a hearty and satisfying meal – we were thankful to be able to have hot food and enough sustenance to refuel our exhausted bodies.
At the close of dinner, the porters sang us five songs – some were familiar, others were new. But my mind drifted away as I began to contemplate the trek we had made so far and the short journey ahead to finish it off.