Day 1 – Arriving in Papua New Guinea

March 6, 2009 by  
Filed under Forbes to Kokoda & Back

Back (L to R) Andrew Drane, Josh Baker, Steve Cook, Ian Bown, Scotty Reid, John Milton, David Hoggets, Zac Rennick. Front (L to R) Ralph Baker, Norm Cook, John (Tractor) Rennick, Michael (Harry) Walker, Peter Hollstein, Viv Russell.

Back (L to R) Andrew Drane, Josh Baker, Steve Cook, Ian Bown, Scotty Reid, John Milton, David Hoggets, Zac Rennick. Front (L to R) Ralph Baker, Norm Cook, John (Tractor) Rennick, Michael (Harry) Walker, Peter Hollstein, Viv Russell.

We arrived in Port Moresby on the 20th of July 2007. The first thing that hit me was the heat. We knew it would be warm and the hot wind hit us straight of the plane. This was different coming out of our winter. It was my first time out of Australia so all the forms and customs check were expected but time consuming. The whole team was upbeat and positive. We all knew it would take time just get through it. As Harry said the two P, s. patience and passports and you can go anywhere.

We were all there Myself, Michael Walker, Norm Cook and his son Steve, , John Rennick and his nephew Zac Rennick, Scotty Reid, David Hoggets, Peter Hollstein, John Milton, Viv Russell, Andrew Drane and at the airport to meets us was Ralph Baker and his son Josh. They had gone up there on the Monday and spent time at Mt Hage and driven down to Lea. Ralph had a brother that worked there many years ago, so they went to have a look around the place.

We were met at the airport and taken to our hotel by the courtesy bus. This was the first of many mini bus trips we were to take and most of them were all the same, crowded and very noise over very rough roads. The good roads lasted about 100 yards from the airport terminal and it is the same all over New Guniea.
The Gate Way Hotel was a quality motel even by Australian standards. Given our rooms (I was roomed with Scotty) we assembled in the bar (as you do) for a little drink and a talk to wait for dinner, and our Tour host to give us a brief of our trip.

While in the bar we found Max and Mary Leighton, our fellow trekkers from Perth.

Max and Mary

Max and Mary

Time for our meeting had come and gone and we were to find out this quite normal in New Guinea. Papua New Guinea time is very different to home. It’ll happen eventually. They turned up about 7.30 pm. We had our meeting and dinner. Then we all met Max our Papua historian and Phillip our head guide. We didn’t know at the time but this Phillip was full of surprises.

Most off us went of to our rooms to check our gear and sleep for the 6.30 start. Of course there has to be someone who is led astray and poor old Norm found a couple more drinks and a small trip to the night club too much to resist. The problem was he took Tractor with him. Well it made for lots of banter for many a day later.

During the day we had a sight seeing tour of the Borma war cemetery and memorial. It was about half hour drive from the hotel out the road to Owens Corner. I didn’t know how I would feel when I got there. I had seen pictures and googled it but had no idea of the size. The size of the place and all the head stones hit me the most. I had read a fair bit about it and knew where some of the graves of well known soldiers were but there was just so many. I wandered off on my own, for a while just to get a feel for the place; it was a very humbling experience. It was of special sugnifance to Viv as his father in law has two brothers buried there. Both joined the same day with consecutive numbers and sadly both died the same day in the battle for Oviv Village. More on Oivi Village later. Viv found their graves and got photos for the Family. They are Simmonds of Bedgerabong. We found the grave of Bert Kingsbury the VC winner. It has the VC insings on the head stone. Just behind and about half dozen head stone along is Butch Bissett head stone. Butch was killed at the battle at Isurava and is talked about at length by Peter Fitzsimmons in his book Kokoda.

We all signed the visitor’s book and left a small note. I just said (Hi mates from Uncle Trevor and Lawry. Both had gone over the track back in 1942)

Borma Cemetary

Borma Cemetary

I then had a walk up the hill past so many who were all so young. A moving experience. It is a credit to the Papuans who look after it they do a wonderful job.

Back on the bus for a tour of Port Moresby. What a poor backward city. Roads are in very bad shape, lots of people everywhere. Markets were all over the place. Anybody can ride in any vehicle in any position on the back of anything. Trip to the food store for supplies. There was so many people about. Very few whites to be seen. Every corner seemed to have a large gathering of locals, just standing around with not much to do. Ralph told us about the beetle nut they chew. The nut comes in a shell about the size of your thumb. They chew it with a mustard herb grown in the ground and a form of builders lime. It gives them some form of kick, the side effect is there mouth and teeth go sickly bright red for some time.

The supermarket was for the whites and upper class blacks, there were security guards all round it. Lot of barbwire fences around many of the compounds. Not much done since independence around Port Moresby.

Story written by Ian Bown of Forbes

For more pictures visit the Kakoda Gallery


Speak Your Mind

Tell us what you're thinking...
and oh, if you want a pic to show with your comment, go get a gravatar!