News

A harsh and beautiful land gives Ray a real adventure

Ray Gresham (centre, in white shirt) poses at the B17 wreck.
Ray Gresham (centre, in white shirt) poses at the B17 wreck.

KYBONG farmer Ray Gresham may have walked away from dairying, but his trek across Papua New Guinea was a different kind of walking altogether.

Looking for a change of scenery, Ray says he felt like an adventure. And, as the promotional material promised, that is what he got.

"Kokoda isn't all that tough," the pamphlet warned.

But the Black Cat/Bull Dog Track, north to south across Papua New Guinea - now there's a real walk, the tour organisers promised.

"Truly wild country," the pamphlet reads, where "few trekkers venture".

PNG's remote and rugged heart challenged the trekkers at every turn.
PNG's remote and rugged heart challenged the trekkers at every turn.

It has in common with Kokoda a role in some of the most crucial moments of the Second World War, including the Battle of Wau, where Allied forces fought the Japanese to a standstill.

But as he struggled across the huge mountain backbone of our nearest northern neighbour, Ray discovered adventure, scenery and culture shock on a scale reminiscent of Lord of the Rings.

Relics along the way included dumped mortars, heavy machine guns from both sides and the country's best preserved Second World War plane wreck - a shot up B17 Flying Fortress.

Kokoda is "still a fine walk," tour organiser James McCormac wrote in that pamphlet that caught Ray Gresham's eye. "But the Black Cat/Bull Dog track is "more challenging... a real adventure".

"More challenging" turned out to mean "dodgy river crossings, deep mud, leeches, torrential rain" and all participants "physically shattered" by the end.

Of all this, Ray had fair warning when he set out on October 10 for 12 days of slipping, sliding, walking, hobbling and hanging on for dear life, as he retraced the steps of the soldiers who slowed the Japanese advance from the beautiful beachside village of Salamaua, on the northern coast near Lae, to the critically important mountain airstrip at Wau.

Dumped mortars from the Second World War.
Dumped mortars from the Second World War.

If the Japanese had got past there, they would have had a made road (now eroded and landslip damaged to the point of being a narrow foot track) to the south coast at Terapo.

More strategically important still was the airstrip, which would have provided a base for aerial bombardment of Port Moresby.

The airstrip is on a 10-degree slope, with mountains all round, one of PNG's infamous no-second-chance landing fields - made even more tricky by Japanese soldiers shooting from the end of the airstrip.

Planes bringing up to 50 soldiers would lose two or three as they attempted to get off.

Then the pilots would have to turn around and take off, carrying the wounded, right in the face of the enemy guns.

Ray Gresham's adventure was not quite so death defying, but it was certainly a challenge - one accompanied by some of the most stunning and difficult landscape imaginable.

A stunning view from the top of the world.
A stunning view from the top of the world. Contributed

Struggling up loose shale slopes to an altitude of nearly 3000m, the sky from the deep valleys was a small patch of light among walls of green towering all round.

And a struggle it became.

"I rolled my ankle on the second day (20km into the journey) and had to walk the remaining 120km as well as I could," he said.

"There's no rescue service. You either get yourself out or you stay there".

Yet this is the countryside where a local woman was seen carrying 40kg of goods in a large back bag, held by a strap around her forehead - all in a day's work.

"I was carrying half that and it was hard enough," Ray said, recalling one rushing river crossing where water and weight held him under as he hung on to a rope to fellow trekkers in the shallows. By the end, his feet had started to rot, costing a layer of skin.

But that's what adventure is all about, apparently.

 

 

Gympie Times

Topics:  editors picks, holiday, kokoda track, papua new guinea, travel




Gympie rates have risen 5% - not 2.1%: Reg Lawler

Reg Lawler

Gympie average rate rise is 5% - not 2.1%

Gympie Army reserves march for the brave fallen

DISCIPLINE: Gympie Private Earl Hodges was part of special training at Wide Bay Military Training Base to commemorate the battle of Pozieres.

Gympie officers commemorated the fallen at Camp Kerr last weekend.

Gympie rider sweeps pool at premier US dirt track event

Teenaged Gympie dirt bike sensation Jarred Brook has become the first international rider to win the prestigious American Motorcyclist Association Horizon Award.

Gympie dirt bike rider a sensation in the US

Latest deals and offers

Superheroes of the big screen enjoy sounds of Splendour

CHRIS Hemsworth and his Avengers mates drop by Byron festival.

Indigenous artist shows tourists secrets of Aboriginal painting

Ever thought "I could do that" about Aboriginal art?

Dynamic pics from Splendour Day 1

The Strokes perform at Splendour in the Grass 2016. Photo Marc Stapelberg / The Northern Star

Check out the latest pictures from Splendour in the Grass.

Bindi Irwin: 18 magic photos to mark her 18th birthday

Bindi Irwin with a python.

Photos: Bindi Irwin from babyhood to 18

Aussie director makes his mark on new Roots mini-series

Malachi Kirby as Kunta Kinte in a scene from the TV series Roots.

BRUCE Beresford behind final episode of remake of iconic series.

Wham bam, thank you TAM

Regional TAM is increasing its audience measurement services by 50%.

Regional television viewers finally getting the credit we deserve

You can own this Queensland town for just $1

Yelarbon

Unprecedented auction of town's business centre with no reserve

Work starts on $15M Caloundra apartment building

Turning the first sod at the Aqua View Apartments site in Kings Beach are (from left) husband-and-wife developers Alex Yuan and Stella Sun with construction company Tomkins director Mike Tomkins and Councillor Tim Dwyer.

Developers excited about addition to Kings Beach skyline

72-year-old Coast developer set to start new project

GREEN LIGHT: The Cosmopolitan has been approved for development at Cotton Tree.

Meet the Canberran set to deliver another chapter for Coast suburb

Plans revealed for 1500-lot 'master-planned community'

Precinct will be bounded by Boundary St and Shoesmith Rd

Ecco Ripley sales run sparks prime release

MOVING IN: Sekisui House has announced the release of more residential blocks at Ecco Ripley.

Sekisui House is preparing to unveil more land at Ecco Ripley

The climb is slow but property on the way up

Michael Matusik, director of Matusik Property Insights.Photo Allan Reinikka / The Morning Bulletin

The improvement would be mild when compared to past cycles