My Excellent Kokoda Adventure Part 4
By this stage I think you get the drift of how the trek went. The places we camped, the track itself and the challenges it presented. The emotional ups and downs. The fact that hygiene wasn’t all that flash with cold showers and no soap… and the sore feet!
Nevermind that we couldn’t get anything to really dry out fully and we would be putting on damp socks, tops and bottoms every day. It really was an adventure. One that I had never experienced before ever in my life and despite all these things, I really enjoyed the experience and knowing that anything is possible when your head is in the right place.
A couple of the highlights were swimming in the rivers. We would be glad to get our boots off and cool our feet down along with our weary bodies. It really did help for a while until we had to get going again off to our next destination.
Heartbreak on Day 6
WOW! Typing that headline has made all the emotions of that day come rushing back. Just like any other day, we were up early to get ready to take off at 6:30am. This day was a short one – 5 hours – as rather than stopping off for lunch at the usual place near the swamp not far from the village, we chose to keep going so that we arrived at our destination earlier leaving us most of the day to relax and re-coup for the next one and a half days to the finish. We were so close now!
Once again, we had to climb up a steep mountain onto Nauro. It is actually named The Nine False Peaks because we would climb a few hundred metres and then it would be flat for a while. Then there would be another steep climb and flat again. There were nine of these climbs as we headed up to camp at Nauro. That was really hard as it would give the sense of finishing the climb only to find another!
Once there, we had lunch and sat around relaxing, telling jokes and taking it in turns for the shower. It was my turn to head for the shower so I gathered my things and headed off. What happened next I couldn’t have ever imagined happening. Not to me anyway because I was always extra careful with my footing. But even the most careful steps cannot help when the ground is slippery.
My foot went from under me and I put my hand out to break my fall. I heard a snap. I stood up and noticed my right hand was like jelly. I’d broken my wrist. There was no mistake. My immediate thought was a word that sounds like FARK, and how was I going to finish the trek if I couldn’t hold onto my walking pole!!
I quickly rushed back up to the guesthouse and summoned Simone (a nurse) to take a look. She didn’t look happy. I couldn’t believe it. One and a half days to finish and here I was with a broken wrist!!!
David, our tour guide, quickly got onto the satellite phone to Port Moresby and arranged for a helicopter to come in and pick me up. This was around 2:30pm. The clouds roll in early making visibility difficult so he wasn’t taking any chances. It was also the last place on the track itself where a helicopter could land so there was no hesitation to call once he saw what had happened. If it had happened any further along, I would have to have been stretchered to the end as there was no other way out! Talk about an injured digger!
What a trouble maker I was. Everyone was fussing over me and it wasn’t long before my porter Armstrong came over to see for himself. He was just as heartbroken as we had by this stage built a bond and he knew what I was and wasn’t capable of. He had told me early on in the trek that his mother had told him that if he was ever a porter for a lady, that he would have to make doubly sure of helping her through it. He might as well have been attending a funeral the way he looked at me. So sad. The porters see this as an honour and a privilege to help trekkers along the track so it was totally devastating for him too.
It didn’t take long for the chopper to arrive. I was given some pain killers and Simone wrapped a sling around my arm to hold it in place for the trip. Everyone, including the villagers, came up to the landing to see me off. I was still in shock and couldn’t believe that I was leaving my team behind. How silly I was to have fallen. Why did it have to happen to me. I wanted to finish. All the training I did. All the hours I spent to get fit for this trek. I didn’t want to be rescued off the track and taken to hospital!! It wasn’t fair. Me, me, me. It was all about me!
Don ‘t worry. That didn’t last long. Once up in the chopper and away from everyone, I realised that that was the end of my Kokoda trek.
Not the way I wanted it to happen, but we don’t always get what we want in life and that’s how it is. We make the best of what is dealt our way go with the flow making the very best of every opportunity. Facing the challenges head on and asking “what is great about this?” Just like Kurek Ashley says. This is a whole other post so I won’t go into detail here. Let me finish this story. The adventure is not over yet!
Once back in Port Moresby, I was whisked off to the hospital. Two words here. TRAVEL INSURANCE! do not leave home without it no matter where you travel to. I was there for hours it seemed. I hadn’t eaten since lunch and by this stage, it was almost dinner time. Not that I was that hungry but the time had passed.
I saw the doctor and she immediately thought I would need surgery. She scribbled a note and told me to go to go and have an x-ray to determine her prognosis. She too was an adventurer and told me about her trekking and scuba diving. A pleasant lady.
The woman who was in charge of taking x-rays took a look at the note and asked if I had written it myself! I said to her, “does it look like I can write?” She said that the doctors note asked for x-rays of my leg – tibia and fibia – just as well I wasn’t going in for an amputation! Imagine!!
So we headed out to the portable in the car park as that is where the ancient x-ray machine was. Once taken, I could see the break and even to the untrained eye, it looked like a bad break. What had I done?
Back into the doctor with the x-rays and she confirmed that I would need surgery. Again, TRAVEL INSURANCE! She took me to the treatment room where I had a couple of shots for the pain and she put a cast on my arm so that I could travel. I had to be airlifted back to Australia as there was no way the travel insurance company would leave me there to have it done and just as well. Looking around that treatment room, their standards were no where near the standards of hospitals back home. I was happy to leave Papua New Guinea.
I spent the night at the hotel and the next morning, a private jet was waiting at the International airport to take me home back to my family. This was My Excellent Kokoda Adventure!