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




Check out this memorable gift for Ipswich

Ipswich and District Athletic Club runners Nicholas Grant and Larissa Chambers after winning the latest Ipswich Gift races.

Winning sprint double in handicap races

Park named in honour of one-punch victim

IN MEMORY: A Goodna park has been named in honour of fatal assault victim Lindsay Ede.

Goodna park officially renamed Lindsay Ede Memorial Reserve

Is a serial tree poisoner at large in Ipswich?

TIMBER!: Tree loppers begin to remove six ornamental Ficus microcarpa trees at Queens Park in the interest of public safety.

Historic trees come tumbling down in Queens Park

Latest deals and offers

Ipswich people love heritage

'It's a great vote of confidence for a program that was launched in 1992 and has since provided thousands of property owners with heritage conservation'


What's on this week

GRAB A BARGAIN: The Cameron Park Market is held on the first Saturday of every month.

Five things to do in Ipswich

Diva's sister on soliciting charge

FILE - In this May 14, 2016 file photo, Mariah Carey attends the 27th Annual GLAAD Media Awards, in New York. Carey will appear on the Oct. 5 episode of the Fox series, \"Empire,\" the network confirmed Monday at a TV critics bi-annual press tour. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP, File)

Mariah Carey's sister has been arrested on charges of prostitution.

Tom Cruise private jets his gym kit around the world

Tom Cruise

Tom Cruise charters private to take his gym kit around the world

Movie behind Depp and Heard split to be released

Soon you'll be able to see the movie that ended the marriage

Bindi's boyfriend helps release huge croc

Chandler (far right) helped the jump team.

Chandler Powell helps catch Duncan the croc

Mick Jagger to pay £2.5m to the woman carrying his baby

Mick Jagger is reportedly paying millions to pregnant ballerina

Navy man Keller ready to marry a perfect stranger

Former Navy engineer Keller is a participant in season three of Married At First Sight.

Tattoos are just the surface of Married At First Sight groom.

REVEALED: Pat Rafter's $18m Coast house on the market

Check out the photos of the Coast's most expensive property for sale

The "correction we had to have" in Gladstone's rentals

UPWARD MARCH: The rental vacancy rate in Gladstone has improved for the first time in more than a year, providing a confidence boost in the market.

Vacancy rates improve with signs that things are getting betterF

ISLAND FOR SALE: Cheap Fraser Coast island drops price again

Suna Island in the Great Sandy Strait will be auctioned by Ray White Hervey Bay on Saturday morning.

This is the cheapest island you will find for sale in Australia

How a family home can fit on a 250sq m block

This is what you can build on 250m2.

Here's the floor plan of a home built on 250sq m

$100m plan for Curtis Island 'world class' luxury resort

$100 million resort: Top views at Turtle Street at Curtis Island.

"At the moment we think it meets all the town planning approvals.”

Noosa mayor on "red alert" over planning court decision

Mayor Tony Wellington hands down his first budget.

Mayor upset at lack of say about look and feel of Noosa