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



NRL takes back seat to Origin for six weeks

CENTRE STAGE: Maroons captain Cameron Smith holds the 2016 State of Origin shield aloft. The NRL is set to take a back seat for the next six weeks as Origin dominates the rugby league landscape.

Game yet to come grips with the annual drop off in interest in NRL

Top tips: how to beat a winter cold

Good Price Pharmacy Booval pharmacist Benjamin Tri and vitamins consultant Jenny Tran are ready to offer people helpful advice this cold and flu season.

We look at ways to beat the dreaded lurgy as flu season hits home

Local Partners

I was just screaming 'my baby is in the car'

Anne-Marie Priggins could have never predicted the gut-wrenching circumstances that would unfold.


Your gig guide to a great night out in Ipswich

THAT'S ENTERTAINMENT: Don't miss out on the offerings from the top spots in town.

The latest on the live music scene across the city

Paddinton Bear is coming to Ipswich

IN TOWN: Annette Kitching plays the part of Paddington Bear in The Cute Little Bear From Peru at the Incinerator Theatre.

FAVOURITE children's character set to delight in new show

What to expect at Birds of Tokyo's Ipswich gig

The band will perform at the Racehorse Hotel on Friday.

BAND member Glen Sarangapany talks music, pub grub and doing shoeys

Gladstone's MasterChef hero blown away by support

CRANE driver Pete Morgan has been bowled over by the support he has received since making his TV debut on MasterChef.

Lyn's knock-out show gets her to next round on The Voice

ONWARDS AND UPWARDS: Lyn Bowtell is through to the battle rounds on The Voice.

'It was bitter sweet to win like that'

Is this the talent you get when you limit electronics?

Cassidy Kilburn in the Get the Beat International Dance Competition.

Cassidy, 11, preparing for national dance championships

Your gig guide to a great night out in Ipswich

THAT'S ENTERTAINMENT: Don't miss out on the offerings from the top spots in town.

The latest on the live music scene across the city

Dreamworld may supersize with 'Disneyland expansion'

Dreamworld could become a “more attractive and entertaining park”.

Bush balladeer brings bruised blues to Brissie

BRIGHT FUTURE: Jordan Merrick has just released his EP, In Colour.

Singer-songwriter Jordan Merrick on his debut EP, In Colour

Ipswich lad 'Robbo' brings Studio 10 home to Nanna

REUNION: Studio 10 roving reporter David 'Robbo' Robinson broadcast the Channel 10 shows live from Ipswich with his grandmother Jan Wells.

And Eastern Heights fan plays host in the TV thrill of her life

Report reveals progress on $319m airport upgrade

Aerials of the Sunshine Coast.Jetstar plane in front of the Susnhine Coast terminal, Sunshine Coast Airport.

Over two dozen government approvals needed for airport expansion

Lost dough leaves sour taste after company collapse

Kathleen and John Mahoney from Sugar and Spice Bakery were stung after the collapse of Cantro Pty Ltd and are still owed money.

Supermarket operator collapse leaves sour taste for bakery

'Ridiculous': Council refuses renovation at heritage home

NOT FAIR: Karen Solomon of Newtown is angry with Ipswich City Council for refusing her plans to build a colonial style double car port at her Newtown home.

Council rejected development application

Council refusal of 'high density' development ends in court

Ipswich City Council first meeting with the new 2016 council.

Developer took the matter to the Queensland Planning Court

Open for inspection homes May 25-31

Check out this weekend's homes open for inspection

Ready to SELL your property?

Post Your Ad Here!