Tuesday, October 02, 2007

The Agarabi Quartet returns - Part 6

The final days in Port Moresby, including the Kokoda Track

I realise that the preceding chapter was a rather massive one, but it was such an amazing adventure that we all enjoyed. Our time in the Highlands was outstanding and we all felt uplifted by the experience. It was now time to say goodbye and return to Port Moresby, this time on board the Norman Islander with Brenda up front to show the way:A day visit to Ower Corner - the start of the Kokoda Track, was top on our agenda. I was delighted with the vehicle that Budget allocated to us. It was a new 4WD (essential) and had room for eight people. Might be a bit sluggish, but a comfortable vehicle appropriate for our need. I had invited Leontine, Jerry and Ian Tamate to come with us, partly because they are good friends whose company we appreciate, but also because of security. 'Rascals' could be lurking near Ower Corner and it made sense to have some additional strength with us. Being nationals, also helps.

We left in high spirits and hit the Sogeri road - all old terrain from the sixties. The big difference is that today the road is sealed, which makes for greater comfort and we didn't have to breath in dust! When we neared Ower Corner, we came across McDonalds Corner, which we remembered very well because of this photo in 1971:Brenda and Mark re-enacted the shot, but note well that the 303 rifle has been replaced by a bit of shaped iron. Perhaps the local 'rascals' had pinched the 303 and restored it for criminal purposes:A family picture was very appropriate:And one of the Tamates, who very much enjoyed this spot too. It was all new to them!:When we lived in Port Moresby, a rubber plantation was located at McDonalds Corner, but is no longer operational. We were told that there is renewed interest in producing rubber and that old plantations could reopen:Leaving McDonalds Corner, it was not much further to Ower Corner, which is the official start of the Kokoda Track. But it still took a while to get there because of a very poor road (TRACK!). Finally, we were treated to the following view that looks out to Imita Ridge, the closest the Japs got to Port Moresby during the Kokoda Campaign in 1942:The Memorial Arch, which depicts the contour of the Owen Stanley mountains, is an impressive site. It remembers not only our own diggers, but also the Papua Carriers that did such stirling work and by their efforts, saved many Australian soldiers. They were affectionately called 'Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels' by our troops. This has become quite legendary.As we wondered around, we noted that Leontine was deeply affected by this place and she showed the girls the affect this location had on her skins. Remember, neither she nor Jerry and Ian had been here before. She then told us that her father was one of the Carriers used on the Kokoda Track, assisting our soldiers. It made our own hair stand on end. She told us how, when Japanese planes passed over her village during the war, the children would pray, 'Please God. Don't let the bombs fall on my daddy.' Having Leontine, Jerry & Ian with us, made the visit all the more meaningful. Ian told us that only recently he had written a song about his grandfather and he was deeply touched that he could now visit this place where his grandpa served.

The following photo is of Leontine:
Please take a couple of minutes to read the next plaque as it tells its own dramatic story about what took place here in 1942. You will need to click on the image to see it in larger print:In recent times, many Australians have walked the track and all speak about how tough it is. The family just went down the hill a little but of course could not really get any idea how tough it was in the war with a full backpack and snipers constantly a danger:A final shot of the group under the Memorial Arch. We were blessed indeed:There were many who died along the Kokoda Track and most of the Australians, plus a number of Papuans were finally laid to rest in the Bomana War Cemetery:Too many died during the course of the war - any war! These beautiful grounds are carefully maintained by the Australian War Graves Commission and immaculately kept. You will note that guard dogs patrol the ground to protect visitors like us; a sobering reminder that criminals have no respect for any one and will pry on, and indeed attack, the unsuspecting.The CROSS is dominant in every Australian War Cemetery and it always touches me that those who died are buried in the shadow of a Cross. A stark reminder also of the Prince of Peace who died 2000 years ago in order that those who believe in Him will live for evermore.There are numerous graves that contain the remains of servicemen who could not be identied. Their headstone simply says 'Known unto God':Then there were the many who we know died, but whose bodies have never been found. Their names are recorded in the memorial up the hill overlooking the graves. The Cemetery continues to receive remains of men whose aircraft in which they perished are found in recent times. Even while we were there, I was told that a war plane had been located on New Britain and the remains of the crew were being recovered to be interred in Bomana War Cemetery. This is still a regular event in PNG.

The following photo gives more information about this location and also gives statistical details:Bomana was always a favourite place of ours when we lived in Port Moresby. On regular occasions, we would take a pic-nic lunch after church on Sundays and visit the place. Considering it is a place with a background of war and violence, it paradoxically is also one of the most peaceful places I have ever visited.

We recalled the memory of those visits vividly as we wandered around the graves. The following is just one photo taken in 1971:And this is how we were in 2007:As we leave Bomana, our memory will always be reinforced by the Cross that dominates this special place:On our return from Ower Corner, we made a delightful diversion to Crystal Rapids at Sogeri and had a picnic lunch there.The following is just a small sample and gives you some idea how beautiful this spot is and what a great time we had in company of the Tamates:And as we drove back to Port Moresby, just another reminder of the past - Rouna Falls, the site of Port Moresby's Hydro Electricity scheme.Before we left PNG, we visited the Botanical Gardens and came across an old friend, the KOKOMO Bird. It brought back memories of stories told long ago!

But it is time to go to the airport and catch our flight back home to family, friends and responsibilities. God has been most gracious to us. We experienced so much including each other's company (stories were told during this time of things I knew nothing about), the love we shared, the memory of our special mum who was with us in spirit. Above all, we experienced God's overwhelming presence in everything we did and where ever we went. Thanks be to God!!

Up and away.........!!


ghking@bigpond.net.au said...

Thank you Siebrand for sharing your wonderful trip with us you are so blessed that your family are all Christians. You have revisited a portion of the world of where you have some very fond memories.

Our love to you and thank you for sharing with us. Heather & Geoff

Libby said...

I am hoping to contact Leontine Ovia with whom I stayed at Hisiu in 1969 when I was a university student. I think your friend Leontine Tamate may be her. If so, I would love an email. And I really enjoyed your photos - thank you.
Libby Wood (nee Taylor)

OW said...

Thank you for your photos, especially the old one of McDonalds Corner with the figure holding the 303. The rifle was still there when I visited in 1977.
No momuments (gates, plagues, huts etc)at Ower's or along the track in those days either.