– Kagi or Naduri Village – Templeton’s No 2 (approx. 8 hours)
Today we climb up and over the shoulder of Mt Bellamy towards our evening camp. There are spectacular views back to Kagi and Efogi. This is the region that the Japanese conducted their infamous lantern parade. Brigadier Potts also ordered an aerial attack along the Kagi Ridge prior to the battle of Brigade Hill and Mission Ridge. You can feel the spirit of the Australian Soldiers as they withdraw down the ridgeline back towards Efogi. We walk past large village gardens with high fences to keep wild pigs out of the crops. Without the vegetables grown in these gardens, villagers would starve, so the prodigious effort in felling, trimming and dragging logs form a 1.5 metre high fence line is a matter of survival. Along part of the razor ridge leading up to Mt Bellamy is open Kunai grass without any tree cover. This cleared areas of the gardens means an exposure for some two hours to the tropical sun. It is not the place to loiter as water consumption increases and the full packs slow movement down.
“Stay behind” pits are scattered along the track, the larger (3 man size) indicate position of a machine gun. Engagement ranges vary from 3-4 metres out to 5 metres. Very close combat indeed!
Mt Bellamy is higher than Mt Kosciusko and the effects of such heights start to wear on the trekkers. Our trek towards camp takes us through an ancient Arctic beech forest with magnificent giant pandanus and beech trees. The camp this night is in the jungle some two hours climb below the crest, it is also the place that we discovered the skeletal remains of 4 Japanese Soldiers from the 41st Regiment killed in an Australian ambush by the 2/16th Battalion between the 3 and 5 September 1942 . An eerie place, as you progress along the track, which is now corridored with trees and vines with moss. The moss hangs in streamers from dead and living trees with little light to pierce the gloom. Until the war, this was a taboo placed and avoided by all. We then start upward to the highest point of the track on Mt Bellamy at 2190m.
We stop at a vantage point called “Kokoda Gap” with magnificent views (on clear days) of the surrounding mountains, the lower part of the Owen Stanley Range and the Yodda valley in the distance. The “Kokoda Gap” is the area that Generals Blamey and Macarthur wanted to dynamite to prevent the Japanese from coming through! This was to be our Thermopylae our 300 Spartans to hold back the ravages of the Japanese Army! Nice plan except the Kokoda Gap is over 12 km wide and all the Spartans were killed! As you could imagine our boys were not real fond of the plan! Planes can be heard droning overhead several times during the day as they make their way through the gap on their way to Kokoda or returning back to Port Moresby. What takes nine days for those walking the Kokoda Trail, an aircraft does in 35 minutes!
The descent from the Kokoda Gap lookout is steep initially, but eases some 3 hours down the Trail to a steady decline toward Iora Creek at Templeton’s Crossing 1. The area is dotted with weapon pits. Major delaying actions were fought here Japanese positions on the North side and Australian positions to the South side of the Creek.
Bridging the creek is by a temporary span masterly constructed by the boys made of logs bundled together. We cross carefully, with dry feet – for a change. The dry foot does not last long as we come upon Templeton’s Crossing Number 2. The muddy track parallels (generally) Iora Creek and is intersected with innumerable small creeks flowing across the track, often in only a short distance, until cascading down into the main creek, Iora. The main creek joins these tributaries and, when Templeton’s Crossing Number 2 is reached, it is a foaming torrent. The noise is constant, amplified by the deep, sharp-sided valley. The deep valley means that the sun sets early in the day. A series of areas were levelled here during the campaign for the construction of store huts, medical post, kitchen (Haus Kook) and other native built buildings, the buildings are long gone, but the level sites stand out from the roughness of the terrain.