The Blind Leading the Blind
| There would be no resting on the paddles here, no cruising down the face of a wave. Every step of this leg of the journey will be an individual effort.
They will cross the Owen Stanley ranges through Deniki, Alola and Templetons Crossing. After a rest day at Myola they will continue on to Efogi, Menari and then the final haul over the Imita Range to Owers Corner, their destination above Port Moresby.
As they settled in the first camp on the bank of the Manbare River, it was already apparent, from the newly emerging aches and blisters, that the Kokoda was going to be no walk in the park.
The Owen Stanley Range rises to over 13,000 feet. The only way over these mountains is on a slippery, perpetually sodden, virtually impenetrable jungle trail, the Kokoda Track. Crossing raging rivers, it is the natural home for malaria, dengue fever, scrub typhus and dysentery. It is swarming with leeches, fires, mosquitoes and ants.
On the second day, the ascent of the Owen Stanley begins. The plan is to stop in Deniki for lunch and to move on to the village of Alola, where they will spend the night.
That was really an introduction to Kokoda Track. The ground was very uneven. The rainfall from the night before had washed out all the roots. The trees are very slippery. I found it very difficult to walk, let alone the visually impaired.
I was in a fit of trouble. The first day a blister appeared on my feet. In the kayak we had two inches of water all the time. It was being soaked constantly. The skin softened. The robbing in the kayak never helped. Now I put them in hot boots. It was so soft and still constant rubbing when you are walking. Then the blister I had.
This slowed us down of course. That created a problem that Ched liked to keep going and keep the rhythm going. That's something difficult for me to understand, because I got my sight. But during the course of the walk, I could see how he needed to keep moving. Because stopping and starting, he would not be able to settle his mind to move in along.
I thought once a day that if Russell's feet got cut up or bruised, we will have to figure out some way of getting into the nearest village and send out the radio message for help. But it turned out that Ched started to get cramp. So all of a sudden, the focus was drawn away from Russell. We have to sit there and figure out what we are going to do with Ched.
We got in through to a small village where we decided to stay for the night. That was putting off, sort of like half a day behind than we were supposed to be. But I think that was also a sort of blessings in disguise. Because I was also given some time to think about what to do with Russell's situation.
You go along. You slip on the rock. Everything is damp over there. You slip on the other side of the rock and your toes will get jammed into another rock. My toes, the underneath of my feet was cut as well, just from walking barefoot. I found when I got back, I lost seven of my ten toenails. They all fell off.
By the evening of the third day, food rations were running low. A combination of inexperienced planning and local opportunism left the expedition with only bully beef and rice. All other food had to be acquired from villages along the way.
Such interludes did little to lift Russell's spirits. Walking barefoot on the second day had proved a misjudgment and no matter how determined he was to keep up, he was suffering.
In these Papua highlands, the weather can turn sour in minutes. During a single day, it can rain and shine a dozen times. And when it rains it pours. There's little escape. Tracks turn to creeks. And the wet jungle comes alive with sweet smelling beauty.
The fifth day is a rest day. The early morning rain sets the pace for a slow start. It is the first chance to recuperate, wash clothes, try to dry out the gear and load up on the first real food for days.
But for Russell, unfortunately more bad news. He has fallen victim to a gastric infection. He makes the effort to go on, but becomes weak, dizzy and nauseous.
Another rest day will create even more trouble for the team. At the end of the track, a local gang problem means it's too risky for them or their transport to wait around.
It is a tough decision, with no alternatives but to leave Russell behind to be flown out on the mail plane in a day or so.
Leaving him, that's the worst thing that could possibly happen. He was a sort of the inspiration of doing the trip. You felt like that we are going to complete what we started, with only one of us short. We could just walk down and did what we have to do. No enthusiasm, no jokes.
I shed tears. I don't cry often, but tears welling up. I remembered them across miles in the mountain. I was destroyed.
Just before ANZAC Day the following year, Stuart and Russell hitched a ride on a RAAF Hercules to Port Moresby, and go back to the Kokoda Track to finish what they had started.
You take a look at Russell and Ched. And they've literally brought the meaning of the term inside home to you. You know I could be a crowd in the street, standing back in civilization, so-called civilization. And I look around. I wonder to myself that who really is blind.
在这里, 他们不能靠在桨上休息, 也不可能随着波浪轻轻落下。在这一部分的冒险里，每一步都得靠自己。
要越过Owen Stanley山脉，他们将经过Deniki、Alola、Templetons Crossing，然后在Myola休息一天。接着经过Efogi、Menari，最后越过Imita山地到达位于Moresby港口上游的终点，Owers Corner。