My 2012 New Year holiday was the best ever. Thanks to my brothers in arms Cathy Karo and Sieland Hermann Banda. The moment I got Cathy’s text my heart leapt with joy - ‘We’re going to Mt Wilhelm for the New Year holiday, you wanna come?”
Oh yeah, I was just dying to go. I just want to see places I have never seen before. I need to get out of the hustle and bustle of city life. I am going to die of boredom if I don’t go.
So I made my way from Goroka to Simbu and was met by Cathy at the bus stop. I was delighted to see her after such a long time. We dropped off my stuff at Cathy’s place and did our shopping for the trip. We stayed up all night chatting and catching up and slept in the wee hours of the morning.
We awoke about nine and started packing. We caught up with three other friends and waited all day at the bus stop but were not lucky as all the PMVs going up towards PNG’s highest mountain, and there weren’t many, were fully loaded.
We were burned in the scorching heat of Kundiawa town and very tired as we made our way back to Cathy’s place, keeping our fingers crossed that we’d be lucky tomorrow to catch a PMV to Gembogl.
By the next day we’d learned we had to leave early so we wouldn’t miss out on a PMV. Luckily there was a Dyna waiting so we jumped aboard. I enjoyed the bumpy ride along the Gembogl road with the wind blowing its freshness into me.
The view was so breathtaking with those fast flowing rivers, waterfalls, mountain after mountain, fresh water to drink right out of the ground, fresh vegetables. This place is truly Mother Nature’s store.
We arrived at Kegsugl airstrip at 3:30 and left our cargo at Sieland’s house, which is just next to the airstrip, and went for an afternoon walk. Later Sieland’s sister in law, Maria prepared us a wonderful dinner. It was my first time to taste the tree bean.
And I really enjoyed eating it with fresh potatoes and cauliflower straight from the garden at their doorstep. I was freezing with cold but it’s good to feel different. We made a big fire, sat around it and busied ourselves eating karuka pandanuts till our mouths got tired of cracking the shells and we dozed off, dreaming of what the day might hold for us tomorrow.
It is New Year’s Eve today. I couldn’t resist the fresh juicy strawberries that were brought for us. It was raining and the weather was not promising but we prepared ourselves and were well equipped with warm clothes, coats, wool caps, boots, gloves, water bottles, food, not forgetting betel nut and smokes.
When we started on the track up the mountain rainforest at 1:30pm, I thought all was going to be easy. I tried my best to keep up with their pace but after 15 steps I was panting like a dog so I had to take a five minute break.
I stopped several times before we reach the first resting place! Seriously, I blame myself for being too much of a potato couch with no good physical activities to keep fit.
There were 10 of us walking together as a team but, since I was slow, the seven had to go ahead whilst Cathy and Sieland walked with me. Cathy got me a walking stick and the two of them stayed right at my back. I couldn’t stop thanking them for being with me all the way.
Truly, this walk was a test of strength and willpower. I’ve learnt that proper physical and mental preparation is needed to go mountain climbing. I was more attuned to nature with the frogs croaking, birds whistling, and the chirr of the insects. It was a peaceful and serene experience.
At the second resting place we were so hungry and wanted to eat but realised that our friends took all the food, so we shared a water bottle and a Snax biscuit and cookies.
We stopped at a creek called kombuglo mambuno which literally means ‘rock roots’. This was really fresh water, so cold, just like water from the fridge. I could see the moisture on my water bottle when I fetched some.
We took shots there and Cathy made a video of us at Koromambuno. Several people passed by on their way to climb Mt Wilhelm and be at the summit for New Year. That is so cool!
Sieland suggested we go to the lookout and turn back since it was starting to rain heavily and getting dark.
From the lookout we could clearly see the shining roof of Mt Wilhelm High School and the runway of the Kegesugl airstrip down below.
Right at our back we could see the dembuglo kuglo, the falling tail. It is the waterfall of the female lake (Lake Aunde).
The view was so amazing. We watched until blankets of fog covered everything below us. The afternoon’s cold, rain and breeze was unbearable for me. I tried rubbing my palms together to keep warm but it didn’t stop me from shivering.
Whilst there, we made jokes, took photos and videos and also did some Facebooking (thanks to our bigger, better network Digicel for the network coverage there). It feels great, I feel alive for the first time in a long time. This is a great physical exercise for me.
Our friends who went ahead reached the female lake and turned back. They caught up with us at the lookout. And we started descending the track at about 6:30pm. Our torch came in handy as it was getting dark in the midst of the canopy.
We could hardly see the track without the torch. Some of us slipped, tripped on tree roots, stumbled, cursed under our breath and continued on the way. I couldn’t help laughing. It was fun indeed.
I’d say the descent is easier and quicker But I had to take careful, slow steps, partly due to cramp pain in my legs. We were all wet and freezing cold when we reached the house so the boys made a big fire.
Thanks to Sieland’s father, dinner was ready when we arrived so we sat around the fire and ate. The leg cramps made it difficult for me to move around so I had to bathe in hot water and felt a bit better.
Later we had few beers around the fire, cracked jokes, listened to music, joked about our walk during the day and eventually welcomed 2013!
Oh well, It was an enjoyable trip and I am grateful for my two guardian angels for being with me. It feels good to do something different sometimes.