Sunday, June 11, 2006

The Spirit of Man...
On 'Sunrise' this morning they showed part of Kochie's (with many others) soul-searching trek along the Kokoda Track. Just watching is an emotional experience so I can imagine how it must have been for those participating in the harrowing, physical-demanding journey. It is beyond one's imaganation, however, how our soldiers during World War 11 survived the horrors of that trail. Many didn't.

In 1987, I, together with ten others, I visited Port Moresby as part of a tourism trade delegation. Our last day spent in Port Moresby was Papua New Guinea's National Memorial Day, 24th July. In 1942, the Japanese had decided to attack by sea. Thankfully, they were intercepted by US air and naval forces in the Coral Sea. Without the help of the US forces during those years, we, as a country, would not be as we are today. Towards the end of '43, US and Australia began offensive operations in the Bougainville area. By August, 1945, with the surrender of the Japanese, most of the island was recovered.

Our hospitable host took our group to the Port Moresby (Bomana) War Cemetery on that July day in 1987. A respectful, sombre silence engulfed our normal jovial, high-spirited selves. Not one amongst us had a dry eye as we broke ranks and strolled singularly, through the well-maintained cemetery of 3821 grave sites, each lost in his or her reverie.

After leaving the cemetery, we were driven up to the Kokoda Inn at the start of the Kokoda Trail. The views along the way to the Inn are spectacular...looking back across the valleys towards Moresby. The colours of the landscape are beyond description. On the way, we stopped. A New Guinea National, decked out in full 'warrior' regalia stood proudly on a knoll. Out we jumped from the Tarago. Even though we were the first tourism delegation to visit Port Moresby, this gentleman already had his own agenda. We could take photos of him...using our own cameras and film. His charge for this privilege...5 kinos each, which he accepted with a wide smile. Continuing on our merry way, one amongst us pointed out our 'warrior' sported a Rolex watch and suggested he probably had his BMW parked behind some trees, out of sight! We finally reached the Inn where we had the toughest steak we'd ever encounted...but it mattered not.

The day remains embedded in my memory and no doubt will remain there for the rest of my life.

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