Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Remembering the old Black Cat Trail

Wild flower along the Black Cat Trail
Lionel Aigilo pushes up the mountain

Lionel Aigilo (left) and SolomonJawing show off an American WW11 gun

Komiatum villager with smoking sticks on Mount Tambu

Komiatum Niukem along the infamous Black Cat Trail
Heni Denbis (front) of Morobe Tourism Bureau and Lionel Aigilo
Councillor's house at Komiatum

Climbing up to Guadagasul

Climbing Mount Tambu with panoramic views of the valley and ocean at Salamaua

Children bid farewell to visitors at Mubo
A landslide in the mountains between Salamaua and Wau

An infamous WW11 icon of Papua New Guinea is the old Black Cat Trail between Salamaua and Wau, Morobe province. Walk with me on the Black Cat...
On Remembrance Day, July 23, 2003, a small group of us honoured the day as well as the 60th anniversary of Salamaua, by trekking the old Black Cat Trail from Salamaua to Wau.
It was a five-day walk which started in Salamua on July 22 and ended in Wau on July 26.
Our thoughts were with the many soldiers and carriers of WW11 who lost their lives on this treacherous path in 1942 and 1943.
The old Black Cat Trail between Salamaua and Wau, Morobe Province, makes the Kokoda Trail seem like a Sunday arvo stroll in the park.
This is because it is not an established trail like Kokoda, on which hundreds of trekkers regularly tread, but a forgotten World War 11 course that passes through some of the toughest and most-hazardous terrain in the world.
Leech and snake-infested jungle, moss -covered rocks and fallen tree stumps, precarious cliff crossings, and potentially-dangerous river crossings make the Black Cat arguably one of the toughest tracks in PNG and the world.
It is recommended only for the very- fit and experienced trekker.
Some Australian soldiers have described the Black Cat as the hardest walk they’d ever done.
The Lonely Planet guidebook quotes a local expat as saying the Black cat is “suitable only for masochists and Israeli paratroopers”.
For those interested in WW11 history, the Black Cat Trail in the place for you, starting from the old gold mining town of Salamaua which was scene of some of the heaviest fighting of the war.
Old graves around Salamaua, which date back to the gold mining days, as well as Japanese tunnels and anti-aircraft guns, line the hill overlooking the isthmus.
Massive bomb craters from WW11 along the Black Cat Trail indicate the ferocity of the battles here in 1942.
The area also has magnificent flora and fauna.
Many soldiers and carriers of WW11 lost their lives on this treacherous path in 1942 and 1943.
Skin Diwai is a detour from the main Black Cat Trail – which continues on to Bitoi and eventually Wandumi village outside Wau - and is now the preferred choice of locals.
Skin Diwai was the site of a major Australian base during WW11 and is littered with live bombs, ammunition, other war junk including boots, and even the wreckage of a DC3.
For those interested in war history and relics, as well as untouched forests and flora and fauna, the Black Cat Trail is for you.

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