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Smoke and Stars on the Kokoda Track

The stars glinted brightly in the blackened sky as I laced up my hike boots to the sounds of the low almost melodic voices of the porters; some were tucked under their thin blankets, whilst other were collecting water to boil for hot drinks and a couple were busy lighting fires.

I watched as Jerry, carefully placed twigs in the small fire pit and another porter Clive silently approached with the a burning stick from the porter fire. They had taken turns keeping the fire going all night; for warmth and to ensure we had hot water for the morning and a warm fire to sit around. It was mesmerizing in the darkness, watching them slowly, using deep blows to coax a flame out of the smouldering stick and then patiently build it into a nice crackling fire with that distinctive Papua New Guinea fire smell permeating the cool air. Here we were, 2 days into the Kokoda Track and waking up in the picturesque village of Alola, home to the majority of our porters.

The heavy rain from the afternoon before had softened and gradually disappeared overnight, after having rocked most of us to sleep and quietened the barking dogs. All that remained were the faint outlines of clouds in the valley, hovering low until it became lighter and warm enough to rise up into the sky. The clients were slowly coordinating their movements in the tiny spaces they called a one man tent as the sun slowly started to spread her wings and lighten up the sky in shades of pink, blue and orange.

Alola is a tiny village located approximately a days walk from Kokoda Village and perched high along the edge of steep winding hill. The thatched house are crammed together onto the only flat areas allowing it to have a small, cosy and family type atmosphere. Having most of our porters from this village meant that walking in the day before was like a homecoming and it was hard not to enjoy the excitement in the children's faces when they saw their fathers, brothers, uncles or cousins walking in.

Our guest house and camping area were situated below the village and give us a magnificent view of the valley down below and all the way out to the plateau.

As I sipped my hot coffee and watch the sky, the stars slowly disappearing, life had begun in the village with the sounds of pots, children crying and dogs barking all competing with the gurgling water of the village spring we were camped near and I couldn't help but imagine the perfectness of having this peace, calm, serenity and beauty as part of my daily life. It is no wonder the villages here were so laid back and relaxed – a million dollar view with premium real estate to embrace every day.

With the sun awakening, the campsite packed and the stars having departed, I reluctantly drained my coffee cup turned and caught the eye of Kila, the lead guide and nodded; Yes, onwards along this incredible track with its ruggedness, remoteness, history and a never-ending supply of beauty!

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When not working on international adventure trips as a guide and medic, Rachel spends her time surfing, trail running, learning spanish, indulging in her passions for photography and writing and planning her next expeditions. Life is all about every beautiful sunrise and sunset!

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