Mateship…along the Black Cat Track

Menari Village, Papua New Guinea

The Black Cat Track is not another four-wheel drive track that I have discovered in Outback Australia, but for those with a little more than a passing interest in Australian Military history will recognise it as a significant battle ground in Papua New Guinea.

Many will be familiar with the story of the Kokoda Track.

Military historians have written often of the bravery and courage shown by those involved in the New Guinea campaign, especially along the Kokoda Track, and no doubt there are countless stories of others whose sacrifices and bravery are known only to a higher authority.

Today, many Australian’s in increasing numbers are walking the Kokoda Track to pay homage to those Australian’s and Papua New Guinean Nationals, affectionately known as the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels, who fought to defend Australia and Papua New Guinea. Most, if not all, are moved by the experience, especially after gaining only a glimpse of the conditions they would have experienced and the enormity of the task they faced against the highly-trained Japanese invasion force.

In the mid 1980’s my partner, Janet-Planet, and I lived in Papua New Guinea and we relished the opportunity to travel and work in a country that was so close to ‘home’ but was so  culturally different to Australia

The experience was humbling at times.

Before leaving the country one of my National colleagues said that I would return on many occasions in the future. Of course I said I would love to, but he was insistent, telling me that he ‘knew’ things of the future.

And he was correct, since leaving I have returned twice, once for work in the mid 1990’s, and the second to walk the Kokoda Track in 2006.

I have always had a deep interest in Australian Military history and the Anzac Spirit; the Australian commitment to one’s mate that is legendary and unique amongst the World’s fighting forces; on the sporting field, anywhere for that matter. And it was with that in mind that I found myself walking the Kokoda Track with a ‘mate’ in 2006.



We visited many battlefields; sang ‘Danny Boy’ in honour of Butch Bissett at the site that his brother, Stan, nursed him to his death, and stood in silence to the fallen at Bomana War Cemetery just outside of the country’s capital, Port Moresby.

The countryside was amazing and the people warm and welcoming.

Ten years later and I am to ‘return’ once again.

In May next year I will be travelling to Papua New Guinea, this time to trek the Black Cat Track in the country’s Morobe Province.

Yes it sounds like a long time off, but time flies, right, especially when you are trying to get your fitness “up to speed”.

Partnering up with a group of like-minded people we will be guided by Aidan Grimes, an Irishman with a great sense of humour and who now calls Australia home. Aidan’s experience and knowledge of the battlefields of this region are unparalleled and with this knowledge in hand he will help us retrace the steps taken by those who fought in this region over 60 years ago, expertly guiding us through the jungle and over mountains.

Although we will never be able to walk in the boots of those that trod this region during the War Days……

The Black Track Cat starts in Wau and winds its way down to the coast at Salamaua, with many suggesting this track makes the Kokoda Track seem like a Sunday afternoon stroll in the park.

It is not an established track like ‘The Kokoda’ on which thousands of trekkers regularly tread, but a forgotten World War ll track that passes through what has been described as some of the toughest and most-hazardous terrain in the world.

In an account of his experience in The New Guinea Narrative 2001, Signalman Lloyd Collins, 3rd Division Signals, explained;

“…there was little conversation. You neither had the time nor the inclination. Talking required energy and energy was a scarce resource. When passing a mate you sometimes glanced at his face, a face dull from fatigue and dripping with perspiration. You saw his sticking clothes, his muddy boots and trousers. You noticed the heavy pack and you could hear his heaving breath as he struggled past. Then, as you pitied him and felt sorry for his plight, you realised that you looked the same to others. Even though no words were spoken the silent glance conveyed sympathy and understanding…”

This hardly sounds like a holiday I hear you say, perhaps it is more of a test of one’s own ability to draw on inner-strengths, to be inspired and stand in awe of those that fought to protect our country; laying down their own lives so we may enjoy the freedoms and way of life we do today.

To add to the adventure we will raft down the San Francisco River from the village at the end of the track to Salamaua on rafts made locally before resting overnight and completing our journey back to Lae by sea.

It is said that Salamaua is one of best kept secrets in the world and one of the most idyllic places you will ever go!

Those that follow my expeditions into the magnificent Australian Outback will know that I enjoy a camp oven roasts, scones, and Janet’s dampers, not to mention the odd beer or two. And whilst maintaining a high level of fitness it is fair to say that I am back in the gym, rowing, and weight training as well as spending time much time in the “hills” the Australian “bush” with my backpack on…something that I need little encouragement to do!

Cheers, Baz – The Landy

Suitable only for Masochists and Israeli Paratroopers

Stretching between the villages of Salamaua and Wau in the island Nation of Papua New Guinea is a long-forgotten second world war track called “The Black Cat Track”.

It has it all…dangerous river crossings, swamps, cliffs, precarious rock-ledges, venomous snakes, and leeches that will suck the blood from your veins after the malaria carrying mosquito’s have finished with you…

The Lonely Planet guidebook describes the Black Cat Track as “suitable only for masochists and Israeli Paratroopers”.

This region of Papua New Guinea has some of the most spectacular jungle scenery on the planet and is the habitat of the country’s national emblem, the superbly beautiful Bird of Paradise.

I had to postpone a trek along the Black Cat Track a few years back due to civil unrest in the region, something it has been prone to from time-to-time, but I have been anxious to undertake this adventure and revisit a country Janet-Planet (Mrs Landy) and I lived in as newly weds many years ago…

Grey's Peak

And whilst I have not given up on my desire to climb amongst the world’s highest peaks in the Himalayas, the earthquake and tragic devastation it caused to Nepal and its people earlier this year has added a layer of complexity to that ambition!

But crikey, I need to “feed the rat” with adventure and an opportunity has arisen to join a trek along the Black Cat Track in May 2016 with a group of  Papua New Guinean Nationals – “Legends” as they are rightly referred to and ably led by Aidan Grimes.

Co-incidentally, it will be almost 10-years to the day that I walked the Kokoda Track with Aidan, a veteran of 100 traverses of the Kokoda Track; a track that is synonymous with Papua New Guinea and the battles fought by our brave and courageous “diggers” during World War Two.

It will make a change to the Australian Outback and snow covered mountain peaks…

What an adventure, hey!

So strap on your backpack and get your hiking boots out…there is plenty of training to be done…

Baz – The Landy

No Ordinary Moments; No Ordinary People; No Ordinary Lives

There are no ordinary moments, no ordinary people, no ordinary lives…

No matter who you are, where you are, or what you are doing…

 This photograph was captured in the village of Menari, in the jungles of Papua New Guinea with myself and a truly remarkable man.

He was one of the “fuzzy-wuzzy angels” who helped Australian and American troops in the fierce jungle battles along the Kokoda Track and other places along the Papuan Coast during the second world war.

 We have much to thank them for…


The Jungles of Papua New Guinea (The Kokoda Track)

Isurava Village, situated along the Kokoda Track in Papua New Guinea.

I am making plans to head back into the Papuan New Guinean jungle in April next year to walk the Black Cat Track.

I tried to get there a couple of years ago, but civil unrest in the area prevented it. So plans have been made once again, and will provide a great lead in for some climbing in Nepal later in the year!

 This area has some of the most pristine jungle in the world…

 Photo: Baz, The Landy

Remembering our Courageous Fallen (ANZAC Day)

Baz and a Fuzzy Wuzzy Angel, Menari Village, Papua New Guinea
Baz and a Fuzzy Wuzzy Angel, Menari Village, Papua New Guinea

The 25th of April is a day that Australian’s reflect on the military service Australian men and women have given to our country. 

To remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice; to remember the Australian men and women who are currently serving in theatres of war, and in peace keeping roles around the world.

To all I say, thank you.

Something close to me is the time I spent living in Papua New Guinea and the times that I have visited since leaving, more recently in 2006 when I walked the Kokoda Track with a good mate, Bob Todd.

The Kokoda Track saw some of most fierce fighting that Australian troops have ever faced.

Courage, Endurance, Mateship, Sacrifice - Kokoda Track, Papua New Guinea
Courage, Endurance, Mateship, Sacrifice – Kokoda Track, Papua New Guinea

And we should never forget the sacrifices that were made by our good friends, legends of the Kokoda Track, the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angelsthe Papuan New Guineans who carried supplies and our wounded, often making the ultimate sacrifice at the hands of an unyielding foe.

Standing at the top of the final hill after six days along The Track, Bob and I looked back over the ranges and I swear we could hear that distinctive Aussie drawl…

 The sounds of mates helping their mates.

An enduring Australian quaility - Mateship. Bob and Baz, the Kokoda Track trails into the distance behind us
An enduring Australian quality – Mateship

And I’m sure that on this day if you were to stand on the battlefields of the Somme or the beaches of Gallipoli, if you listen carefully, you too will hear our boys and girls; the men and women who never returned home to loved ones!

Our memory of them will live on forever…

Lest We Forget

Our memory of them will live on forever – Lest We Forget (photo credit: Australian War Museum)


Jungle Life – Papua New Guinea (Alola Village)

Jungle Life - Papua New Guinea

Alola village, remotely located deep in the steamy jungle of Papua New Guinea.

The only way in is to walk for a couple of days…

Janet and I lived in Papua New Guinea for three years, working and exploring…

A wonderful country, full of wonderful people and teeming with spectacular wildlife.

No ordinary moments, no ordinary people, no ordinary lives!

photo: Baz

Ordinary People – Achieving Great Things

Climbers nearing summit of Mt Everest“But there are men for whom the unattainable has a special attraction. Usually they are not experts; their ambitions and fantasies are strong enough to brush aside the doubts which more cautious men might have.

Determination and faith are their strongest weapons. At best such men are regarded as eccentric; at worst, mad…”

 These are words penned by the legendary mountaineer, Walt Unsworth, and they have had a profound effect on me since I read them a number of years ago.

At the time when he penned them he was making a broader comment on climbers heading to Mt Everest.

 These words summed me up perfectly, I thought.

I’m sure many will be able to relate to them equally, regardless of what your pursuits are…

Over the years I have pursued a whole range of activities, some adventurous, others less so – but I have always been driven by a desire to simply embrace life…

Sweet Dreams Climb, Blue Mountains, Australia

And I have never considered myself an expert in any of them, but it has always been a fierce determination that has seen me through; a strong faith in my ability to grasp the key things, to put them into practice.

I’ve never considered anything I’ve done as a failure, but I’ve had plenty of learning experiences, set-backs that have helped me to learn, to grow, and to develop. I’m thankful for those set-backs, as they have made me stronger.

 Eccentric; mad; yes, I’ve been referred in that way many times.

Baz over Picton, Australia

 Today, I wear those comments proudly, like a badge.

 Walt’s words have encouraged me to have the confidence to pursue my dream of climbing large mountains, to consider making an attempt on the summit of Mt Everest, in the least, to have the courage to admit that I want to climb it.

Summit of Grey's Peak

 Acknowledging your dreams is probably the greatest step you can make towards them becoming a reality…

The power of thought should never be under estimated, both positive, and negative.

Every day on Wordspress, millions of words are written by ordinary people, stories about the challenges life has thrown at them, what they have done, and continue to do to overcome them.

About their dreams and aspirations, their highs and lows…

Ordinary people who want to improve their fitness, to lose weight, to cycle across a city,  or across the world.

Baz - Mountain Run, Coast to Coast Race, New Zealand

Many have their sights set on a fun run, and others having completed one, setting their sights towards running a marathon.

For others, it is their challenge to become stronger, to be able to lift more, or about capturing that once in a life-time photograph, perhaps testing a new recipe to share with friends, or with people they have never met.

Weight lifting in "The Shed"

Others talk about health and lifestyle challenges they struggle with, that they have overcome.

I read as many of them as I can, they motivate me, and they provide me with much needed inspiration…

Seemingly, there is always someone in this cyberspace community ready to reach out, to congratulate, to console…

These people aren’t super-elite athletes, or neither five-star chefs, nor are they fitness gurus.

They have a much greater status than that, for they are simply ordinary people, the same people that Walt Unsworth wrote about when he penned those words…

To those who aspire to do their best, to challenge themselves, I say never give in, you’re not alone out there, dream big, and pursue your dreams…

But on ordinary people, yes I’ve referred to people as ordinary, but in reality, there is no such thing as ordinary people, we are all unique, we all contribute to the mosaic that makes up the world we live in…

PNG Kokoda

It would be a boring place if we were all the same…

We’d never learn, grow, or develop as people.

Take the time to read over Walt’s musings a couple of times, because he was speaking about you…

Draw on the strength of his writing, it is powerful…

 Above all else remember – There are no ordinary moments, no ordinary people, no ordinary lives…

Menari Village, Papua New Guinea

No Ordinary Moments; No Ordinary People; No Ordinary Lives

There are no ordinary moments, no ordinary people, no ordinary lives; no matter who you are, where you are, or what you are doing…

 I just thought I would put this out there today!

 And talking about no ordinary people, this is a photo of me with a village elder from the village of Menari, in the jungles of Papua New Guinea.

He is one of only a few remaining “fuzzy-wuzzy angels” who helped Australian and American troops in the fierce jungle battles along the Kokoda Track and other places along the Papuan Coast during the second world war.

 We have much to thank them for…

 Yes, no ordinary moments, no ordinary people, no ordinary lives!

Ps: And remember, if all else fails – just stay out of control and see what develops…!

Bushman’s Cuisine – A culinary experience (Under the Stars)

As Monday rolls around it is time to reflect on another great weekend in the mountains with family and friends. 

On Saturday morning we boarded The Landy and headed to Turon Gates, a rural property not too far from a great Australian wine growing region, Mudgee, to the west of Sydney.

It is a comfortable three-hour drive in the The Landy, which is no speed machine, especially when towing our T-Van, a specialist camper trailer designed for extreme travel.  This weekend it would not be put to its full potential, and with plenty of mountaineering and overseas travel over the next 12 months, it is unlikely to see the red bull-dust of the Australian Outback anytime soon.

We did pass some of my favourite climbing areas on the drive, but this weekend was about relaxing, eating, and eating, and relaxing, with Janet, TomO and family friends.

Crikey, did we eat or what?

And don’t you just love camp food prepared in a camp oven and dining under the stars beside a crackling camp fire…

Now I must say, Janet and I both love experiencing different foods from around the world, and enjoy a night dining out. But it is hard to beat cooking up and dining on some camp grub!

And no camping trip would be complete without Janet knocking out one of her (world famous) dampers.  Lavished with Golden Syrup, or Cocky’s Joy, as it is commonly referred to, it is simply the Bees Knees. From the time it is pulled from the camp oven, to the time when the last piece is devoured, you won’t hear a whisper from anyone, just the sounds of the Australian Bush punctuated by the groans of delight as the Golden Syrup trickles down your hand…

Joining us for the weekend  were our good friends The Todd’s;  Bob and Annette, and David and Stephen. They’re like family to us and we’ve been travelling this great country of ours with them for as long as we can remember. A work colleague of Bob’s also came along to experience the Australian Bush…

The Todd Boys, The Boys, as we affectionately know them, are like brothers’ to our son TomO, and talk about being as thick as thieves.

Apart from growing taller, The Boys and TomO haven’t changed much. Although, the conversation seems to have moved from toy cars and teddy bears to girls these days…

Bob and I go back a long way…I even got to spin a few tales about him in my role as “Best Man” on their wedding day.

Together, we’ve cut a path along the Kokoda Track in the wild jungles of Papua New Guinea and paddled the Papuan Coast extensively on our kayaks.

Strewth, we’ve even spent a great New Year’s Eve on the small island nation of Nauru, at the Nauru Phosphate Club, helping to de-stock the Nation’s supply of Foster’s Lager, but heck that is a yarn for another day, if I ever get around to remembering it.

I’m sure Bob was a pyromaniac in another life-time, but rest assured he can set the best camp-fires ever and then cook up a storm in his camp oven. The Todd’s feasted on roast lamb and vegetables, while we settled for a good old rump steak on the barbie.

Now I must do a couple of call-outs here.

I have been fortunate enough to have found a fantastic blog called Picture Real Food, by Marisa, which has some wonderful recipes.  This weekend I tried out her Bull’s Blood Mushrooms, and all I can say is if you are into mushrooms give this a go…and if you’re not into them still give it a go, because you’ll end up a convert!

The other call-out is to a mad-as-a-cut snake New Yorker who goes by the name of Icescreammama. Recently she had some really nice things to say about some Aussie bloke so I drank a toast to her on his behalf and the recent success she has had in a writing competition.

Geez, I actually had a couple of beers, a bit unusual for me ahead of my preparation for next year’s full-on mountaineering calendar.

Blow-me-down,  I thought people like Icescreammama only existed on those American sit-coms you see on the Telly, when it is working. But there she is, larger than life. Mind you, I’m betting she is one of those New Yorkers’ that drinks cor-fee instead of coffee.

And did I get around to mentioning one of my favourite parts of any camping trip.


And this is after we get our fill of vegemite on toast, after all it wouldn’t be Australian to leave it at home!

There is something that is good for the soul about a lazy start to the day, getting a fire going, and then throwing a couple of jaffle irons onto the coals with your favourite filling stuffed between two slices of bread!

Janet made up some savoury mince, and her jaffles were the ant’s pants; seriously to die for.

And no outing would be complete without someone falling into the water. Usually it is TomO, because he was a fish in a previous life, but this weekend it was my turn as I filled up the water bucket – it must have been those two beers I had the night before that gave me a wobbly boot.

Geez, you just gotta love getting “Out and About” –  bring on life!

And hey!… Don’t forget to Like The Landy on Facebook to catch up on more photos and happenings while he’s “Out and About”…

Besides with only 29 likes he’s starting to think he’s more “off” than an “Outback Dunny” in the mid-day sun!



A Kayaking encounter with a Crocodile – (I survived the deadly Puk-Puk)

It isn’t too often that you get to have one up on a crocodile and live to recount the experience, let’s face it, they are one of nature’s most efficient hunters.

And it will always be the one that you didn’t see that will get you…

 A few years ago, Janet, my partner, and I lived in Papua New Guinea, an independent Nation just to the north of Australia. During our time there we tried to experience much that the country has to offer, and we travelled as much as we could.

Each day I paddled the coastline on my surf ski, a sit-on-top kayak measuring around 6 metres in length.  At the time there were no other craft like mine in this area, if not the country, and it always caught the interest of the villagers’. It was sleek and glided effortlessly through the water…

There was much to explore and the local villages I passed were always friendly and welcoming.

The tropical waters of the Papuan Coast are full of marine life, large stingrays, and majestic turtles, some of the most colourful reef fish you will ever see and of course sharks of many varieties.

I’m pleased to be able to say that the most common sharks I encountered where the black tip reef sharks which are mostly harmless if left alone. And I was often told they are well fed… Just on what and how often seemingly was an unanswered question.

Of course, the tropical waters are also home to the more menacing and much larger tiger shark.

From a hill top vantage point near Port Moresby, the capital city, I once observed the largest tiger shark I have ever seen.

It was following a pod of dolphins heading towards Local Island, which is situated about 3-kilometres offshore from the local beach, Ela beach.

We lived within a stone’s throw of this beach and it was a paddle I did regularly and after this encounter I was left wondering how many times I may have been stalked as I crossed to the island.

Papua New Guinea is also home to the saltwater crocodile, or Puk-Puk as it is known in the local language. I was always alert for the possibility of one of these creatures being present in the waterways I paddled. Realistically, I’m not sure what I would have done if I encountered one, and it is unlikely there would ever have been any forewarning before encountering the “death roll”.

The sight of local villagers’ fishing in the water from the shore was always a comforting sign, as they are also alert for the Puk-Puk’s presence. And normally there are telltale signs they may be present.

Recently, a friend and I were discussing paddling in Papua New Guinea and an encounter I did have with one of these creatures.

It was in the mountains about 40 kilometres from Port Moresby at a place not to far from the start of the Kokoda Trail, a place immortalised in Australian Military history.

I had decided to take my kayak into the mountains for a paddle down one of the rivers just for a change to the coastal paddling I was more accustomed to. During a two-hour paddle I was rewarded with magnificent scenery and a couple of friendly villages along the way.

I had Janet drop me off and I was to meet her at the Kokoda Trail Motel, a small pub, after negotiating my way along the river. I was a little nervous at first and any bump underneath the kayak left me wondering if these were to be my final moments before the jaws of one of these pre-historic creatures crushed the kayak, or worse!

There was an element of excitement about it…

As I made my way with the flow of the river I was observing the muddy banks for any telltale signs of a slide. Places where a crocodile may have slipped into the water from its resting point.

Crikey, in an instant my heart skipped a beat…

There was no doubting what I saw heading my way.

Isn’t it funny how sometimes every thing around you can go into slow motion?

Strewth, this was a moment suspended in time.

Was it to be my one and only encounter with a crocodile?

The final scorecard reading, Puk-Puk, one; Baz, nil…

I’m pleased to say it wasn’t…

Upon sighting my arrival on the banks of the river beside the motel, Janet ordered me a Puk-Puk steak for lunch and it was heading my way, suitably seasoned, and on a plate…

And to this day, the sight of Janet always makes my heart skip a beat!

I had many more visits to the mountains where I enjoyed a paddle, a Puk-Puk steak, and a couple of ice-cold beers with Janet…

And if you have never tried Puk-Puk, do yourself a favour, it is delicious; just make sure it is on a plate…

Here’s a recipe, just in case you’re tempted…

Courage, Endurance, Mateship, and Sacrifice.


An anniversary passed a couple of days ago marking 70 years since a defining moment in Australian history, the Kokoda Track campaign in the jungle of Papua New Guinea.

Starting on July 21, 1942 and lasting until 16 November of the same year it was more than a battle to save Port Moresby, and possibly Australia from a Japanese invasion, this was a time where the attributes of mateship truly shone through like a beacon to lead and guide future generations of Australians.

It is hard to stand at the monument at Isurava, which looks down to Kokoda and not be moved. The fighting here was intense, and it was in this very place that Private Bruce Kingsbury committed an act of bravery and valour that ultimately led to his own life being lost, and for which he was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross, Australia’s highest Military Award.

Courage, Endurance, Mateship, Sacrifice

A few years ago I stood at the very rock where Private Kingsbury fell, the scene was serene, and it was hard to imagine the heavy fighting that resonated from this hillside, the sound of Bren guns rattling, of Japanese mountain guns being fired over the ridge from nearby Deniki, not knowing where the shells would fall, or whose life they would next claim.

The story of the 39th Battalion is legendary, and the enormity of the task they faced has only in recent years started to be truly understood. Increasingly Australian’s are making the pilgrimage to Kokoda, walking the track in recognition of the suffering and sacrifice these men made, to pay homage where a family member fell, a father, an uncle.

Often mocked by the regular Australian forces, the 39th were essentially the equivalent of a Citizens Military Force. They faced an elite Japanese fighting force, the Sasebo, in the initial stages of the battle, but what they may have lacked in military prowess, if anything, was certainly overcome by the qualities of, mateship, courage, and endurance.

In 2006 I was fortunate to walk the track with a good mate, and a group of like-minded people and led by a man passionate about telling the story of the 39th.  Adopted by Australia, but of Irish descent, Aidan Grimes is an infectious person, with a typical Irish humour, who believes that the Australian quality of mateship is one of our country’s greatest assets.

Aidan Grimes

Aidan has walked the track more times than he can remember, and has spent countless hours talking to those involved in the campaign. He relayed their stories as we progressed along the 96 kilometre track to Owers Corner.

There wasn’t one dry eye to be seen as Aidan sang Danny Boy at the very spot that Stan Bissett cradled his mortally wounded brother, Lieutenant Harold ‘Butch’ Bissett, in his arms before he silently slipped away.

And we should never forget the sacrifices that were made by our good friends. Our Wantoks, legends of the Kokoda Track, the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels, the Papuan New Guineans who carried supplies and our wounded, often making the ultimate sacrifice at the hands of an unyielding foe.

Standing at the top of the final hill after six days along the Track, we looked back over the ranges and I swear we could hear that distinctive Aussie drawl, the sound of mates helping their mates, our memory of them will live on forever…Lest We Forget.