Chapter 25.


Now that Shark was fully kitted out we decided it was safe to leave them again and make off in the general direction of Hollandia to try to carry out our orders to, wherever possible, contact the natives and try to convince them to keep away from the Japs and deny them any assistance.  So far we had been successful without getting into any real trouble but knew that the Dutch party had severely affected our schedule and that, by now, we should have been quite a lot closer to Hollandia.

Most of the patrolling was uneventful except for the one occasion when Neville and Sam, with two constables, had been searching to the west and surprised a small Japanese party having a meal.  Actually, they had passed quite close to the Nips and would not have discovered them in the thick scrub but for the enemy's, once again, lack of lookouts and incessant chatter.  A few shots were exchanged, with little apparent result, and they then beat a hasty retreat back to our camp.  Neville said he thought it was possible they might have got a couple but weren't hanging round to find out!

Just in case they were followed we struck camp immediately, and moved further back into some thick, vine scrub where we stayed the night.

Our patrolling must have been successful because in the next days we were once again receiving threatening messages relayed by the local natives, promising all sorts of unmentionable reprisals!  But, despite the threats, we felt safe enough and were fairly confident we would not be taken by surprise as the Dutch party had.

The country now was very heavily timbered with large trees covered in moss and very thick undergrowth with a multitude of trailing vines and wait-a-while to trip the unwary and it was becoming ever so much more difficult to travel.  Fatigue was catching up with us as we struggled to make quick headway through the increasingly thick scrub.  Often, because of its almost impenetrable nature, scrub knives were needed to cut a track, although we were loath to use the knives because of the noise made in cutting, their use was necessary as without them movement was almost impossible.  Much care had to be taken because of the noise and it became necessary to provide a couple of advance scouts doing the cutting, with the rest of us about fifty yards behind.  It was extremely tiring to carry heavy packs and take turns at cutting a track, in the lush growth, and rest periods were frequent.  We were at a high enough altitude, in this area, to be near the cloud base and fine misty rain fell ceaselessly, adding to our discomfort.

Many small creeks were crossed on the journey northward over the very hilly country and thankfully there was never any shortage of drinking water and usually it was very pure and drinkable, not like the large areas of swampy and slimy water we had encountered earlier.  Most of the creeks were small and easily forded by wading or by using stepping stones and sometimes a friendly log but, one day, our luck ran out and we were finally stopped by a swiftly flowing creek about 10 yards wide.  It looked pretty deep and was flowing in a southerly direction and most likely was a tributary of the Idenberg River some 30 miles away.

The first thing we did was to look up and down the creek to see if there was a possible crossing.  Bob sent Anis one way, and Sabi the other, to see if we were going to be lucky and about an hour later they returned and the news was bad!  There was no easy way across and, indeed, where we were was the narrowest part!

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