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Journey To Mount Kenevi 
by John Douglas

The peak of Mount Kenevi is 11,300 feet above sea level and is largely covered with primary rain forest, except for tussock grassland near and on the tops.  What makes these facts relevant to this story is Mt. Kenevi’s existence alongside the Kokoda Gap; in Papua New Guinea.

WWII History
During the war years the Kokoda Gap was used as an aerial route between Port Moresby to the south, and Buna, Lae and Rabaul to the North.  Both Allied and Japanese planes were lost over the Kokoda Gap; and when off course, often ran into the granite clouds of Mt. Kenevi, especially in bad weather. Over the past 60 years; some of those planes, initially posted missing have been located by local hunters; and in a few cases the discovery, has been reported to the official authorities.  Where human remains are present, the relevant Government Agency (United States, Australia or Japan) comes onto the site to carry out their appropriate ceremonies.

Mt. Kenevi Today
The air at higher altitude is very clear and even seems to taste different.  The light has a different texture, and the whole experience of mountain hiking has an almost mystical quantity.  Mt. Kenevi is no different to other mountains in this regard. On the slopes around Mt. Kenevi perhaps 6-8 planes have been reported in the past  including one occasion in 1964, when a joint Australian-American patrol climbed the southwest face of Mt. Kenevi and located 3 planes.  One of these, an Anson, was subsequently revisited and human remains recovered by the Australian authorities.

Wilkinson Egimbari
Recently Wilkinson Egimbari, a Papua New Guinean, decided to go onto Mt. Kenevi to see if he could locate these or other planes from World War II.  Wilkie earns money working as a “Wrec Tec” seeking out wrecked WW II aeroplanes, throughout the country. Wilkie is from the lower, warmer regions of PNG; more used to coconuts and the endless heat of the coastal plains than the cool and often bleak climate of the mountain regime, so he was in for a bit of a shock.

The Journey Begins
He set of by himself from Port Moresby, and took a public bus (PMV) to the end of the road, and started trudging up the Kokoda Trail, the scene of a running battle between Japanese and Australian troops in late 1942.  The Kokoda trail winds up and down, crossing several mountain ridges and deep ravines, before finally crossing the Owen Stanley Ranges and emerging onto the lowlands to the north at Kokoda.

Assistance from Landowners
It took him two days to reach Naduri, a small village, in the middle of the Kokoda Trail near Lake Myola (a grassed depressed plain) at 8,000'.  The Naduri landowners claim ownership of a portion of the Mt. Kenevi lands.
There, Wilkie met up with several of the landowners, who were willing to take him up Mt. Kenevi, to look at the plane wrecks that they knew about.  The expanded team (now eight men and one woman - a cook) was composed of mostly of  young men eager to explore the mountain, and to do something a bit different from their normal village life.  Those people are more used to the mountain life than Wilkie.  Wilkie had boots and a light jacket, but the rest of the team had only their shirts, shorts and bare feet.  They coped well.  Wilkie suffered.

One of the landowners had been with the 1964 expedition and retained some memories of the approximate locations of the wrecks found on that trip.  Normally, Mt. Kenevi (and similar peaks in the Owen Stanley Ranges) are not regularly visited except by occasional by hunters or travelers, exploring a different route for novelty value.

Lake Myola
Lake Myola requires some warm covering at night, due to the cold conditions, but Wilkie and the others had no blankets.  As a result, bedding is made of fern and leaves to sleep in.  This along with a healthy fire and a light tarpaulin serves to keep some of the bad weather at bay.

P-39 Wreckage
The ascent took them across Lake Myola, when Wilkie photographed the wreckage of a P-39 from the 8th Fighter Group. 

P-40 Wreckage
After two more days of travel, the patrol reached 10,500' to a point near where one plane was known vaguely to be.  No one however had seen this plane, and it took 2 days of searching in different directions from a base camp before the plane was finally located.  It was a P-40, an early model, with “U.S. ARMY” painted on the wing. This altitude was much colder, but there was no extra clothing available, so it become much harder to keep warm.  Mountain leeches also become a problem as well, especially for Wilkie.

B-25 Wreckage
The next plane was located after a further two days search, at a higher altitude but on this occasion this wreck had been earlier reported.  It was a badly broken B-25D 41-30532 in damp moss forest at 10,500’ Human remains were located here.

Cassowary Hunt
At the end of this wreck hunting expedition; the bulk of the party returned to Naduri village, taking a further 2 days of travel.  However, a small party remained on Mt. Kenevi to go cassowary hunting around the upper slopes of Mt. Kenevi. A cassowary is a large flightless bird similar to an Emu or Ostrich.  They are aggressive birds and can be a major challenge to hunters. Two further wrecks were located by these hunters; one which had been found earlier, the second discovered for the first time, on the NE slopes of the mountain.  This party traveled light, gathering water where ever possible.  Food for hunters and solo travelers is normally a large cold, cooked kaukau (sweet potato) per day with the usual bed of leaves and fern and a fire for warmth at night.

More Discoveries Await
At this time there is still the Anson wreck to relocate, plus probably other unknown aircraft. Wilkie came back to Port Moresby complaining about the extreme cold, lack of water at the higher altitudes and the leaches which, he found were very persistent.  He was pleased with his efforts, and in due course, the airmen of at least one aircraft will find their way home, and finish their journey, begun in the early 1940s. The survey work is not however, yet finished; and Wilkie has gone back again to photograph these newly located planes, and possibly others as well; if they can be found. For this second patrol, his equipment has been increased to include a sleeping bag and a light tent; the high cut boots will have to wait for another occasion

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