ITINERARY FOR TOUR EM29 - WALK THE BULLDOG TRACK
9 nights package (1 night Port Moresby, 7 nights expedition, 1 night Bulolo)

Private group expeditions only - minimum 12 walkers
(or equivalent pricing for smaller groups)

INTRODUCTION

The Bulldog Track supply line
The Bulldog Track was an important supply line and evacuation route for Australian military forces based at Wau in 1942. Even though there was an operational airfield at Wau, there was an acute shortage of transport aircraft in Papua at that time. Ammunition and food supplies were transported from Port Moresby to Kukipi by coastal vessel, then taken up the Lakekamu River by outboard canoes to Bulldog, an abandoned gold mining camp. From Bulldog, supplies were carried by native porters along a narrow foot track through jungle swamps, up rocky river gorges and over the steep mountain ridges to Winima village near Wau. Sick and wounded soldiers were carried back the other way to Bulldog for eventual evacuation to Port Moresby. Conditions on the Bulldog Track were just as difficult as on the more famous Kokoda Track some 200km to the south east.
You can read war veteran Peter Ryan's account of the Bulldog Track supply line on The Australian newspaper's website http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0, 22653320-31477,00.html?from=public_rss
or in scanned format here.

The 1943 Bulldog Road
In 1943 when Wau was back in Australian hands, army engineers built a vehicular road along the Bulldog-to-Wau route, approaching Wau via Edie Creek instead of Winima. The ravages of flooding and landslides frequently made the road impassable and after the war the Bulldog Road, as the vehicular route was called, was conceded to the jungle and no longer maintained. Many sections of the vehicular road have now been obliterated but the original route from Bulldog to Winima is still used by locals.
Trekking along the 1943 vehicular road diversion via Edie Creek is no longer possible because it now passes through a gold mining lease area. The mining company operating there does not permit access to hikers for safety reasons due to blasting, excavation works etc. One of the last trekkers to walk the Edie Creek route before it was closed off was Richard Stanaway who walked west to east with local guides in 2001. See his trip notes at http://richard.stanaway.net/bulldog.htm
You can read more about the building of the vehicular Bulldog Road at http://www.absoluteastronomy.com/topics/Bulldog_track
See also these books, which may be available in some Australian public libraries:
1. Reinhold, W J. "The Bulldog-Wau Road" (Brisbane, Queensland University Press, 1946). The author was the engineer in charge of building the road.
2. Freeman, Colin. 1975. "Bulldog-Wau Road Sapper"
3. Freeman, Colin. "Wau to Bulldog: Across the Roof of Papua New Guinea". An illustrated account of an Australian Army Patrol over an old military road built by Australian Army Engineers across New Guinea during WW2. Descriptions of History and Geography are provided. 110 pages paperback ISBN 1-4251-7419-1;available from http://www.trafford.com/08-0374 US$33.00, C$33.00, EUR22.54, £17.04

The Bulldog Track today
Nowadays it takes about a week to walk the track from Bulldog through to Winima, following the original supply route. Three days out of seven are relatively easy walking along surviving sectors of the 1943 Bulldog Road and the other four days are a more challenging negotiation of narrow foot-tracks through thick jungle and over steep ridges. Rusting road construction equipment and other WW2 relics are encountered as you walk along, especially at the Bulldog end.The first half of the walk going southwest-to-northeast ascends the Eloa River valley for four days as far as Yanina village, mostly following the 1943 vehicular road which is largely intact, although derelict, along this stretch. There are many river crossings over crudely fashioned cane suspension bridges and slippery log bridges which are rebuilt by locals every year after the wet season floods (December to March) wash everything away. The 1943 road bridges are long gone. At Yanina the 1943 vehicular road diverges north to Edie Creek while the original foot-track leaves the Eloa River and traverses a number of steep mountain ridges for two days ridge-hopping (peaking at 2600m) to Kudjeru village. The last day of walking descends over grassy hillsides following the Upper Bulolo River valley down to Winima. From Winima there is an all-weather road connection to Wau.


Click here to see a Google Earth image of the Bulldog Track today

Click here to see a map of our Bulldog Track trekking route - 200Kb (opens in a new window)
Click here for a printable version of the trekking route map - 800Kb


Bulldog vs Kokoda
Walking time for both the Bulldog Track and Kokoda Track is roughly the same at 7 days.
However one main difference between the two tracks is that only the Kokoda Track is said to have almost the same degree of walking difficulty in either direction. The Kokoda Track has roughly the same number of climbs and descents whether you walk north to south or south to north. On the other hand the Bulldog Track is definitely easier to trek from northeast to southwest (ie from Winima down to Bulldog) because it is a net descent from 2000 metres at Winima down to 80 metres at Bulldog.
WW2 veteran Peter Ryan who walked both the Kokoda Track and the Bulldog Track in 1942 describes the Bulldog Track as being the tougher of the two, though the walking conditions at that time – prior to the construction of the vehicular road bench in 1943 - were undoubtedly more challenging than today. Our senior Kokoda trekking guide Philip Arari who has reconnoitred the Bulldog Track for next year's trekking program reckons the Bulldog Track is easier to walk than Kokoda – even in the uphill direction from Bulldog to Winima – because there are quite long remnants of the levelled 1943 vehicular road to follow, offering a relatively smooth walking surface and more consistent gradients for climbs and descents, unlike the Kokoda Track where one expends considerable energy stumbling over tree roots and scrambling up and down every little undulation in the terrain. Even the spurs between Yanina and Kudjeru typically take less time and effort to mount than ridges encountered daily along the Kokoda Track.

Our guides also opine that the Bulldog Track (in either direction) gives trekkers more time to ‘get their legs in’ before tackling the most difficult section between Yanina and Kudjeru. Walking out from Bulldog you get several days of steady gradients along the old 1943 road before you have to tackle any really steep spurs. Starting from the Winima end, you get a full day of hiking through gentle rolling hills before you come up against more serious gradients at Kudjeru. Compare this with walking the Kokoda Track where you get thrown in at the deep end right from the first day whether you start at Owers Corner with the steep descent to Goldie River immediately followed by that real huff and puff up the Golden Stairs, or that killer first day climb from Kokoda to Isurava if you start from the north.Whichever way you walk, the Bulldog Track is just as scenic as the Kokoda Track - moreso, perhaps, because you can see all the way to the coast a lot of the time - and features a more varied and visible range of plants, birds and small mammals like bandicoots. Interactions with local village people are also more candid along this route as there are few visitors traversing the Bulldog Track and the people are not numbed by tourism. Along the Bulldog Track villagers still stop, stare and greet occasional visitors with amazement whereas locals along the Kokoda Track no longer bat an eyelid at groups of up to 100 people hiking past their window. That said, please take note that walking the Bulldog Track is significantly riskier than trekking Kokoda, due to the more isolated terrain, the scarcity of airstrips for medevac flights, and the lack of communication facilities – see trip notes at the bottom of this itinerary.

Our Bulldog Track expeditions
Ecotourism Melanesia operates our Bulldog Track trekking expeditions “the hard way”, uphill from Bulldog to Winima, because
(i) trekking in this direction more accurately emulates the WW2 supply line, ie this is the direction in which supplies were carried through to Kanga Force in Wau
(ii) there is demand from trekkers who have already “killed” the Kokoda Track for another challenging expedition as a follow-up trip so we don’t want it to be too easy
(iii) it is cheaper and more practical for us to mount expeditions from our operations base in Port Moresby rather than from Wau which is just a small town with few facilities. Due to low demand for this lesser-known trekking route we are unable to offer sign-up “open treks” for the Bulldog Track and we are only taking bookings for private or travel agent groups.
The logistics of mounting expeditions in such a rugged and isolated area are far more complex than for the Kokoda Track (which now has quite well developed facilities) and we require larger group sizes to make treks along the Bulldog Track economical to operate. Expeditions for private groups require a minimum of 12 trekkers.

To see prices, trip notes and detailed list of inclusions, click here to download the itinerary for EM29 in Acrobat (PDF) format (opens in a new window).


Stilt village, Port Moresby harbour



Bomana War Cemetery

GENERIC ITINERARY

DAY 1: ARRIVE PORT MORESBY

Arrive in Port Moresby on one of the scheduled flights from Cairns, Brisbane or Sydney.

On arrival at Port Moresby international airport you will be met by staff from Ecotourism Melanesia and we will transfer you to your hotel for check-in. After allowing you some time to freshen up, our staff will take you on a brief familiarisation tour of the city, pointing out major landmarks and points of interest relevant to Port Moresby’s wartime history, and a visit to the Bomana War Cemetery and the Schwimmer Drome war relics display if time allows.
Dinner will be at the hotel and after dinner there will be a 1-hour slide show and briefing about the Bulldog Track and the trek you are just about to undertake, with time for questions.

Overnight hotel, Port Moresby (room only, twin share – please pay cash for all drinks and extras and only charge your breakfast to your room account).



Hiritano Highway from Port Moresby to Terapo Bridge



Up the Lakekamu River by "banana boat"



Urulau family hamlet on the Lakekamu River



Welcome committee at Urulau



Dinner at Urulau village guest house

DAY 2: PORT MORESBY TO TERAPO BRIDGE AND URULAU VILLAGE
Rise and shine at around 7.00am this morning. Breakfast is included in your tour package and you can either order a room service breakfast or have breakfast in the restaurant.
At 8.00am check out of your hotel room and arrange with the reception to store any baggage that you will not be taking with you on the trek.
At 8.30am we will pick you up at the hotel together with your trek baggage and commence the 3-hour road journey to Terapo Bridge. If you arrived too late yesterday to visit Bomana War Cemetery we will stop there this morning for a quick visit en route to Terapo Bridge.
We travel by small bus or open-sided passenger truck with bench seats known locally as a PMV. Our trekking supplies accompany us in a support vehicle. The road is sealed for most the journey with just a few rough patches. We pass first through the Central Province which is fairly dry and dusty. The last township of Bereina marks the last Central Province habitation before we cross the unmarked border into Gulf Province, where the parched light scrub typical of Central Province gives way to the green rainforest and swamplands of the Gulf country. There will be a couple of behind-a-tree toilet stops along the way, and a packed lunch to eat either on the road or in the boat, whenever you feel hungry.
We aim to arrive at Terapo Bridge about midday. Actually there are two Terapo bridges: the first one we come to straddles the Lakekamu River and the second bridge only 200 metres up the road crosses the Tauri Tiver. Downstream from the bridges, the two rivers come within 100m of intersecting but never actually meet before they empty into separate estuaries on the Papuan Gulf about 1km downstream from the bridges. The Lakekamu mouth is adjacent to Kukipi village where supplies were transferred from coastal ships to native canoes in 1942 for onward shipment up the Bulldog Track.
There is also a narrow canal joining the two rivers a short distance downstream from the bridges, which makes the two river systems very useful for moving passengers and freight between the villages in this area using both paddle canoes and small motor boats.
At the first Terapo Bridge, tethered in the fast-flowing Lakekamu River, is our small fleet of motorised fibreglass dinghies known locally as “banana boats”. Also waiting for us here are some of our porters who will carry backpacks of supplies and gear once we start walking.
We transfer our bodies and supplies into the boats, don life jackets and the 40hp outboards commence our push upstream against the 10-knot current. The river banks pass slowly as we make headway, giving time to enjoy the lush virgin jungle with its exotic bird life and the occasional small crocodile sunning itself on the mudflats of the inside bends.
Three hours upstream from the bridge is the small village of Urulau, where we tie up our boats for the night in a quiet tributary creek. Urulau is a family hamlet of less than 50 people living off mainly fish and sago.
Here we will stay overnight, sleeping in large open-sided stilt huts built specifically for visitors, with plenty of floor space for setting up our tents inside the hut, this being the best way to sleep soundly without being bitten by mosquitoes. For dinner this evening our hosts will prepare a traditional “mumu” which is food wrapped in leaves and cooked under hot stones. Foods will include fish and prawns caught in the river, and local vegetables like sweet potato and stewed bananas.

Overnight Urulau Village, Lakekamu River.



Boating up the Lakekamu River



Locals fishing on the Lakekamu River



Walking from Niukeva to Avi Avi River

DAY 3: URULAU TO NIUKEVA AND AVI AVI RIVER
After a camp breakfast we board our boats again and get back on the river. An hour upstream the Lakekamu River divides into two tributaries, the Kunimaipa River and the Tiveri River. We take the left fork up the Tiveri River, and another hour upstream we come to the old abandoned Bulldog mining camp, located at the confluence of the Tiveri and Avi Avi (Eloa) Rivers.
We will stop here for a look around and see where the old gold mine operated prior to WW2. There are equipment relics, and the now overgrown airstrip. Although the mining camp itself is abandoned there is still a hamlet of local people living here.
We will not start walking from Bulldog because the first section of the original track following the west branch of the Avi Avi River from Bulldog through the lowland swamps to the foot hills was obliterated by flooding many years ago and these days the walking track now starts from Niukeva village about 30 minutes by motor boat up the Tiveri River from Bulldog.
So after another jaunt upstream we come to the village of Niukeva which is also the navigable limit of the Tiveri River. Here we will leave our boats and continue on foot. Some additional porters will be waiting for us at Niukeva. We will leave in the boats any equipment that we will not be carrying with us and the boats will return to Terapo.
From Niukeva we hike along an overgrown jungle path, east towards the Avi Avi River.
We skirt the higher ground to the north that ascends to the Owen Stanley Range. We follow mainly flat land but the walking is challenging due to marshy terrain which may be quite boggy after rain. There will be mosquitoes, leeches and possibly snakes along this stretch but don’t worry we won’t be charging you extra for this excitement.
After two hours walking and several creek crossings we arrive at the west branch of the Avi Avi River at a point where the 1943 Bulldog Road originally followed the Avi Avi River south to Bulldog itself. This lowland section of the road has been wiped out and is now swamp.
At the junction of the Niukeva jungle path and the remnants of the old Bulldog Track, we set up camp for the night.
Overnight Avi Avi riverside camp.

Fording the Avi Avi River in the dry season



Yenawe village at Tekadu airstrip

DAY 4: AVI AVI RIVER TO TEKADU AIRSTRIP
First task today is to cross the fast-flowing Avi Avi River. From time to time the locals build log bridges or vine suspension bridges over this river and every wet season they are washed away. How we cross today will depend if there is any bridge in place. If not, and the water level is less than chest deep, we will attempt to wade through with guide ropes. If the water is too deep or the current too strong, we either build a raft or beat a path through the jungle along the riverbank to a better location for crossing.
After crossing, another hour of walking brings us to the confluence of the west and east branches of the Avi Avi River. Upstream from here it is called the Eloa River. Here also the track forks and a separate track heads south east to the small gold mining township of Kakoro.
The Bulldog Track then follows the southern (eastern) bank of the river, up the river gorge towards Tekadu. The ground rises steeply on either side of the river, but our ascent is gradual from just 80 metres above sea level at the Avi Avi River camp site (despite being so far inland) to about 200 metres at Tekadu airstrip. The distance looks short on the map but there are multiple creek and river crossings that will slow us down.
Tonight we overnight at Yenawe village, a small hamlet next to the Tekadu airstrip. Again we pitch our tents in open visitor huts.
Overnight village hut, Yenawe village, Tekadu airstrip (camp food)

Dodgy bridge over Eloa River, near Anandea



Family hamlet, Anandea village

DAY 5: TEKADU AIRSTRIP TO ANANDEA VILLAGE
About 6 hours walking today, largely following the 1943 Bulldog road along its path up the Eloa River gorge, slipped in places but largely intact. The road makes a steady climb, evened out by the original 1943 road bench.
Overnight village hut, Anandea village (camp food)
 



Even more dodgy bridge, near Yanina



Family hamlet, Yanina village

DAY 6: ANANDEA VILLAGE TO YANINA VILLAGE
Another steady climb today, similar terrain to yesterday following the bench cutting of the 1943 road, wide and clear most of the way. There are several crossings of the Eloa River by cane or log bridges – the 1943 vehicular bridges are long washed away by floods of yesteryear, though you may spot remnants. Don’t forget to stop and look behind you from time to time as there are beautiful views of the surrounding ridges. Walking time approximately 6 hours. At Yanina we undertake a change of porters. Fresh porters from villages along the northern half of the Bulldog Track are waiting for us here at Yanina. Porters from Niukeva will walk back home tomorrow.Overnight village hut, Yanina village (camp food)

WW2 fuel drum rusting in the jungle



Bubbling Brook


DAY 7: YANINA VILLAGE TO BUBBLING BROOK CAMP SITE
We say goodbye to our Niukeva porters and continue walking with fresh porters. From Yanina the 1943 road diverges to the north and the rest of the way along the original supply route to Winima is foot-track only. The going is much harder now. The track climbs out of the Eloa River gorge and traverses several spurs with steep climbs and descents. (This is why the 1943 engineers chose a longer but less undulating route via Edie Creek). While locals walking at a fast pace can make it from Yanina through to Kudjeru in 10 hours, we mere mortals will take an overnight in the middle and break it into two walking days. We camp tonight at a pleasant spot where an underground spring bubbles to the surface. Our guides have dubbed it Bubbling Brook.
Overnight Bubbling Brook camp site (camp food)
 

A lady of the Kuku Kuku tribe, Kudjeru village

DAY 8: BUBBLING BROOK CAMP SITE TO KUDJERU VILLAGE
Another day of serious hiking with some steep spurs to mount, eventually reaching the source of the Waruwi River which comes up from underground. We follow the river down to Kudjeru village. About 6 hours hiking today, with ample rest stops.
Overnight village hut, Kudjeru village (camp food)

Winima village with ground behind rising towards Kudjeru

DAY 9: KUDJERU VILLAGE TO WINIMA VILLAGE TO BULOLO
Today’s walking is long but relatively easy, about 8 hours of undulating open grasslands passing through several small family hamlets.
We arrive mid-afternoon at Winima village where road transport is waiting for us (30-seater bus, or a lorry with bench seats in the back).
We say farewell to our second cohort of porters here and all our backpacks are loaded on to a support vehicle which will follow the bus.
From Winima it is a one hour drive to Wau town, but there is no decent accommodation available in Wau so we drive on another twenty minutes to Bulolo. This smaller township is closer to the Harmony Gold Mine and boasts both a nice little hotel and a sealed airstrip.
Overnight Pine Lodge, Bulolo (twin share, includes buffet dinner and full breakfast)


Twin Otter charter aircraft (18 seats)

DAY 10: BULOLO TO PORT MORESBY THEN FLY OUT TO AUSTRALIA
After breakfast we transfer to Bulolo airstrip to board our flight to Port Moresby. Same day connecting flights are available to Cairns and Brisbane.


  To see prices, trip notes and detailed list of inclusions, click here to download the itinerary for EM29 in Acrobat (PDF) format (opens in a new window).