I’ve had a chance to reflect on my experience of ‘The Track’, through so many people asking me “How was it?” and i’m sure that as the weeks go on other ideas will surface. For now though here it is:
When I first contemplated ‘doing Kokoda’ it was more in the context of completing a physically demanding challenge. I had heard of others who had completed the journey and they all said how hard it was so I looked upon the trek as mostly physical. Certainly, the training we did seemed to reinforce that idea. However, having read a couple of books – The Coast Watchers and Peter Fitzsimmons “Kokoda”, I became aware that there was a deeper dimension – that of remembering the Australians who had been on the Track in 1942/3. Before I left for PNG I drew up a timeline of the significant battles and movements that occurred and had them laminated so that I could remind myself of what happend at the various ‘significant sites’ and on the ‘relevant dates’ that coincided with our Trek.
I think now that walking the Track as we did, with our daily briefings, personal reflections and our memorial services, made it a type of pilgrimmage. Because of this, walking the Track, for me now, is no longer just a physical challenge [as hard as it was], but will always be a journey of respect and remembrance of the young (and not so young) men who fought, lived and died there.
Walking the Track also gave me plenty of time to think and over several days I really thought about what I could take away from my experiences that I might share with my kids and grandkids – life lessons, if you will. At night I jotted these reflections down in my journal so that I would remember them, and it is my intention to write them up, fill them out and when the time is right pass them on.
Lastly, I came away with the conviction that Australia needs to recognise the Kokoda Campaign, just as we do the Landing at and Battle of Anzac Cove that we celebrate on April 25th. It also occured to me that we, as a now large group of Trekkers over 9 years, could be a significant voice in establishing a yearly memorial. What form that might take, and what significant others we might recruit from the Australian community, who have also ‘done the Track’, are only vague ideas as yet. To do nothing, though, is to suggest that what happended on the Track in 42/3 is not really relevant to us as Austalians. “Lest we Forget.”
I just had a call from Pauline, who is relaxing with a coffee at the Gateway Motel in Port Moresby. This morning, Chris Adey flew out, Pauline went to the airport to collect Peter’s bag, which didn’t arrive with him on Tuesday, and Lyall met up with some local friends before heading home.
As for the K12s heading to the Beaches: one of the guides Pauline spoke to in PoM said he thinks they’re still stuck in Kokoda, but Pauline’s friend Cecily, in Kokoda, thinks they’ve left Kokoda – so who knows?! Hopefully, they’re at or en route to the Beaches. At this stage they’ll probably only visit Buna, as they then need to be back at Popondetta by about 7am tomorrow to get their flight back to PoM.
This afternoon, Brian Schumacher will arrive in Port Moresby, and he and Pauline will spend the afternoon touring around PoM with a guide. They (and Peter’s bag) will then fly to Popondetta tomorrow morning to meet the rest of the group and distribute additional Leukoplast tape, fungal cream and video camera memory cards (which Brian kindly packed last night) to the back-to-back trekkers and – perhaps as importantly – supplies of cheese, Vegemite and mayonnaise to Cecily (essential items the villagers cannot buy in Kokoda!).
Pauline reports that it was hot and sunny in Kokoda yesterday – hopefully that means the Retreat trek will be a bit less wet than the Tribute trek. The Tribute trekkers’ spirits were given a real boost by the arrival of Alice, Ben, Zorana, Paul and Peter yesterday, with their bountiful energy and enthusiasm. Ben was taking lots of photos and Alice took over drug duties (making sure everyone was taking their anti-malaria medication etc.), in between general excited bouncing around the campsite.
We may not hear from the group tonight due to a lack of battery and reception, but whether they’re at Buna or Kokoda I understand that they’re enjoying the break before flying home or commencing the walk back over the Track to Ower’s Corner.
Pauline, Alice, Zorana, Paul, Ben and Peter flew from Port Moresby to Kokoda mid-morning today. All but Pauline have now gone to join the Tribute trekkers to head to the Northern Beaches, except Chris Adey and Lyall who have flown back to Port Moresby with Pauline. Those three are not going to the Beaches – Chris and Lyall will, I believe, return home in the next few days (please note this is not due to injury or illness; this was the plan all along), while Pauline hopes to visit some people and places in and around Port Moresby before joining the rest of the Retreat trekkers at Kokoda on Friday, along with Brian Schumacher who leaves Adelaide tomorrow.
Confused? Yeah me too!
Bernie called at 6.20pm on Wednesday. After 7 hours of walking, the K12s got into camp at Ioribaiwa at about 2pm. They have been making good time due to being efficient in the mornings and having only short breaks.
They went up and over a very soggy, slippery Imita Ridge – there were 10 falls, but no injuries. Corina led the way down Imita and, when they reached the spot where Corina last year broke her leg, they had a nice break (pardon the pun) and had a bit of a ceremony to mark the spot…which they’ve named Fibula Ridge. Corina is quite the celebrity, as it turns out. Many of the trekkers they’ve passed/met on the Track have heard stories of Corina’s courageous K11 effort and have been happily surprised to meet her on the Track this year. One of them even interviewed her on their camera – sounds like she’s on her way to becoming the next Mr Bean.
There are lots of people on the Track, and tonight the K12s are one of three groups at the campsite – there is another Kokoda Spirit group, and a group from Adelaide with Wayne Enright’s company. There is a good mood and they’re having a nice time chatting with the other groups, but they’re also happy to hear that they will likely have a few nights coming up where they won’t have to share a campsite with any other groups.
They got to experience a lovely Ioribaiwa sunset, and have also been enjoying Chris Adey’s extremely good massages. Not to be outdone by Anne’s hot pink gaiters, Nat has proved to be the new fashionista, rocking back-to-front Skins, much to everyone’s amusement.
On Thursday, the K12s will head up and over Ioribaiwa Ridge, then Maguli Ridge and across the Brown River. They plan to then camp at Aguaro, at the base of ‘the wall’.
They’re appreciating the messages from home, and they all send their best wishes.
If you wish to support:
- Corina’s fundraising efforts you can visit her sponsorship website at: http://www.everydayhero.com.au/corina_poole
- Chris’s fundraising efforts by visiting his sponsorship site at http://www.everydayhero.com.au/chris_adey_4
- Natalie’s fundraising efforts together with husband Brian you can visit their sponsorship website at http://www.everydayhero.com.au/brian_and_natalie_horan
Trekking Kokoda was never on my bucket list. Everest Base Camp was, and I did that for Centacare in 2006. However when I heard that 2012 was to be Bernie’s and Centacare’s last it was now or never. We (my wife, Jo and I) thought we could raise the funds – we had good results from quiz Nights last time.
What is different this time is the training and the numbers. Only 4 went to Everest – to have groups of 30 or more out on a Saturday is a bit mind blowing. In addition – I don’t remember doing many training walks for Everest (could be just memory loss or I’ve blocked them out) – but the extent and intensity of the Saturday walks this time has been a real eye-opener.
What has made the lead up to the Trek more relevant was Bernie’s insistence on reading about the fighting and the ordeal’s soldiers from both sides went through in ’42, something I had never done, I’m sorry to admit. Walking in their footsteps, trying to get some insight, will make the Trek more significant. I’ve also been fortunate enough to have had patients who were in New Guinea at this time and I’ve been able to talk with them about their experiences. So walking Kokoda means more now than it did at the start of the year.
You can support Chris’s fundraising efforts by visiting his sponsorship site at http://www.everydayhero.com.au/chris_adey_4