The Kokoda Trail
Posted: Mar 04 2016
I know why they call it the bloody Kokoda Trail.
To have followed in the footsteps of the brave young men that walked into the unknown of the Owen Stanley Range some 73 years ago is something that I struggle to describe. Many words come to mind, but not one can capture the physical, mental and spiritual journey I took on the Kokoda Trail last August.
The story of Kokoda has been something very special to me since my father completed the trek 10 years ago. His experiences cemented themselves in my memory and remained an inspiration to one day pay my respects. I cannot be more thankful to Penrith RSL for giving me this opportunity. To represent the Club as part of the Kokoda Youth Leadership Program for club employees was an honour and has opened my eyes to more than I could have imagined. As a bonus I got to meet 13 strong, inspirational people from clubs all over the state that I will have an everlasting bond with thanks to this journey. Not to mention Dave Sherry from Adventure Kokoda, a humble man from Horsham that just lives and breathes the story of Kokoda. He led us day by day with a great team of Papuan men, who are born and raised from villages along the trail. I have a great admiration for these men; they simply did everything in their power to make our experience a safe one. They were our very own ‘Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels’, I will never forget them as they contributed to what is the greatest experience of my life so far.
Thinking back to the morning I arrived in Port Moresby... I was fuelled by adrenaline for what I had been wanting to do for some time. Travelling into the highlands and seeing the landscape and people was enough to know I was in for something special. Little did I know how much the next 10 days would impact me, as I took on some of the toughest terrain in the world.
There were many standout moments for me along the trail. Walking through the memorial arch at Owers Corner gave me a feeling like no other. The adventure had begun, there was no turning back and we were instantly given a taste of what was to come. Each day was filled with tough climbs (sometimes taking 4 hours to conquer) and strategic downhills in single file. We urged each other through every step. The terrain was like nothing else, tree roots literally made up sections of the trail and steps at times were at least half a metre up or down. The scenery was incredible, it changed each day from the jungle to swamps, then rainforests and high flowing creeks. It is hard to imagine the carnage that took place along the trail. Every day we traced the steps of our courageous Diggers and were reminded of the battles and history that surrounded us. Having Dave read us poems and stories at significant times and places is something I will cherish forever. He spoke with such passion, it was impossible to hold back tears, I get shivers just thinking about it. Moments such as Brigade Hill and Isurava will be unforgettable; to be part of a dawn service and read the Ode of Remembrance was an honour. To stumble across ammunition, artillery, and defensive positions along the way gave us all an incredible insight in to the events that unfolded on the rain drenched trail in 1942.
There is only so much I can say, but I encourage anyone to take on the challenge of the Kokoda Trail if it has crossed your mind. It challenges you on so many levels, but the reward is priceless. I know a lot more about myself now and I have a new look on life. The going wasn’t as tough for my group as it was for those young men in WWII, but we all found our own pieces of Courage, Endurance, Sacrifice and Mateship.