With a group of 17 people mainly form Perth, I trekked the Kokoda Track in 2007. The track links the Northern and Southern coast of Papua New Guinea and covers some 96 kilometres of amazing terrain - jungle, mountain streams, traditional villages and the opportunity to see many natural wonders. Many Australians walk the track in memory of loved family members ones who died defending Port Moresby and Australia from and the advancing Japanese armies. Even though I do not have family who fought in New Guinea, this journey was an emotional one for me. In preparation for the trip I had read books such as A Bastard of a Place by Peter Brune, Kokoda by Paul Ham and Kokoda by Peter Fitzsimons. And to get me through the trek, there was lots of training. Jacobs Ladder and the Kokoda Track in King's Park became well worn pathways for me.
Our trek started at Port Moresby - many start at the reverse end, that is from Kokoda. The first day of our trek started out with a visit to the Australian War Cemetery at Port Moresby which is shown here.
While in another blog post, I will further share some of my experiences the following is a short excerpt from a few words written for a Perth magazine.
We had chosen to walk the track over ten days, staying each evening in a tent or in the village guest house. Clothes were washed at the end of each day. Nothing dried completely but with such high humidity, it was not long before I was saturated after starting out each morning. Wisely, I had decided to have a porter who would carry my main pack, leaving me to walk with a day pack. The climbing is relentless and knee bandages helped stop the steep descents making my knees feel like jelly. In contrast our porters were able to move nimbly over the track sometimes with bare feet while we moved slowly with the protection of our expensive trekking boots.
The views in the highlands are amazingly beautiful and I was grateful that inaccessibility had kept development at bay. While there were still many relics of the war along the track it was easy to miss these if I was only focusing on where I would take my next step.
For me walking the Kokoda Track had a sense of pilgrimage as I followed in the footsteps of the Australian soldiers who fought in the difficult terrain. From July 1942 to January 1943 over 2,000 Australians were killed in action and thousands more were either wounded to racked with disease or illness. The memorial at Isurava with four marble pillars inscribed with words dedicated to the Australian soldiers - sacrifice, endurance, courage, mateship - pays homage to these brave young men and gave me the opportunity for reflection and remembrance as I struggled to come to terms with a war fought under such difficult conditions.
Lest we forget.