KOKODA ADVENTURE 2015 PART 2: THE TREK*

Monday, 9 November 2015, By Jo Hurst

THE TREK

We set off a group of 6 excited and a little nervous adventurers. Unfortunately Carl had to cancel at the last minute due to a stress fracture in his leg but he was there to wave us off at the airport.

We arrived in Port Moresby and after a night in the hotel, meeting our other trekking buddies and being introduced to our fearless leader Laurie we were ready to meet our new best friends - our Personal Carriers.

Now our amazing team of 23 porters lead us one step at a time through 8 days of incredible hills, valleys, over rivers, through swamplands and along open grassy hillsides. They pointed out spectacular views, hidden munitions dumps and were there to protect us 24/7 and make sure we all ended what we started.

Our day started with a blaring tune from our trek leader - something appropriate to get us up and out of bed quickly- The Proclaimers 500 Miles is just one example. Once awake we changed into our damp clothes from the day before and packed our sleeping bags, mats and other non essential items into the bag our porters would carry for us for the day. We then made sure our day pack had plenty of water - up to 3 litres, snacks, rain jacket, first aid, camera and other junk we thought we may need.

Off to breakfast prepared by the porters, they got a wake up call at 3.30 to ensure water was fetched and on the fire ready for our tea. The menu included weetbix, museli or as a treat warm damper with jam.

We then were ready for a team stretch and a warcry from the boys and we were off "Zoom Zoom"

RULE 1: don't look up

RULE 2: concentrate

RULE 3: Be happy and keep smiling

We walked and walked and walked. Seriously relentless hills some days with heat from the sun causing sunburn followed by the cool shade of the jungle canopy we went from 30+ degrees down to a cool 5 degrees one night when high in the mountain range. Always humid, always damp.

A snack stop along the way was an opportunity to share our energy dense muesli bars with our porters. We had prepped our snacks carefully to provide us with a variety of options to remind us of home. Things we never would usually eat were the best as we were walking around 8 hours a day so nutella, dried fruit and lollies were a treat we could use throughout the day.

Lunch along the track or in a beautiful village was SAO biscuits with cheese, tuna, vegemite, peanut butter and a cuppa washed it down. Sometimes 2 minute noodles were prepared and they were delicious. When you're hungry, tired, overwhelmed emotionally and ready to pack it in, its amazing the spirit you summon from the diggers who fought along the track. Knowing they often hadn't eaten for days, were sick from unclean water or injured we were the lucky ones.

We would continue for another few hours in the afternoon often coming into camp around 4pm where soup was ready and our tents miraculously appeared. Time to refresh in a waterhole or under the bush shower and deliver some toys to the local kids, buy fresh fruit or a souvenir from the handicraft stall. Dinner was served around 6pm and was always delicious, plentiful and satisfying. After dinner we spent time reflecting on our day and listening to the stories from history that brought the track to life. AS there was no electricity we generally were in bed around 8.30 and lights out around 930 unless some bear snored and then sleep was unattainable. Of course the snorers got the best night's sleep and denied it was them.

The most amazing and interactive history lesson was exposed to us over the 8 days. From listening to first hand recounts of battles to moving memorial ceremonies that would make a grown man cry we were often overcome with the solemnity of the moment. Walking in silence was one way of capturing the essence of the track. Imaging the soldiers and their Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels carrying supplies and injured soldiers from village to village across rocky river crossings or bridges made from felled trees and rickety timbers we experienced it all. Fortunately for us the dry season had been kind and the muddy sections were quite tame our boots were often covered in a layer of mud but not so much caked in.

Our porters were there for our personal protection and support - a responsibility they took on with much pride and professionalism. When we slipped they apologised for not anticipating our clumsiness and catching us. It was a relationship based on trust, respect and honour. We had to leave ourselves in their capable hands as were completely out of our personal comfort zone - something we were not used to. Each porter had a job to do and together they formed a formidable team supporting each other, assisting and teaching the younger members the finer skills of porterage. Quite like the Vision teams we have created to support our community of clients and the rookies coming through our mentor program; everyone helping each other to deliver a result.

At the end of the trek we crossed the line together with our porters and we hugged them like family. The relationships we had developed with each other and the bond that had grown between us all was evident for the next hours as we spent the last hours together sharing our belongings, receiving and giving gifts and saying goodbye at the Kokoda airfield. Many tears were shed as the adventure came to a close. Leaving our brothers knowing we probably would never see them again as they ventured happily back to the village of BUNA to fish, tend their gardens and look after family until their next trek calls them to Port Moresby again made us feel a sense of gratitude for helping us through an incredible experience.

*Disclaimer: Individual results vary based on agreed goals. Click here for details.

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