KOKODA ADVENTURE PART 1
Many people have asked why am I doing Kokoda and I don't really have an inspiring answer - I didn't have a grandfather who was there, it wasn't on my bucket list, it's not been something I've strived to do for many years and I don't know too many people who have tackled it and provided me with unwavering commitment. So my answer is "It sounded like a good idea at the time", a few clients put their hand up to do it and I'm a big believer in why not?
This article will be in three stages Stage 1 is the now, the preparation. Stage 2 is the trek itself, Ill be keeping a journal and writing daily and Ill fill you in on the trials, fun and adventure on our return and finally stage 3 will be written a few months later. A reflection of the trip, what we learnt and why I will or will not do it again.
About 12 months ago we had a travel brochure in our Vision PT studio and we were looking at it after a huge Saturday morning group training session, discussing the various adventures available and which ones we would be keen to complete. One thing led to another and all of a sudden we had 8 interested people ready to sign up. One was a travel agent so she investigated the pricing and availability of a tour and we sent out the plea for interested parties. We had our initial meeting to discuss the basics and we had another original team member talk to us about his experience along the track - he had completed it during his time in the Army as a training opportunity. We were all excited and ready to part with our deposit.
Towards the end of 2014 we started planning our training and set aside some dates to be used for long walks. One a month as a supplement to individual training plans. We were committed and we were 11 people on a mission. We read books, listened to diggers retell their stories and looked up all we could about it.
Over the course of 8 weeks we had a number of participants drop out due to moving, work commitments and personal challenges that no one could foresee. Our group of 7 was still solid and happy to get on with it. We listened intently to the wonderful Julie Moon recount her experience along the track and what she learnt from doing it twice. We soaked up every hint, tip and story she had for us and the list she provided for us was comprehensive and stayed in my wallet for the next 6 months while I religiously ticked off my weekly shopping list at Kathmandu.
With our monthly dates set and the calendar ticking over to 2015 it was time to get the boots on, find a day pack and get walking. Our first walk was a good 24 kilometres along Lady Carrington Drive. It was quite easy, flat and just what we needed to wear our boots in. It rained along the track but undaunted we walked on knowing that if it rains in Kokoda there is no choice.
We then decided that was too easy and didn't really imitate what we thought Kokoda would be like so we set our next walk around the stairs and hills of Como. Again it rained and again we walked and walked and walked. This was more of what we thought would be in store for us.... hills and stairs...up and down. Fortunately the breakfast cooked for us by Carl and Shenae that morning was worth the walk in the rain and Im sure it was nothing like the breakfasts we will have along the track.
We also tackled a section of the Great North Walk from Mt Kuringai to Berowra - a section we had completed in the Oxfam Trailwalker the previous year. Although difficult and hilly, it wasn't hard enough or long enough for us. We were obviously getting physically and mentally tougher.
Each walk we went on taught us something new, about ourselves, our equipment and eachother. Each group member had found someone within their friends who had completed Kokoda and we were starting to build a fantastic picture of what it would look like. As a team we started to form great bonds and the trust developed as it would be up to us (and our porters) to help eachother throughout the 8 days.
Our next few walks were without our Elder Carl. Who went in for a quick knee surgery to ensure he would be ok for the journey. His specialist assured him a speedy recovery and we wished him one. We walked through the Royal National Park from Otford to Burning Palms along the ridgeline and into valleys - beautiful views of the south coast. At one stage came upon a nudist hiker - not sure where to look we wished him a good day and giggled like school girls as we headed off in the opposite direction. We read later that we had gone to a nudist beach, we were quite happy it wasn't in the middle of summer and more people weren't making the most of the secluded spot. We enjoyed this walk so much we decided to do it again but this time increasing the difficulty by leaving later in the day and completing the last hour in the dark. Another experience ticked off and more purchases in good working order.
On the Otford track we met a Kokoda trekker who encouraged us to try a very steep descent from Sublime Point into the back streets of Austinmer just south of the National Park. Four of us set off early and soon discovered there were ladders to climb down and stairs to go down and more stairs and more stairs and then we realised all those stairs going down only meant one thing - we had to ascend them one at a time to return to the car. This trip was eventful as we found out that one of our trekkers was afraid of heights - now that's not great at the top of one of eight ladders. Being brave and strong Kate didn't pause too long and made it to the bottom of the ladders all be it with adrenalin pumping through her system and her legs like jelly. Now this walk was only eventful when we stumbled across a tent in a clearing with alot of animal type groaning noises coming from it and the tent moving rhymically we were pretty sure there was something special happening inside so we passed quickly and hoped we hadn't interrupted. Unfortunately on our return some 20 minutes later they were still going - we reflected they must be young and have no kids. We would have laughed all the way to the top but it was so hard we didn't make a sound just breathing and walking was an effort. We enjoyed that walk so much 3 of us returned the following week and to our relief no campers were around.
With 5 weeks to go we have two more walks planned - the sandhills for a tough 90 minutes with boots and full day packs on we surely will look a sight. Our last walk together - hopefully with the full team will be followed by a farewell dinner. We want to have a chance to thank our families friends and partners who know we are crazy but encourage us to take this challenge. We also know they will acknowledge our efforts and wish us well on our adventure.
So on the 23rd July take a moment to think of us as Carl Shenae Dave Nicole Roz Holly and myself as we set off to complete the Kokoda Track and wish us well in your prayers for the next 8 nights until we return to civilisation, a hot shower, clean clothes, an abundance of food and a well deserved drink or two.*Disclaimer: Individual results vary based on agreed goals. Click here for details.