In mid-July, I completed the Kokoda Track. It was one of the most challenging things I have ever done – mentally and physically – but it was also one of the most rewarding achievements I have accomplished.
Over eight days of walking, we covered a total distance of 113km, which included ascending a total altitude of 6.5km (and descending the same amount).
The trip was undertaken with a group of friends with whom I played AFL, along with five of their sons. I have known most of the group for 35 years. We are good mates who have weathered tough times over the years.
Our journey ‘followed in the footsteps of heroes’ – the Australian soldiers who, in the latter part of 1942, withstood attacks from Japanese soldiers determined to secure Papua New Guinea in order to cut off Australian supplies to American ships in the Pacific.
One of our objectives was to understand the challenges that the Australian troops faced, guided by values such as Courage, Endurance, Mateship, and Sacrifice. We were mindful of these values as we battled the oppressive humidity, traversed the jungle, climbed steep paths, dealt with self-doubt and minor injuries, and supported each other when needed. We conducted memorial services at significant battle locations to pay our respects to the fallen soldiers who protected our nation.
However, we also appreciated the absolute beauty and ruggedness of the Owen Stanley Ranges in PNG, where the Track is located, as well as the friendship and assistance from the local porters and villagers we encountered. From steep cliffs to ancient pandanus forests at 2300m above sea level, to raging rivers and vibrant tropical vegetation, the landscape remained pristine and stunning.
The trek held numerous personal highlights for me – from the natural beauty to the immense satisfaction of overcoming adversity, and the deep admiration for our soldiers. The bond with my mates and the memories we created will last forever.