What an unbelievable 7 days I’ve just experienced.
When you think about the Kokoda Track, vivid images of brave Australian soldiers, steep muddy hills, thick jungle canopies and local Fuzzy Wuzzy aid, spring to mind. Is this though what made last week so amazing? Yes, in part, but for me it was the personal journey that 15 strangers in our group went through that allows me to sit here and smile with pride, optimism and excitement at the future.
We completed the Kokoda Track and we’re all better for it.
I’d like at the same time to acknowledge all of our soldiers who fought so bravely in Papua New Guinea in 1942. Without them, things could be very different and their bravery will never be forgotten.
As you may know, a while ago I noticed that plenty of people on my website were listing the Kokoda Track as an item on theirs lists. Simply wondering if perhaps I could help these guys achieve their goal by organising a trek, I asked if anyone would be interested to join me if I was to arrange some dates. Within days, I had 15 people signed up. This was the beginning.
Months on (after buying backpacks, walking poles, sleeping bags, mosquito repellent, malaria medication, blister repair packs and hydration tablets to name just a few things items from our equipment list), it was whilst cruising over the Coral Sea at 40,000 feet on route to Papua New Guinea that our group met for the first time. United by the fact that we were all strangers on a plane together, the meet and greet was full of excitement and unknown.
Stretching 96km through inhospitable mountainous terrain, the Kokoda Track is a challenge of mental fortitude as much as it is of physical demand. You don’t accidentally find yourself attempting to trek here, you end up here only after much consideration, training and commitment. To even find yourself in a position of attempting this challenge is something to be commended and this point was acknowledged immediately as I addressed our team for the first time officially.
100 Things is a journey born of my individual desire. The journey began as nothing but a solo endeavour to find happiness but over time has naturally attracted the interest of others. We all desire happiness it seems. Being fuelled in itself by human connection, the 15 people of our team represented what would be the first ever event that I’d officially arranged for others. I was excited and, as always, swimming in unfamiliar waters. This was my personal challenge; an experiment of sorts to see if this event could offer those involved the same outcomes as I’ve experienced through my own journey- personal growth.
Only time would tell.
Watching men and women of different ages and backgrounds slowly begin the process of bonding, it was one simple question that ultimately brought us all together as one as the sky turned to night on the eve of our adventure;
“So why is it that you decided to come to Kokoda as part of this group?”
The difference between knowing what someone is doing and why someone is doing is phenomenal. While the former allows us insight into a desire at surface level, the latter allows us to understand the individual from a far deeper level.
It was Russ, one of the more colourful characters of our team, that stood up and shared his story first. Touching on what many others were thinking, it was his desire to break the shackles of an all too comfortable lifestyle that had brought him here. Hilarious, passionate and insightful, Russ continued on for five minutes with a speech that set up the whole trip. He was here to learn about himself and was clearly a bloke with a lot to offer. His catch cry of “I want suck the marrow out of life!” became somewhat of an immediate mantra for us all- like Russ, we wanted to live every minute in the present.
By the time he sat down, we all loved him.
As others shared their story too, it was clear that we each had different reasons for being here and each of these was as valid as the next. Overcoming adversity, soul searching and seeking perspective and clarity were common themes. Interestingly not one person has answered ‘Because I like trekking‘. This journey was one of a mental nature- the muddy hills, steep inclines and feverish jungle seemed like added bonuses. These bonuses were brought to our attention at 6.30am the next morning as we took out first steps from Owers Corners and disappeared under the jungle canopy….
The next 7 days would change us all.
Number 66- Treacherous Trek- Tick!!
100 Things… What’s on your list?