Kokoda 2017

After almost a year of personal training and a 12-week extensive training program, myself and 18 other students from years 9 to 12, Mr Brown, Mr Bushell and Ms Bishop left early on 2 July to undertake the Kokoda trek of 8 days, 96 kilometres, much of which was mud. It was a challenge I’ll never forget.

Our first day walking, while only a short one, was quite challenging. After waking up at 2:00am, and after two flights, we we re all tired and exhausted. There was no sleeping on the plane. We were all just so eager, yet so nervous to get there. We finally arrived at camp 2 hours after it became dark. For those who thought Day 1 was challenging, Day 2 was much harder. A full day’s walking with our packs weighing up to 22 kilos in the 32-degree heat, to say it was challenging was putting it nicely. It was by Day 3 when we became used to the humidity, but that was the day of the nine false peaks which was by far one of the most challenging, at least for me. It would be safe to say that without the healthy discussions amongst the group, the positivity and the constant motivation, we would never have finished the day in such high spirits.

We definitely earned the break that was Day 4. Half a day of walking through a swamp, mud was our only issue, and the wall climb. We arrived at camp in Menari, relaxed in the Brown River and used what must’ve been the best toilet on the track. What a view it had! After receiving a food drop by airplane, we were surprised by the ‘Michelin Star’ dinner that was KFC, Kokoda Fried Chicken. Day five was long. The highlight for me was the memorial service, where we paid our respects to the soldiers who died during the
battle of Brigade Hill. The top of Brigade Hill marked the approximate halfway point for our trek. We knew that after we conquered what was Day 6, Mt Bellamy, it was going to be lots of downhill trekking. That’s when we started ‘snaking’. Starting off as a joke, snaking soon turned into a competitive game where we’d find what we’d consider a golden opportunity to overtake as many people on the long, narrow track as possible. It was also on day 6 when we reinforced the ‘rules’ of Kokoda, the first one being “don’t look up.”

On the afternoon of Day 7, we arrived at the Isurava battlefield memorial where we conveniently camped there the night. Having a dawn service there the following morning was emotional and a highlight of the trip. The service was an opportunity to reflect on our past 7 days of walking, reinforcing why we chose to do the trek and of course paying our respects to the soldiers who died fighting for Australia. We heard the stories of Bruce Kingsbury, Butch Bisset, and Charlie McCallum and their qualities of heroism. They each represented the very best in courage, endurance, mateship and sacrifice. We also said thank you to the PNG porters who had been walking with us for the past 7 days, for not only the work they had done for us but also for what their ancestors did for our country. If it wasn’t for the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels, who knows where we would be today. We then started our final day walking before finally arriving in Kokoda where we had spent our last night with the boys, thanking them again for the experience and also for our lasting memories.

The Kokoda trek was one of the best experiences of my life, something I will cherish and remember forever. I highly recommend this for all students at Casey Grammar School.

Ben H. - Year 11