Tour leader Kate Johnson tells us all about their big adventure!

Wow, what a fantastic group of adventurers we had on this trek! I was fortunate enough to meet some of the group on the Sydney training treks and the remainder, who had trained in Melbourne, I met in transit to Moresby.  Most of the members of the group were family and friends: brothers, sisters, daughter, sons, partner, auntie and friends as well as two very interesting representatives of The Reach Foundation who work with 10-18 years olds in school and community settings to improve mental health and well-being.  We bonded instantly and this amazing adventure began with loads of laughs, mateship and teamwork interwoven into every up and down, every river crossing, every meal.

The flight from Moresby to Popondetta then the truck ride to Kokoda introduced our group to this unique and interesting country with its vibrant culture, friendly locals and the adventure that awaited us.

Highlights of our trip were : Reliving the battle at Isurava and the bravery of the 39th Battalion and their relief as the reinforcing troops of the 2/14th arrived. The magnificence of Isurava Memorial with its astounding views down to The Yodda Valley was memorable; Being part of an amazing Memorial Service at Brigade Hill where we heard the proud voices of our porters singing their national anthem, heard poems reliving the devastation of war and in silence paid homage to our men and what they endured at this battle site and throughout the entire Kokoda Campaign. It was hard not to get choked up and shed a tear at the ceremony; Listening to the Kagi choir sing and the No Roads Benalla School group entertaining the locals with Australian songs - it was so much fun with the local children doubled over in laughter and enjoyment!! Immersing ourselves in the culture by discussing interesting topics about the locals on the cultural nights: Bride Price, hunting, gardens, schooling, what makes them so proud to be a Papua New Guinean. The group was so eager to learn about our porter’s views on these  topics, their lifestyle and hopes and dreams for the future; Watching a slingshot being made by one of our porters then having turns at target practice - wow, we couldn’t believe how accurate the porters’ shots were.  Lockie had an excellent aim as well. Being so immersed into track life: the big uphills, the big downhills, the amazing river crossings, the stunning mountain scenery, passing through beautiful, idyllic villages and taking in the amazing huts and lives of the locals.  Seeing so many smiling and happy faces; Presenting a gift of an Aboriginal Coolamon, made out of handcrafted hardwood and used to collect bush medicine and other foods, organised by one of our trekkers, Fiona, to the Indigenous workers at the newly established Buna Health Centre. Thank you so much Fiona for initiating the crafting and presentation of this beautiful gift as well as the other medical equipment that you have organised to be sent up.  Buna Health Centre will be so very appreciative! Feeling relief and triumph walking the track in 6.5 days with 2 long days on days 2 and 3.  It’s an amazing sense of achievement to arrive at camp, look at the map and realise how much of the track you’ve covered in one day. Outstanding tenacity of this group … who did it so well! Being part of the awards ceremony conducted by Alex and Jarred on the last night of the track. They identified every trekker’s most amazing quality and presented awards accordingly; Having a fantastic group of trekkers with a real ‘can-do’ attitude.  A big congratulations to all the members of this group and particularly to our youngest member, Jagger, aged 13. What an amazing experience and achievement for a 13 year old who now has many incredible memories and proven strengths and experiences which he can draw upon when challenges arise in years to come.
Overall it was a truly wonderful experience!!  One trekker enjoyed it so much that he’s coming back next year to do the Kokoda back-to-back trek which sets out from Ower’s Corner in the south, treks to Kokoda then turns around and treks back to Ower’s Corner again!!!