Kelly Cycle Coaching Year 11 student Jack Edwards has just returned from treking the Kokoda trail in PNG. Read all about his adventures here.
How did you get the opportunity to hike the Kakoda trail?
The opportunity arose through a Victoria Police project of which my school is involved in. The school runs multiple immersions and I was selected through a small interview process to be selected by my school to join the immersion.
What is the history behind this trail?
The trail was a local track connecting the remote villages of PNG to the large city of Port Moresby. during 1942 it was home to the battle between Japanese and Australian forces during World War 2. As the Japanese advanced towards their goal of capturing Port Moresby and positioning themselves in a more suitable and strategical position to attack the shores of Australia, Australians aged between 18 to late 30’s from the Australian Infantry Forces and Australian Militia Forces ( AKA Choccos) advanced towards Kokoda going to war for their country. The track was home to some of the war’s most brutal close quarters combat ever to be seen and cost the lives of 1,647 Australian soldiers but more so 13,600 Japanese Soldiers.
How many were in the trekking party?
I was one of 42 hikers in the trekking group made up of students, teachers, sponsors and police. In addition we had 28 porters from PNG Trekking Adventures group which helped lead the group.
What sort of training did you do for it?
The training consisted of a 20 week block to which every Wednesday we walked steep hills within Pascoe vale ( gradients hit up to 30% on these local streets ) and training at St Bernard’s College ( My school ) up the 101 stairs we have between the bottom oval and classrooms. In addition to this every second weekend consisted of 20km plus hikes around Macedon and Dandenongs. All the training was done with our packs that we weighted up with roughly 16 to 18 kg the same weight we walked the track with.
How far is it? How many days did it take?
The calculated distance by GPS that we recorded was 112km over 8 days of walking. This includes small detours off the track to view old war grounds and historical sites as well as memorial sites.
What were the logistics with eating, carrying food and sleeping?
We all carried our own ration packs of food, maximum carried was the food for that day and the day to follow, these food bags consisted of dehydrated meals for breakfast and dinner which we would add boiling water to and for lunch was an assortment of snacks such as trail mix plus the handy 2 min noodles. The porters would carry our tents and assemble them at each camp site for us to sleep within. In the morning we would pack up our tents and continue with breakfast.
Did you get blisters?
Luckily for myself I only got one blister and that was on the second to last day of walking. For others blisters were on the daily haha
What did you wear for it? Shorts? Pants?
We were given all the gear and included in this was short hiking shorts and breathable hiking tops, I wore compression shorts with my shorts and just the hiking top to which all worked like a charm for the 8 days.
So no shower the entire time?
There were showers but nothing like the ones at home, most of the time we would head down to the freezing cold rivers with some soap for a clean and recovery session. It was ice baths at every camp site
Was the most memorable part of the experience?
The whole experience was exceptionally great, the stories shared and the relationships made are amazing. The most memorable part for me though will be walking through the Kokoda arches at the end of the track and screaming at the top of my lungs while jumping around and hugging the group of boys from my school. Letting out all the excitement and joy of completing the track and celebrating with the boys who were there everyday to make it all worth while was great.
What was the toughest part?
The track itself was easier then I expected and I surprised myself on how well prepared myself and others were for this walk. But the one climb that was really tough was the second hardest one of the entire walk. The hike up Imita Ridge was brutal the mix of knowing how close you were to the end and yet the steep muddy track consistently made the time go slower and slower was a annoying play on the mind not to mention the unbearable amount of sweat felt like the ancient Chinese torture of the water drop on the forehead.
Were you physical and mentally challenged by this experience
Physical I was completely fine, I would get into the camp tired as usual but all along the track I could complete the days easily and have the ability to play ball with the local kids at the villages and lunch breaks. Mentally it was no issue until the days 6 and 7 these days were hard in terrain but the mind was beginning to get very tired from the rough nights of sleep.
Would you recommend it to others? If so why?
I would easily recommend this experience of walking the Kokoda track to others. The scenery is quite breathe taking to see from the large ranges and deep valleys of the Owen Stanley Ranges, Each village erupts to life and the local culture is a whole lot of fun to be apart of with everyone having a smile on their face and a willingness to learn. The trekking itself through the terrain of Papua New Guinea is an amazing physical challenge and always throws a challenge your way on everyday of hiking. Mentally it’s amazing to throw the technology to the side and talk and joke with new people and the others you hike with. You learn so much about yourself both mentally and physically and it gives you the experience to tell yourself that you can really do anything because the only way out of the track was to KEEP MOVING FORWARD.