I completed the Kokoda Track in Papua New Guinea back in March of 2006 but was recently asked about my experience by a client. After much searching I finally found this summary of the trip – it was written to friends and family just after completing the walk and as you can see the emotions were still raw.

The Kokoda Trail is an important part of Australia’s military history as this 96km track in a neighbouring country was all that stood before the advancing Japanese gaining a strong hold in Australia during WWII. Today the track has become a pilgrimage for many Australians in honour of the ANZAC spirit.

I have deliberately done very little editing to the original writing as I don’t want my memories of it being “not that bad” to take away from what was obviously a true adventure travel experience. Enjoy –  

Kokoda Track

The Kokoda Track was an experience, not a holiday, and if I had to sum it up in a word – exhausting! I knew it was going to be hard, but it was very difficult, and while I am pleased that I managed to complete the trip without serious injury, I hope I never do it again.

I do have a greater appreciation for the Aussie soldier and what they went through though, because it’s one thing to complete the trip with all the relative comforts of modern living (food, tent, clothes etc.) but it’s another to do it with nothing, like they did. At least when we got cold or wet or hurt (and I managed all three) we had the knowledge that we could go home in nine days, whereas they didn’t.

Kokoda Track war memorial

A sobering reminder of how many died on this 96km section of land.

The weird thing is I feel unable to express what the trip was like. I can’t explain what the scenery was or how it felt or even what I was feeling, because it wouldn’t do it justice.

I do have a confession to make though – I had the hired help of a porter. Part of me is very happy that I did have someone carrying my pack because I don’t know how I would have gone carrying my own.

The difficulty of climbing Mt Hagan before the trip was something I was entirely unprepared for and scared me to the point of personal doubt about my ability to carry my own pack (unusual for me as my stubborn streak prevents me from asking for help or admitting defeat).

Kokoda Track scenery

You walk up, over and down every one of those mountains – never around.

The deciding factor was the night before we left when I developed vomiting and diarrhoea and a wicked fever. Now I may not be the smartest of people sometimes, but I do know that’s not good the night before you start a 96-km trek through the jungle, so I hired a last-minute porter. Part of me is glad, but part of me feels it would have been a greater achievement if I had carried my own pack and seen how I went.

One of the boys doing the trek got chewed up and spat out two hours into day two – he couldn’t hack the track and got decided to get choppered out. To be honest I am glad, because I thought he was a knob and would have had words (more likely blows) with him if he had stayed. The rest of the blokes were great to trek with and we all got along quite well as long as we all had our own space.

I didn’t race ahead this time like Nepal, and took it at my own pace which wasn’t very fast because it was too dangerous most of the time. I know it was a few years ago but I don’t remember Nepal being that difficult.

Kokoda Track rest stop

One of the MANY rest stops along the trail.

The porters were all at the back behind the last bloke so I didn’t have to worry about keeping up with them, and I let the faster blokes cruise ahead so I didn’t have to listen to them crap on all the time. I actually preferred my own company on the trek and found it rather soothing, just me and the jungle with no-one near me (yes, it was perfectly safe) and spent a great deal of the trek not talking to anyone – it was great.

To do this trek, you need to really want to do it, for a start. By day two everyone doubted their reasons for coming – so if you don’t have a strong reason you won’t last. While you cannot prepare for a trip like this, a good level of fitness (something I was lacking) is a must.

Mind you, there were two of the boys that put in a bit of training, and, while they carried their own packs, they didn’t do much better than the rest of us. The terrain is such that you will not be able to train for it, but you can make it marginally easier for yourself.

Kokoda Track camp site

Just your typical camp spot on the trail. A shelter to cook/eat in and tents pitched where ever you can

Clothes are of low importance. I know it sounds crusty and it was, but I wore the same set of clothes for the whole trek. One set to trek in and one set to change into at night. It was impossible to keep things clean or dry, so why mess everything up and create work for yourself? It wasn’t as bad as it sounds though, because I did wash in the streams and rivers we came across, and by the third day everyone was doing the same thing.

A camel-back is a definite – you simply don’t have the energy to be getting drink bottles out of your pack all the time, and even turning your head to the side to suck on the sipper is an effort when you’re really struggling. You sweat that much you didn’t know it was possible, and dehydration is a very big problem.

A walking stick is also a must – I didn’t have one and struggled through the first day. After that I got one of the guides to cut me one out of the bush and I reckon I couldn’t have done without it. It saved my ass on many an occasion.

Kokoda Track monument

Finished! My tour group and the many porters who made it possible.

I am actually very much looking forward to returning to Australian soil. It feels like I have been over here for ages and I am very much over it. I have had a great time but I am looking forward to a rest of doing absolutely nothing but getting fat sitting by a pool and getting full-body massages.

Carry On,

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