Garry Lyon and Sam Newman

GARRY LYON AND SAM NEWMAN’S KOKODA EXPERIENCE

Garry Lyon and Sam Newman, hosts of Channel 9’s ‘The Footy Show’, AFL legends and great friends, embarked on the historic journey across the Owen Stanley Ranges in October 2013. No amount of training could prepare them for what was to eventuate as they set out along the infamous Kokoda Trail.

John ‘Sammy’ Newman, well known for his antics and often controversial behaviour on television, was tested to his limits during the 8 day trek from Kokoda to Owers Corner. Referred to affectionately by his peers as the Fossil, Sam disregarded his age and courageously battled his way up and down each and every hill. Kokoda has a profound and humbling effect on people and the trek revealed a side of Sam not often seen by the public.

Garry, a former Melbourne Demons captain, led the charge, surprisingly convincing his mate to take on the challenge. Garry took a keen interest in the WWII history of Kokoda prior to the trip; however no literature could ever do justice to the feelings evoked from being in the midst of the untamed, unrelenting but beautiful terrain he encountered along the Kokoda Track.

Both Garry and Sam pushed their physical and mental limits gaining a new appreciation respect for the sacrifices made by those who came before them that gave Australians the opportunity for the life they lead today.

Are you ready to tackle the Kokoda Trail like Garry and Sam? See our list of trusted Kokoda Tour Operators who’ll get you across the track.

Day 1

After flying from Port Moresby to Popendetta and taking a PMV (truck) to Kokoda, Garry and Sam reach the starting point of the 8 day historic trek. Once at Kokoda, trek leader Peter Miller provides a short history lesson, covering what took place during WWII on and around the Kokoda Plateau.

Before heading off, formal introductions between Garry and Sam and the No Roads trekking team are made, where they meet their personal porters, Brian and Sambe, who are direct descendants of the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels.

With formalities complete, packs are quickly checked and the team head off through the famous Kokoda arches to begin their journey. Before embarking on the three hour trek from Kokoda to Deneki, Garry and Sam share their thoughts on what lies ahead and reflect later on the experiences and feats from Day One of Kokoda.

Day 2

After a night of heavy rainfall Garry and Sam sprung out of bed, ready to take on the 6-hour day from Deneki to Alola.

Trekking through some amazing countryside, along the same path used by the Australian diggers, Garry and Sam ventured to Isurava, one of the major battle sites on Kokoda. At Isurava memorial, trek leader Peter Miller recounted the historic events and heroic feats that took place at that very site during WWII – none more compelling than the story of VC Bruce Kingsbury.

By sheer coincidence, some touring Australian soldiers ran into Garry and Sam via the skies at Isurava, with twenty or so Australian air force officers landing in two sleek Black Hawk helicopters. Garry and Sam stopped to regale in a few tales and pose for photos before heading off to Con’s Rock, for a rendition of a touching WWII poem.

Day 3

Rated as the second toughest day by No Roads trek leader Peter Miller, Day 3 was always going to be a very demanding day, but if the rain had set in, it would have been even worse.

With two ‘warm up’ days under their belt, they rose to the challenge, and as the day wore on, they both began to really understand the hardships and sacrifices our Australian soldiers made for their nation. Thoughts of family and home were sources of inspiration during the hard climbs, but also constant reminders of how resolute and determined the mindsets of the past soldiers must have been, far away from friendly faces.

During the hike from Alola–Templeton’s 1, Garry and Sam crossed the beautiful, newly constructed vine bridge at Eora Creek and saw some remnants from the WWII battle sites along Kokoda.

Day 4

Day 4 was a tough day, covering only 7kms over 9 arduous hours. Garry and Sam slowly worked their way from Templeton’s 1 to the porters' home village of Kagi.

The muddy conditions in the morning made the climb up to the highest point of the Kokoda Trail at Mt Bellamy exceedingly difficult, where obvious, safe footholds were scarce. The bond between Garry and his 19 year old personal porter Brian grew stronger as he continued to show a miraculous talent, like all porters, to appear with a steadying hand on the back just before a certain fall. On the other hand, Sambe, Sam’s personal porter, seemed to be permanently tethered to the 'Fossil' all day.

After negotiating the tricky climb, perfect weather was waiting at the Kokoda and Kagi Gap, providing some stunning panoramic views.

Late in the day Sam, with the help of the locals, orchestrated a hilarious stretcher gag for Garry, before both being sung into the home village of the porters for a night of well-earned rest.

Day 5

With the sun set to full strength, Day 5 was always going to be “a hot hard day” according to No Road’s trek leader Peter Miller. Before stepping out to open plains and into the beating sun, Garry and Sam first had to negotiate the steepest and most dangerous climb down and out of their porters' home village of Kagi.

In the searing heat, this day quickly became the toughest yet, but the camaraderie of the group developed over the previous four days helped give everyone a much needed morale boost.

Upon making it to Brigade Hill, Sam made a moving rendition of Sapper Bert Beros’ famous digger poem, ‘WX Unknown’. What followed was the observance of a minute's silence, to complete what was both a physically and mentally draining day.

However just before reaching Menari for the camp, the heavens opened and Garry and Sam were given some respite with cold hard rainfall which, as quickly as it appeared, soon cleared to provide a backdrop for their epic journey, straight out of Hollywood.

Day 6

It was the 15th October, and apparently a "rest day" according to trek leader Peter Miller, as Garry and Sam set off from Menari to Naoro. And although it was only a 5 hour day of trekking, the team was under no illusions that it would not be easy.

The day began with the meeting of one of the last Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels - a truly treasurable encounter. Their adventure then continued, through low lying muddy swamps which mired the path to Naoro, but not before some fun body surfing on the Brown River.

But as expected, Day 6 was not a walk in the park. After meeting some happy Tasmanian students on the track, Garry and Sam took on what is referred to as the ‘False 9 Peaks’, which posed the hardest challenge yet - particularly for Sam.

Kokoda strengthens the bond and friendship between mates and Garry and Sam’s experience is no different. After spurring each other up each tough section and having a laugh at the end, these great mates prepared for the final days ahead with beautiful harmonies sung by the No Roads porters.

Day 7

12.3km over 7 hours. 800m uphill. 1100m down. After an ironically named ‘rest day’, Day 7 was to undoubtedly be the hardest of the entire trip.

The day began in Naoro with a very steep climb to the top of the Maguli Range, followed by a long descent to Ofi Creek, followed by another steep ascent to Ioribaiwa Ridge. Through terrain similar to that of the Daintree Rainforest, Garry and Sam repeatedly crossed Wa-ule Creek a total of 11 times on their way to Wa-ule Creek campsite. Sam described the terrain covered as “frightening” and the “toughest yet”, with the unwavering support of the porters was duly noted.

With knowledge of the ominous terrain ahead, it was with a sense of foreboding that Garry awoke feeling less than 100%. Sam spurred him on with a 3 QTR time footy analogy noting it was time – to ‘dig in’ and ‘box on’; and dig in they did. These two mates forged a great respect for each efforts on Kokoda this day, with the greatest respect and appreciation awarded to the diggers for the immensity of the sacrifice they made for their country.

Day 8

Day 8 was the last of Garry and Sam’s Kokoda journey. Emotions were running high, with everyone in great spirits and eager anticipation for the finish and passing through the famous Kokoda arches at Owers’ Corner.

As Garry pointed out though, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking you’ve already finished. Day 8 began with a steep 2 hour 550m climb up to historic Imita Ridge before leading on to a final waist-depth river crossing of Goldie River, the last main resting point before making the last and final push towards the finish.

The physical toll the Owen Stanley Ranges had taken could be seen on Garry and Sam’s faces. It had been a tough slog, admittedly one of the toughest things each of them had ever done – but with the job almost done and each step edging closer to the end of the 96km trek, Garry and Sam had to push on.

Day 8, the final day, is a day for reflection. As you inch closer to the finish you get your first look back over the endless wilderness you’ve spent the last 8 days in – and with it, the entirety of the personal feat achieved starts to sink in. For Garry and Sam this was an emotional and poignant moment. A final visit to the Bomana War Cemetery, containing 3500 tombstones, put everything into perspective for what was a truly memorable and rewarding experience.

Courage, Mateship, Endurance, Sacrifice - Lest we forget.