Katelyn's Story

I trekked Kokoda in 2011 as a 16 year old as a part of a youth mentoring program. Originally I was told that I couldn’t travel to Papua New Guinea that year as there was an overflow of eager young adults wanting to participate. But I continued to train with the rest of the group and about 10 weeks before the group was about to depart on their journey of a life time, I was over the moon to be told that due to someone pulling out last minute there was an available spot in the program in which I was able to achieve my dream of completing the Kokoda trail. After 7 months training, my first international flight, weeks of preparation and excitement I found myself in Papua New Guinea on the way to Ower’s Corner about to embark on the most toughest, rewarding, spiritual, bildungsroman. Firstly we stopped at Bomana War Cemetery and paid our respects to the fallen soldiers who had given their lives to protect the safety for our country that stands today. Arriving at Ower’s Corner was completely surreal. My months of imagination, personal stories, not even photographs could have done what I was seeing justice. What I was seeing was profoundly spectacular. The surroundings were simply beautiful. Our first day was only about an hour trek before we set up camp for our first night in the jungle. I felt at ease, peaceful even though there was elements such a the humidity, the cold nightly temperature and heat/sweet rashes to compete against. I often thought to myself how truly magnificent it was to be where I was and how lucky I was to walk the trail with no sense of fear unlike the thousands of Australian soldiers fighting in the mountains of the Owen Stanley Ranges many years before me. I spent eight nights and nine days on the trail, each day being further more amazed with my surroundings, admiring the beauty, appreciating more and more the Courage, Mateship, Endurance and Sacrifice that each and every soldier showing during the Kokoda Campaign. It wasn’t all pleasant, the Kokoda track was the most physically demanding experience of my life but it was worth every drop of sweat, every muscle ache, every blister and every minute of my time walking the trail and the training that went into the preparation. Because I walked the Kokoda trail as a part of the Kokoda Youth Mentoring Program, in addition to the sense of achievement by completing the trail, this program is about building relationships with peers and adults in a supporting caring environment. As I didn’t have much of this growing up, it helped me to feel comfortable with others, feel confident and a sense of belonging. Much of this happened whilst walking the track. I got some much out of this incredible experience, achievement, friendships, a deep understanding of the sacrifices Australian soliders and the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels made, a spiritual journey and lifelong memories to cherish.

SEP 2011