Marie's Story

Walking the Kokoda – where do I begin?
Summarising my trekking adventure will not be easy but here goes. After deciding to take up the challenge, a date was booked & the training began!! Before I knew it I was in Port Moresby with my brother embarking on the 96 km journey of rugged mountain terrain, tropical rainforest & unspoiled villages from Kokoda to Owers Corner. The research, book reading & movie watching gave me a rough idea of what to expect or so I thought! The 10 day trek was a physical, emotional & spiritual challenge – it certainly put things into perspective! Being the oldest & the only female in the group was a little daunting initially but as we headed off from Kokoda I didn’t give this another thought as there was so much else to think about and take in.
We trekked single file along a set of almost continuous ridges of great heights & depths, passing through areas of thick jungle with trees of various heights covered in thick vines. Rocky, river crossings with moss covered rocks, mountain streams running into swift flowing creeks, banks covered in a tangled web of tree roots ready to trip you up of you weren’t paying attention! Walking into uncovered areas of burning sun with a pathway of kunai grass of varying lengths from ankle to head height which would lead to a row of grass & bamboo huts with perfectly planted crops. Villages surrounded by manicured garden beds and large expanses of lawn or clay patches. It was then back into the think jungle canopy where the “ups” and “downs seemed endless. Trees with “hand like” shapes grooved into their trucks & branches were thousands of hands had grasped the same tree thanking the heavens that it had been magically placed there to stop a fall or to help you up that last step! For some reason every time we started to climb another peak the tune “Eye of the Tiger” popped into my head!
Negotiating multiple river crossings some with bridges made of logs or bamboo posts tied together to form a swing bridge of sorts. Some crossings were bridgeless, where we either walked in ankle or waist deep water. There was frequent mist, heavy rain, hot humid days & chilly nights. Leaches appeared out of nowhere when it was raining, mozzies aplenty, large expanses of spider’s webs full of spiders. Wild pigs churned up the soil and left mounds of mud along both sides of track overnight searching for food. Birds of Paradise singing each day and brightly coloured butterflies darting all around us seemed oblivious of the rough terrain or weather conditions.
At camp each we marvelled & wondered how the hell our troops dealt with these conditions with no preparation, inappropriate gear, few supplies and carrying twice the weight we were in their packs! Standing on the same ground where soldiers had stood, holding a dawn service on Brigade Hill surrounded in thick mist & each reading a prayer was emotional. The prayer I read “From the Mothers to the Fuzzies” was very moving especially as there are some porters who are descendants of the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels. Seeing firsthand the left behind weapons, worn old shoes, rusted helmets & rows of wooden pickets marking the places where lives had been lost was very overwhelming. Absorbing the history of the Kokoda where in 1942 the area was the scene of bitter fighting and seeing it today where it has become a pilgrimage for many Australians was a reality check.
The challenges gave me a glimpse of the hardship and tough battle the solders faced almost 75 years ago. I felt guilty that we were doing it easy, having our 5 meals a day prepared, sleeping inside dry tents, having the right gear, being able to wash ourselves in the creeks without the fear of being shot by a sniper, having a “long drop” toilet surrounded by a bamboo hut for privacy – these were luxuries our troops did not have. I am grateful that I was able to make the Kokoda pilgrimage, it has been a life changing experience and one that will stay with me forever.
My brother & I completed the recently completed a life-changing trek of the Kokoda with Escape Trekking Adventures. ETA was referred to me after I enquired about completing the trek with Frank Taylor, as he was retiring he highly recommended ETA to me – I was not disappointed. They were amazing & I could not find fault with any part of the pre trek, trek itself or at the completion.
From the very first contact Tina & Shane from ETA were so helpful & informative, no question was left unanswered & the information supplied about the trek was comprehensive with all emails answered quickly. The attention to every detail was amazing, we even received emails right up to the day before we departed giving us advice & reminders from arriving at the airport, currency & the names guides etc.
From the time we arrived in Port Moresby the day before our trek began, to the time we boarded our flight home, Shane & the ETA support team took care of us. We were briefed every day on what to expect.
Shanes’ knowledge of the track, the Kokoda campaign and the culture of the Papuans was amazing, the information & stories he shared with us about the historical sites and points of interest were motivation, emotional and passionate – this added greatly to our experience. At times the information & stories he passed onto us while we stood on the very ground where battles had taken place was overwhelming! Escape Trekking Adventures supports the villages we pass through assisting in educational supplies for the children in these remote areas –it was delightful to see these children’s faces when supplies arrived
Completing the track is a physical challenge, the weather in unpredictable with everything from extreme heat, heavy rain, thick mist & chilly nights not to mention the bugs! Completing the Track is only a part of the story, the history lessons learnt along the way are invaluable. Escape Trekking Adventures has a close relationship with all the villages along the historic track.
The porters both personal & group were a credit to ETA, they treated us like we were family, nothing was too much trouble & they seemed to appear out of nowhere ready to help you across a bridge, stop you from slipping over, guide you over difficult terrain & set up & pack up your tent with military precision all the while whistling, singing or having a joke with you. They are truly todays “Fuzzy Wuzzys” – strong quiet gentlemen of the track. The support team of porters who work tirelessly behind the scenes cooking & making sure everything was prepared – the food was excellent. We had so much variety everything from pasties, to sushi, doughnuts, orange cake, soups, pastas & rice dishes, banana sushi, pancakes, popcorn. Prawn crackers, not to mention the Australian Bush biscuits with every topping possible. There was so much food and such a variety we often joked that we were eating better on the track than we did at home!
I’m so glad that we chose Escape Trekking Adventures to guide us across the Kokoda. It was challenging in so many ways not just the physical aspect but the mental & emotional side. The support we had from every member of Escape Trekking Adventures team made the journey so rewarding & I cannot thank you enough for everything & making this all possible. .

OCT 2016