Saint Ignatius College Geelong

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    Kokoda Trip 2019

    Article by Ms Stacey learmonth

    Kokoda Trip 

    After months of training and preparing for the trek, four students accompanied by their parents, landed in Papua New Guinea on Monday the 24th June to tackle the gruelling Kokoda Track.

    We met our trek leader, Mick O’Malley (Owner of Australian Kokoda Tours) at the Port Moresby airport, then we made our way to the luxurious Hilton Hotel. Before dinner, we had a detailed trek briefing and we all walked away feeling excited and a tad nervous!

    We took an early 30-minute flight to Poppndetta, then we had a bumpy 3-hour ride in a truck carrier to Kokoda. We inspected the Kokoda museum, monuments and memorials, before meeting our wonderful porters. At this time, we didn’t realise how much we would need and value the porters over the next 8 nights.

    After lunch, we started the 96km Kokoda Trek. Shortly after walking through the famous Kokoda arches, the rain came down, but it certainly didn’t dampen our spirits! We trekked in wet and slippery conditions and arrived in camp at 5pm.

    Throughout the next 8 days, the porters cooked up many delicious lunches and dinners. They also carried and set up our tents (or you could choose to sleep in a hut) and they entertained us with their singing at night time. The porters were truly amazing!

    Every morning, Mick woke us up at 5am and yelled ‘packs on’ at 6am. The porters sang an inspirational war cry, which lifted our mood after the early wake-up call. Most nights we were ready for bed by 8.30pm, however not everybody managed to get a good nights sleep!

    Along the trek, we visited many memorial sites, inspected Japanese and Australian trenches and ammunition dumps. We paid our respects at the Isurava War Memorial, we looked out over the Myola airfield where food drops occurred, we walked to Mount Bellamy (the highest point on the track) and we trekked along Mission Ridge and Brigade Hill (scene of a ferocious battle). Each day, we loved listening to Mick tell us stories of the battles that took place and the inspirational stories of our Australian soldiers.

    We camped in the local villages where we witnessed first-hand their modest living conditions. Day 6 of the trek was a highlight for us as we thoroughly appreciated and enjoyed our cultural rest day in Menari. We participated in a number of activities including: a visit to the local school, we planted some trees, the students built a stretcher from scratch and we played volleyball and touch rugby with and against our porters and students from other schools. In the evening, the village children sang songs and we presented them with gifts we bought from home.

    On average, we trekked for approximately 6 to 7 hours per day. The terrain was tough; steep uphill climbs were usually followed by going downhill which was just as challenging. Once again though, our porters were there to help us along the way and to stop us from falling so much! For a few of the days, we were lucky enough to enjoy some refreshing swims in the rivers which we all looked forward to.

    Our last day of trekking consisted of a number of really steep hills that seemed to go on forever. The track was muddy and slippery at times and we walked through lots of river crossings. We finally reached Owers Corner and walked through the long awaited arches as a group. On the way back to Port Moresby, we visited the Bomana War Cemetery where we paid homage to all the brave men who lost their lives on the track.

    After a long, warm shower, we celebrated our achievement with the porters back at the Hilton Hotel. Sadly, it was then time to say goodbye to our porters who have helped us some much over our journey. The following morning, Mick and his main PNG porter (Mudman) waved us off at the airport where we headed home after experiencing a memorable and rewarding 9 days on the Kokoda Track.

    On behalf of Saint Ignatius College, I would like to sincerely thank Mick O’Malley and his support staff: Leigh Howlett (our paramedic), Bruce Dunlop and Pete Murphy, and the 18 local porters. Thank you for helping us and entertaining us along the track!

    For more information regarding the Kokoda Trip, please come to the overseas launch night which will be held at the College on Wednesday the 14th August.

    Stacey Learmonth


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