In 1942, Australian armed forces mounted a desperate last stand, blocking and eventually defeating, the much larger and better equipped advancing Japanese army in New Guinea. The heroic events that took place on the Kokoda Trail will resonate with us forever. Our founder Stephen McCarthy recently walked the trail and speaks to us about the experience.
Alex: Just for a quick intro, my name is Alex, I run McCarthy’s social media and I co-ordinate all of the blog posts with Stephen here. This week we are doing something quite different, because Stephen, you recently did something very special, why don’t you tell us about it?
Stephen: Well, a few weeks ago I walked the Kokoda Trail with Norman Howe from Azure Group Wealth. We started early from Port Moresby with a flight to Popondetta and then travelled by road to Kokoda where our trek began. It took us 6 days, covering around 96km of some very challenging terrain.
Alex: Tell us a bit more about how hard the trek was.
Stephen: Well as you might imagine, it was by no means easy. Other than the track itself, which is covered in overgrowth and muddy swamps, it is very, very mountainous and can be extremely treacherous. It’s either rising incredibly steeply or falling very quickly. The temperature and humidity is also extreme. At times it would feel like a 40 degree day, even though the air temperature was only something like 25 – 30 degrees. On top of that, the nights are cold, so when you are in your little tent there isn’t much comfort. The mosquitos are also relentless. I took my malaria tablets and had a rabies shot but I can only imagine how bad walking that track must have been with any kind of disease or injury.
The villages we passed through are as they were when our boys first went through, very little has changed there. Just seeing them has certainly made me appreciate the standard of living we enjoy over here. Our way of life is so easy to take for granted, it’s not until you experience some of the conditions our soldiers had to go through that you can truly understand the cost that those few brave men bore.
Alex: What kind of resources did you have available to you?
Stephen: We had to carry everything we needed, so food and water. Other than that there wasn’t much else. It was made much easier because we had porters, but was still extremely tough going. I can’t imagine how it must have been for a digger, injured and getting shot at, all the while carrying all of the gear that they did. Other than that, there were basic cold showers and drop toilets. No electricity, and there wasn’t any kind of medical assistance within a few days from us.
Alex: Given how difficult the trek was, I really have to ask, why did you do it?
Stephen: As important as it is to remember those who died for us, I think it’s hard to have a true understanding of what those few brave men went through unless you experience just a fraction of the hardship that they went through. By trekking the Kokoda trail I think I’ve gained, I don’t know, some kind of greater connection to those who fought there. It’s a very powerful thing, makes you appreciate the hardships they went through even more.
Alex: So would you suggest walking the trail to others?
Stephen: It’s really all down to the individual. Make no mistake, the trail is an exceptionally difficult walk. I don’t think that anybody should try to attempt it without both a porter, and yourself being pretty physically fit. Having said that, I think it’s a very good thing for every Australian to do. It really brings out the characteristics of perseverance and courage that Australians hold so highly.
Alex: Well there you go, thanks for chatting to me Stephen.
Stephen: Not a problem.
Alex: If you have any questions for Stephen about the walk, or anything else, be sure to shoot us through a message below or over our social media accounts and I’ll pass them along to him. Just a reminder, Anzac Day is coming up on the 25th of April and it’s a day that everybody should take to remember those who fought and fell for us over the two World Wars, and those who fight for us now.
Lest we forget