Heroism no longer required on Kokoda Track

The following article was written by Mick Ryan of Killara and published in the Sydney Morning Herald on August 20, 2009:

‘Surely I cannot be the only one to come back from the Kokoda Track and wonder what all the fuss is about. I do not dispute the bravery and sacrifice of the fallen, or the significance of the battles fought there. My concern is with the modern trekkers and the mythology being cultivated about what a superhuman feat it is to walk from Owers Corner to Kokoda in peacetime.

‘Peter FitzSimons refers to “clinging by your fingernails to a mountain while your failing, flailing legs try to propel you up” (”Fatal choice doomed trekkers”, August 13). What? Where? Ladies, don’t be put off walking the track if you are concerned about your manicure. I can assure you, you need not break a nail. He says “there are few greater challenges” than the track. Believe me, there are plenty. Anyone who completes the Oxfam Trailwalker, held in the bush around Sydney each year, would have no trouble with the Kokoda Track.

‘FitzSimons says Joe Hockey saved Kevin Rudd’s life at “the falls” near Templeton’s Crossing, and that somewhere on the track (not the track I walked), you have to go “from rock to rock in that torrent for as long as a kilometre”. Do the maths. If “Kokoda is capricious”, “survival might depend on a matter of millimetres” and 6000 suburbanites a year are playing that game of Russian roulette, where are all the body bags?

‘The best demonstration you could have of what a crock the physical challenge is would be to gather everyone who has walked the track in one place, in their underwear. In that group would be 13-year-old schoolchildren, delinquents with substance abuse issues and plenty of overweight executives. The group I was in included an overweight 56-year-old who had recently quit smoking.

‘But what about the people who have died, or who needed to be airlifted out? I suspect if similar numbers undertook week-long treks in the Blue Mountains, carrying their camps, you would have similar casualties, if not more.

‘I don’t mean to trivialise the Kokoda experience. It does take one out of one’s comfort zone. Maybe that’s the rub. Maybe the fat and fortysomething Kokoda walkers have comfort zones that are just too comfortable.

‘I find it sad that people with a genuine interest in the history, who would appreciate seeing some of the significant places on the track, might be put off by exaggerated tales of the superhuman qualities needed to get to Kokoda this century. They need to be put off only if they don’t like camping’.

Mick Ryan Killara

Comments

  1. Jeff Ingram says:

    Hey Mick,

    Mate I have got to get a copy of the route you took…if there is an “Eco Tourist” Track, why didn’t some-one tell me about it. I walked the Track back in 2003 & had spend 9 months preparing for it. By the end of Day 2 I was nearly stuffed and crying for Mummy. I have little or no memory of one of the Villages we stayed at & there was no Rum Bottle in sight!! Overall an incredible journey into an important part of our History.

    Thanks to Charlie Lynn for all he has done to make us more aware of the achievements those brave Australians & Papuans performed in 1942. This surely was our finest hour…..

  2. Andrew Watson says:

    Hi guys

    At first I’ve spoken out with raw emotion. But I’ve been thinking about this email Mick has written and I’ve been trying to work out and find what Micks response was based on. I don’t know if it was published the way it was from SMH editing or if it was the original email submitted but I agree that it should have been reworded and referenced better. At the bottom of this response are three links to news articles I think were behind Micks email and might help put this into context better.

    At the moment I can’t work out what title was in reference to. I’ve had a look but there are no articles out there that I’ve seen that refer to people who walk the track these days as heroes. I agree with Fiona here and i don’t consider myself a hero just because I’ve walked it nor did anyone when i got home call me one. The only hero’s were the ones fought in WWII and all of them have my ultimate respect.

    Peter’s *news articles* don’t talk about people walking the track as being hero’s. He may have been dressing up the article to describe his and Rudd’s experience, that’s only something I’ve seen all reporters do everyday. In this case I can exactly relate and understand what he’s trying to get across. I myself was very nervous on day 1 trying to climb up parts of Imta Ridge in the rain along a narrow edge and a very steep drop to the side, had I slipped I thought I would have been killed. I was getting dizzy and vertigo and I was locking my hands onto what ever I could hold.

    Peter actually quotes himself to using some poetic licence in his book:

    “”I have had to occasionally take out my poetic licence and, for example, postulate what the final thoughts of a man who had just been shot might have been. But as much as possible, I have stayed with what is on the historical record . . .””

    -Peter FitzSimons
    Kokoda – Book Review – Reviewer Christopher Bantick – July 31, 2004
    http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2004/07/28/1090694021479.html?from=storyrhs

    As far as being physical, I disagree with Mick. It was one of the most physical challenges things I’ve done in my life and I loved every second, I had to put a years training and prep for it. I’ve done some hiking when I was a kid and hadn’t found anything in Australia that recreates that experience. Whether or not it’s the hardest war track is a different debate and I haven’t walked all them yet so I can’t say.

    I’ve heard of people doing the bull dog, black cat and the Sandakan death march and have said that it was just as hard as kokoda, and there many other non war tracks out there that are only for the insane like the snowman trail in Bhutan.

    The main thing about kokoda is the significance of what was going on in at that point in time and the impact it had. I also disagree with Micks point about it stopping people who are interested from going. Only the people who aren’t interested wont go. And at the end of the day what I learned from John Nadler was its 90% attitude and 10% physical.

    When I told my mates that I was going they asked me how long and how much was it? I told them that I had spent about 8k for the trip and gear etc and it was for 10 days. They were all dumb founded by the economics of it. For themselves they couldn’t justify the trip or reasons for doing kokoda but they could justify the 4k they had just spent on a drunken contiki whirlwind of Europe for a month. For me I’m keen on military history and I had a family member serve in the 2/25th. I’d also done a Anzac dawn service in Gallipoli in 2005 and I’m currently planning a trip to Europe to see where a number of my family fought in Ipres in WW1, I have a great uncle who disappeared and is the on the wall at menin gate.

    At the end of the day as much as I disagree with Mick, we’ve got to respect his right to an opinion. I’m a bit saddened by some of personal abuse put out there. Please keep it constructive folks.

    Andrew Watson

    References
    ————————————-

    Article 1
    And we shall remember them – August 15, 2009 – Peter FitzSimons

    http://www.smh.com.au/world/and-we-shall-remember-them-20090814-el8c.html

    Article 2
    The pull of the track continues to inspire – Peter FitzSimons – August 13, 2009

    http://www.smh.com.au/national/the-pull-of-the-track-continues-to-inspire-20090812-eify.html

    Article 3
    Fatal choice doomed trekkers – Lindsay Murdoch in Port Moresby and Jonathan Dart – August 13, 2009

    http://blog.kokodatreks.com/2009/08/20/heroism-no-longer-required-on-kokoda-track/comment-page-1/#comment-1478

  3. Steve Anderson says:

    There’s one in every crowd.
    Mick you must be it. The attention seaker.
    I live in the Blue Mountains and trained there for twelve months. I walked and climbed every track hill and nook and cranny. After walking Kokoda track the Blue Mountains are a walk in the park. I am glad I did not have you on my trek Mick you sound like one of those who know all but know nothing. I think Mick is one of these city lunchtime concrete pounders. Mick you did not say if you had learnt anything about our war history.
    Thanks to Chalie and his leaders Chad, Rowan, to name a couple for knowledge about the history of Kokoda.

  4. Trevor Benson says:

    It appears Mick regarded the track as some sort of athlete’s event. Yes I am one of those 50 something blokes who struggled up and down the mountains and had my fair share of falling over in the mud. I am glad I took the opportunity to walk the wartime track and those extra bits. We walked in October – it was wet and hot. I took the opportunity to pay my respects at the various battle sights we visited. I believe we have a better world because of the sacrifice our soldiers and the locals made. For me it was not a race or an endurance test – it was a great experience that enriched my life! Unfortunately Mick, it appears you missed that experience as your focus was elsewhere.

  5. Steve Russell says:

    I think many of you are missing the point of Mr Ryan’s initial piece. He erected a straw man: When Peter Fitzsimons wrote that one might “[cling] by your fingernails to a mountain while your failing, flailing legs try to propel you up” (”Fatal choice doomed trekkers”, he was not intending his reference literally. Fitz, as his readers know, depends on exaggeration for emphasis – he is a rugby forward after all; and is rather light on for vocabulary (sorry Fitz, I’m being emphatic).

    The same applies to his contention that “survival might depend on a matter of millimetres”.

    What is interested me is the strength of Mr Ryan’s reaction to that rather obvious hyperbole (again, sorry Fitz; I’m being emphatic).

    I cannot imagine why Mr Ryan thought that an underwear parade (why not nude?) of past participants would be relevant to his perception of the strength or extent of the physical challenge. What one may deduce is that Mr Ryan does not regard himself as being one of “the fat and fortysomething Kokoda walkers … [whose] comfort zones … are just too comfortable”. He may be right, but I think his treatment of the topic fails for the very reason he criticises Kokoda.

    I have not heard or read anyone say, write or otherwise claim that it is (literally) a “superhuman feat … to walk from Owers Corner to Kokoda in peacetime”. One of the real points of walking the track now is that overweight 56 year old persons who have just quit smoking can make it – they are so inspired by the tremendous selflessness, bravery and endurance of the 2/14th Infantry Battalion, and the many other companies and battalions, not so long ago, that they can and do overcome their present circumstances, and make the walk.

    Of course, another point of walking the track with the many tour groups who offer these trips is to meet like (and not so like) minded people, in very stressful circumstances (no exaggeration there, I hope), where friendships flourish. It’s both unfair and unworthy to argue that if you don’t mind camping, you can do Kokoda. I and my two sons met ten other trekkers earlier this month, and two great guides (both ex-army) and – a point of which Mr Ryan says nothing – many PNG natives.

    I now count among my friends; and I have no doubt that many of these friendships will endure life long: we shared an experience that I found very physically challenging; we learnt about the batles from clinically delivered, matter-of-fact military briefings, sitting where fought and died boys the age of my two sons, who sat beside me; and we yarned about our lives, our successes and our failings.

    Mr Ryan is not to be criticised for omitting any mention of the PNG porters who carried our gear. I will remember for a long time the quiet, young Josus, aged 18, who held the hand of a woman trekker in our group, for most of the way over the hard stuff. He was paid to carry gear, and to be this lady’s personal porter. He was not paid for his quiet and gentle courtliness. These traits were, I found to my delight, common to his people; especilly the people of the villages, away from the urban centres. That was another lesson I was grateful to learn on the Kokoda track.

    For these reasons, I think Mr Ryan’s principal point was misplaced: he has mistaken fond hyperbole of people such as the entertaining and widely travelled Fitzsimons, for literal contentions. And, when generally denigrating the common experience of walking the Kokoda track, he has himself underplayed the difficult of the physical effort necessary, and missed many (if not all) of the principal attractions.

    Still, as my new mate John Baily has noted, differences are to be respected.

    Steve Russell

  6. Michael Ryan says:

    Firstly I’m Michael Ryan not the Mick Ryan everyone has been blogging about. I did the trek with AK 3 years ago and have a father that was with the 2/2 during the war and it was an experience that I can’t describe. That’s why journo’s like Fitzy write books about places like Kokoda, because I can’t, and yes he uses ‘poetic license’ as it makes for a better read. Everyone has a different way of describing the challenge of Kokoda, mabe Fitzy should have checked with the other Ryan to make sure it was correct.

  7. greg davies says:

    Mick – I walked the full track with my 15 year old son in 2006. He went there as a big kid and came back a young man. You’ve had your say and you’re banging your head against a wall. I suggest you pull your head in before you do it any more damage and move on to some other cause that just might be supported by sensible people. By the way, your throw away lines on the Burma Railway and ‘Sayonara’ were beneath contempt. What a shame so many brave Aussies died in order to allow you the freedom to trivialise them.

  8. GREG JOHNSTON says:

    The one positive Mick Ryan will hopefully achieve from his letter is a more unified fight by the Australian public to have the Kokoda Campaign given the recognition it truely deserves.I ventured with AK 903 in April this year(thats the one Zoe mentions with day 2 the highlight) to satisfy the research that my daughter and i had done for a project on the role of a Medic.Having read and researched most available literature the Trek itself and information that both Charlie and Peter our Trek Leaders spoke along the way really gave us both the closest insight to complete this project.Give Mick a miss and use our voices and whatever else is required to get fair recognition for our soldiers and their families. Its never too late.PS Thanks Zoe it sent a shiver down my spine as i read your diary excerpt.

  9. I trekked with A K in July last year, led expertly by Charlie Lynn, and all I can say to you Mick is… THANK GOD YOU WERE NOT ON OUR TREK, WHAT A PAIN IN THE ARSE YOU WOULD HAVE BEEN!!!

  10. Hi Mick, Jacquie here, at the time I walked The Kokoda in 2006 I was a 37 year old executive with very well manicured nails, living in Suburbia. So what! Who made you Judge, Jury and Executioner?

    The Kokoda experience was amazing and I reflect upon it to this day, the terrain, flora, fauna and most importantly the great privilege to walk in the footsteps of the brave Australians who gave their all for my freedom.

    On my trek with Charlie Lynn as Trek Leader, we had all shapes, sizes and ages. The level of pain and suffering varied for many reasons not just those detailed in your letter, in fact the fittest amongst our group struggled the most mentally, in their minds as they were athletes it would be a walk in the park and that was not the case, their learning was on another level entirely.

    I loved every step of my trek, enjoyed what I learnt about PNG, WWII, myself and others. I have travelled extensively and enjoyed many great experiences and to date no other trip has been as fantastic as walking The Kokoda.

    It offends me that you belittle the experience and trekkers that have walked The Kokoda and I trust that you will take the opportunity to cross over The Kokoda again as I feel great pity for you having missed out on what was for me my most amazing experience to date.

    I would be happy to join you on another trek to ensure that you receive the full Kokoda experience.

    In closing my experience and the next steps that I have taken is best summarised by:

    “When you go home tell them of us, tell them for their today we gave our tomorrow”

  11. Mick,

    You must be a really strong, physically superior human being. Everybody must live in awe of you. Oh, to be in your presence. I can only dream of such of an honor. Clearly the brave men who served in Kokoda would have fared much better had they been as awesome as you.

    I am surrounded by mere mortals like myself – who found walking the Kokoda Treck an incredibly challenging experience.

    I think you should demonstrate your superhuman strength to the rest of by taking a flying leap off the Opera House.

    Cheers,
    Kellie

  12. Rachel Flavell says:

    Mick,

    Your unbelievable! your comments & statements leave a bad taste in my mouth .

    I walked the Kokoda trek in April 2008 with Charlie and would do it again and this time with my kids.

    Before I left for this great adventure, I had no idea on what I was about to encounter or feel. To this day the emotions are still very strong and very raw. I walked with a great friend who had wanted to walk the trek for her own reasons, I simply put my hand up at the time and thought what an experience.

    Then I started researching what I was about to embark on and read many books, including the one from Peter Fitzsimmons and I can tell you it left me in tears and emotionally charged. I really didn’t know anything about Kokoda until I started reading Peter’s book and many alike. I didn’t know or understand our history and was shocked that such a vital part of all of us wasn’t being acknowledged in our schools and that my children have no idea of our true history.

    Like many I trained and I trained hard for over 12 months. I didn’t doubt my ability to make the trek but I wasn’t prepared for the emotional journey that took place over 12 days. Charlie’s knowledge of the wartime trek and the history blew me away – Charlie had the ability to lead you to a place that made you believe you were with the diggers – you felt their hardship, their sacrifice and guts and how scared they would have been. I walked with a great group of people who each had their own reasons for trekking and I learnt during this trek and with each individual what endurance, sacrifice, courage & mateship was all about. Everybody has their own story to tell and their own memories, but I feel sorry for you Mick, as you obviously don’t have the ability to understand these feelings and are obviously one of these yobbos who have to gloat “how easy it was” – I find you insulting and disrespectful – you obviously gained no understanding of the history and didn’t embark on the emotional journey that we were all so lucky to experience.

    Our group was the first to walk the Golden Stair Case in over 65 years and what a privilge and honour to have done so – thank you Charlie – for sharing the experience.

    In closing, all I can say is thank God you weren’t on a trek.

  13. Tim Goodsell says:

    Mick Ryan if iyou got little out of the trek then I give you my pity. I enjoyed the challenge of the walk, the joy of meeting the people and the the good people I walked with, even the lively political debates we had at times not to mention all the “lump in the throat eperiences”.
    Thanks Chad for a great time

    regards Tim Goodsell

  14. Gary Blackwood says:

    Well said Jodie!! Just because Mick did it easy does not give him the right to belittle every other trekkers experience. The Diggers all coped with their own demons of sickness, hunger, fear and loss of their mates in varying ways but one thing stood solid regardless of the degree of difficulty they were facing and that was their total committment to each other in mateship. The mateship that bonds all Kokoda Trekkers in the legend of the Digger. That is those Trekkers who truly react to the sacrifices made by our Diggers and their families back home and come home with a deeper knowledge of the strategic importance of Kokoda as it played out in 1942, to the lives we currently enjoy. These thoughts are supported by the legendary B. Rowell also.

    Kind Regards to all. Gary and Bernie.

  15. Mr Ryan,

    Perhaps the reason you felt the track did not live up to its reputation is because you yourself fell victim to the accounts of others. The track affects everyone differently and just because you felt it was not that difficult, does not mean that it isn’t difficult.

    Perhaps you over-assumed the level of difficulty; and because you had the state of mind that the track is damn near impossible, when you completed it and your expectations had not been met because of the state of mind you had put yourself into, you felt that you had been lied to.

    I am 17 years old and I returned from Kokoda last month, I trekked with Adventure Kokoda under the leadership of Chad Sherrin, Bernie Rowell and Gary Blackwood MP. I found the track to be very demanding, but achievable. Perhaps that is where you are becoming confused, Mr Ryan. The track is not easy, the track is not impossible. It is a continuous test of mental and physical strength, but it is achievable.

    Just because people who are not physically fit, and of a mature age can complete the track, does not mean that the reputation the track has is a lie. I pity that you have come back from Kokoda, with such a negative view on the track itself. I understand that you appreciate the significance of the track to the defence of Australia, and what sacrifice the diggers had to make whilst fighting on the track.

    However, when you write such articles in the newspaper, using such denigration and emotive language, you should expect that people will become angry and pursue you. I believe you knew very well the consequences of writing such an article when you had it published. Were you legitimately trying to see how many other people felt the same or were you just acting out in a fit of attention seeking behaviour trying to start a fight? After your replied post on this blog, I am leaning towards the latter of the two.

    You critisise Charlie for his comments towards you, and yet you then go and proceed to make denagrative comments towards him. Hipocritical don’t you think? So don’t come onto this blog acting all self-righteous and preaching your gospel, when you are quite prepared to then go against what you so proudly preach.

    In closing, I would like to just re-iterate that the Kokoda Trail is not an easy thing to do. It should not be taken lightly. Comments like “Ladies needn’t worry about their manicure because you won’t break a nail” is nothing but complete bullshit. Anyone with half a brain who has trekked the track will know that.

    Boot in, sock up and get over yourself Mr Ryan.

    Thats my two cents!

  16. Gary Blackwood says:

    Very well said Luke. Once again you have vindicated our confidence in you as a young man of great integrity who has given himself an excellent chance of success in life, no matter what the challenge, including Kokoda as you proved in July. Cheers. Gary.

  17. Tim Dalwood says:

    Dear MICK,

    Things getting tough that you have to resort to other things, My name is Michael Ryan NOT mick as everyone else is blogging (see blog Aug 24 at 10.20am) yet you refer to yourself as Mick with your bolg Aug 22nd at 2.23pm and there after.
    Perhaps you need to get your story straight!

    again feel the love
    Tim Dalwood (or Timothy i will answer to both)

  18. Sacha Reason says:

    Dear Mick (or Michael, I’m not of a mind to really worry about that!)

    With all of the care and compassion I would like to convey to another trekker, I would like to question, Did you actaully walk the track or merely look at photo’s of it?

    Without attempting to be rude, it seems that your perception of difficult is somewhat skewed. Should you be a marathon runner or an elderly gentlemen discovering the history of the war, the Kokoda track is no ‘easy feat’. The track is not about being impossible, if people believed that, then they wouldn’t do it. The track is supposed to be a gruelling and difficult journey, but not everyone is going to find it as hard as others.

    If you found kokoda too easy, then the question is whether you spent your time focussing on just getting to the other side, ignoring the other trekkers, and looking only to yourself, rather than helping others. Everyone forms bonds on Kokoda, and the fact that you returned wtih such negative outlooks seems to speak to you not enjoying yourself at all or forming any bonds…

    Just weeks ago I did the treck with Charlie Lynn. I didn’t find it easy. I fell off a cliff edge and had to be dragged back up by several porters. We walked at night and had to struggle to see and to stay on our feet. I have come back, and told people of the diifficulty I had, and had them think, Gee, that would be a great experience. It doesn’t matter what you say, it’s important that people are aware of what happened on the Kokoda track all those years ago, and even more important that the word gets out about just how important that fight was and the significance that everyone, including the locals played.

    Great, if you want to make it seem like its not worth doing by claiming it ‘too easy’, then you go ahead and do that. The only thing you’re doing is succeeding in making yourself look ungrateful for the experience you had, and discouraging people from having an experience that they most probably WILL enjoy. Nice job.

    Did you take a porter? If you didn’t then I suggest you find a compnay who doens’t take the ‘eco tour’ or the ‘pink track’, and instead does the actual route. Its an extra 40km or so, but for someone who obviously found the first track so easy, it shouldn’t be that much difficult. If you’re that concerned about it not being difficult, challenge YOURSELF instead of INSULTING others. We all enjoyed it, we all found it an extremely enlightening experience and have changed becuase of it. If you coudln’t find it within yourself to simply admire the history and the magic of the Kokoda Trail, then I feel sorry for you because you obviously have a very poor outlook on life, and are not going to be able to enjoy the simple things in life.

    If your life consists of taking on challenges, simply to return claiming them too easy and not worth doing, then it could be suggested that you really don’t have anything better to do with your time and need to find something better to with yourself. Your discouragement of people in walking Kokoda is disgusting and you should be ashamed of yourself for trying to seek attention in such a blatantly pathetic manner.

    Here’s to you learning the subleties of when to keep your mouth shut, when to know what you’re talking about, and when to simply give it a break.

    Sincerely,
    An extremely furious TEENAGE trekker,
    Sacha Reason.

  19. Bernie Rowell says:

    Dear Mick,
    I have made 25 crossings of the Kokoda track and still find it physically and mentally tough. And am still moved by the history of the track. All I can say is thank god in 1942 there weren’t people like you!

  20. Dear Mick,

    You may rightly feel that you have been given a ‘wacking’ that you don’t fully deserve.Having seen the difference in interpretation possible between an original letter and an edited version there is a lot that can slip through the cracks.

    In defense of some of your critics it must also be allowed that they view their experience through very personally tinted lenses.I struggled monumentally with the physical challenges of the trek. But within a reasonably short time that was all good. Being a 50 something fat bastard is not all it’s cracked up to be.

    I still, however, have not come to terms with the emotional devastation of confronting the history of the sacrifice of our defenders. I am having difficulty typing this now as the kaleidoscope of images is still difficult for me. We were exceptionally lucky to have John Nalder as our guide. He is a man of integrity with a depth and breadth of knowledge of the history and current local circumstances that made our experience so much more than just a physical challenge.

    We met Charlie along the track. In person Mick he is not a bad fella. Maybe a touch of the politicians curse but a very genuinely comitted advocate for Kokoda as part of our Australian history and also as a very fair minded advocate for establishing an equitable and compassionate relationship between Australia and PNG as neighbour states.

    For every one who makes the crossing it is an individual experience. As you have correctly noted the right to an opinion is one of the principles that was at stake during that campaign. Along with many others that we also take for granted at our peril.

    I’m in the phone book too, in Wagga Wagga. Stop in for a yarn if you’re passing. We might not agree on everything but the beer is always cold and good argument never hurt anyone. I don’t know anything about the Oxfam walk but if you like a challenge there are some walks down here that will get your attention.

    Off to work . Have a good day everyone because at the end of the argument we are still in the best country in the world.

    Blommie

  21. Its a shame that our friend went to that wonderful place and all he got out of it was another theme in his life to cry about, some people will never be happy. You could never understand what it was like for someone who understands the history, hardship and the blood and guts it took those men so many years ago to do. Next time mate, go for someone else than yourself.

  22. Michael Ryan says:

    Tim, Sorry to pour water on your blog but believe it or not there is more than 1 Michael Ryan in this world.
    I am from Cronulla, not Killara and I did the trek in ’06 with a good mate with the AK Group. Our group was quite large with 47 trekkers and over 80 porters and thank God there were’nt any people like Mick Ryan of Killara on the trek.
    The trek has had a profound impact on me as there’s hardly a day goes by that I don’t think about it, we’ve also formed friendships from the trek with people from all over Australia and who we catch up with each year.
    If Mick Ryan from Killara ever decides to do it again he might think about how hard the Track is, my Dad was in the 2/2 Btn and they started at Port Moresby with over 800 men and by the time they reached Buna they were down to 80.
    Guess what Mick Ryan, the Track is still claiming casualties after 67 years because it’s a hard tough and dangerous environment.
    Cheers
    Michael Ryan from Cronulla

  23. Peter Morrison says:

    Gday Mick,
    Im not going to bag what you have said its your opinion and your entitled to it, what i will do is suggest that the difficulty of the track should not be measured in body bags or casualties, what is a fact is that people HAVE died recently due to the lack of personal care and responsibility of the companies they are trekking with , i mean did we not lose enough Australian lives in 1942 . Today there are probably about 3 companies who do it right they have , satalite phones , medical kits , radios, doctor boys, and a rear base system in moresby who can arrange evacuation and insurance issues , to trek with these companies you obviously have to pay more the sad part is alot of Aussies are trekking with companies who are cheaper and dont provide these services and when something goes wrong lives are lost , ive heard stories of trekkers being left in villages because the carriers dont know what to do with a severly dehydrated person , i mean left for the next group to come along and hopefully save them can you beleive it ! what we need to do is make people aware of these risks , cheaper is not always better .Therefore my question to you is if you are influential enough of a person to have something published in the sydney morning herald then why not publish something along the lines of what i have mentioned , let people know of the dangers trekking with sub standard companies we dont need any more lives lost whether people trek the wartime track or the eco track, thanks mate looking forward to hearing your thoughts

  24. Mike Muskens says:

    A week ago I returned from a superbly run trek (AK922), led by the amazing Peter Davis.

    We had a small group of 5 fit trekkers, and dry weather for 9 out of 10 days. We had sensational porters, and because of the group size and fitness levels, we did extra side trips in addition to the 155km trek.

    Was it tough? Yes – at times it was exceptionally tough.

    Could anyone do it? Yes – with a company like Adventure Kokoda, and leaders like Peter who understand people and their limitations, combined with the right physical and mental preparation, and a will to succeed, most people could do the trek.

    It is a shame that (through editing or otherwise) Mick Ryans assertion that “I find it sad that people with a genuine interest in the history, who would appreciate seeing some of the significant places on the track, might be put off by exaggerated tales of the superhuman qualities needed to get to Kokoda this century. They need to be put off only if they don’t like camping” seems to have been overlooked.

    I don’t think you need superhuman qualities to complete the trek either (unless perhaps you have 10 days of rain like recent trekkers experienced). And I too think it is a shame that some people might be put off by newspaper hyperbole of the difficulties.

    It’s unfortunate that Mick’s article inflamed so many people – but it exactly that sort of polarising journalism that newspaper editors look for to sell papers. I personally don’t like the way his article reads – nor the sarcastic and personal attack on Charlie he followed up with in this blog.

    We probably should remember too, that Mick more than likely walked the Kokoda Trail in 2004 or 2005 (given that Paul Ham’s book was published in 2005). So his memory of the difficulties he faced has no doubt faded, and he can only remember the good parts (Walker, Skowronski, Thompson – Life is Good and Memory Helps to Keep It That Way, Review of General Psychology, 2003, Vol 7, No. 2, 207-210). So he may not be able to accurately remember some of the feelings, like that of just following the feet in front, hoping this would stop, of the need to fall into the creek at the end of the day exhausted, of 7:30PM coming around and needing to be in bed asleep. The feeling of elation on getting to the top of that hill that we all, at some time, thought might beat us. The amazement that the spademan (Warren in our case) could keep on walking in the rain and mud, up and down impossible terrain, in THONGS, while we struggled behind him like ducks in a row with our trekking poles and $250 boots.

    I, like many reading this blog can still vividly remember those feelings. Maybe Mick didn’t keep a diary, or didn’t read it before making his comments.

    But, can almost anyone complete the trek if they use the right trekking company and complete the right preparations? Probably. And is it a shame that people are put off from experiencing what is undoubtedly the most spiritually moving time of their life, because of newspaper hyperbole. Undoubtebly.

    So Mick, to an extent I agree with your message. Shame about the delivery.

  25. Well Mick Ryan you must have had a different experience to our trekking group!

    Twenty of us set out on the 7th July 2009 to follow in the foot steps of the 39th Militia Battallion on the Adventure Kokoda ‘Battle Fields’ Trek route and after ten gruelling days covering in excess of 130 kms I definitely do not share your view of the Kokoda Trail.

    To put it mildly this was the toughest Physically, Mentally, & Emotionally that I have ever done!

    The Trail/Track tested us all in the wet, dry, sole destroying climbs and desents, as we followed the fighting withdrawal and the hard won battles when the Australian (AIF) forces pushed the Japanese back to the northern PNG coast.

    My group of ten from the Goulburn Valley trained for over three months in the gym, at home & work, and in the bush around Rushworth and Bendigo (where the 39th was raised in 1941); but this hard work only “just” afforded us with the physical strength to complete the trek but did not assist with the other emotions that we all experience!

    I think you really need to revisit your own journey as YOU DID NOT walk the Kokoda Trail that we did!

    John Lloyd
    ‘Jack Lloyd Memorial Trek’ – July 2009

  26. Grant Halloran says:

    Wow, I’ve just scanned through this blog, and netted it all out to this: yep, Charlie was right in the first place… Mick: you are a wacker.

  27. Tim Goodsell says:

    Another death today. Four deaths this year. Mick Ryan you are a tosser of the highest order. Justify your rant to those four families.

    Tim Goodsell

  28. I wonder whether he did it at all. Did he carry his own pack and food rations? And he should have elaborated on the route that he took. I bet the only path he took was from the tour bus to a tree to take a dump before heading back for a round of beers. I guess newspapers have to publish all kinds of rubbish these days to sell their rags. I’m glad I read all my news online now. Saves trees too!

  29. tim jones says:

    I am a shearer. Not blowing any horns but my job requires a high level of fittness. The university of South Aust. worked out a shearer uses, in one day, the same energy an athlete uses to run a half marathon. I walked the kokda track 4 years ago in my prime and it was the hardest 8 days i have ever done.

  30. seffron holroyd says:

    My husband is on the battlefield trek with Adventure Kokoda at this very moment, and all your passionate responses have blown me away. Wow, I am in total awe of you all (excluding this ungracious bloke named mick or mike) and my husband. You have all opened my eyes to what he must be going through – slugging through the mud and tree roots with a heavy pack strapped to him.

    I confess I have been worried sick about him, especially with all these unfortunate sad deaths that have been plagueing Kokoda. But all you good passionate people who have written in have made me realise what he is going to get out of this experience – a deeper understanding of what the soliders had to put up with for prolonged months on hand and I’m sure he will come back with him an amazing sence of accomplishment that will be with him forever, that is all certainly evident with you all that made this difficult but rewarding trek. It sounds utterly life changing. Poor Mick or Mike must have missed the experience on some point of his trip (I won’t say journey)!

  31. Clayton Morgante says:

    Hey guys, I’m currently doing a tourism assignment and if anyone has walked the Kokoda Trail I would appreciate it if you could email me so i can get your opinion on a few aspects of the trip.
    Any help will be greatly appreciated.
    My email is claytonmorgantefox@hotmail.com

    It will be greatly appreciated guys, take a lot of stress off of year 12! 🙂

  32. I did the kokoda in 2006 and reflect on it sometimes today. I didn’t train, had minimal food and found a guide when I rocked up to Popondetta. I remember suffering which I occasionally enjoy , but was done in 6 days and had a great chicken roll on the way back to Moresby. mmm chicken roll. People who rarely get out of their comfort zone will find it to be tough…otherwise just shut up and walk and be thankful you’re not getting shot at by japs.

  33. Thanks for the honest evaluation of the trail. You always wonder what the author’s fitness level is when you read reviews and of course trekking companies inflate all verbiage to make you sound like you’re about to accomplish the nearly impossible (but will then cite a 90% success rate somewhere on the booking page). Usually the authors that are matter of fact, not too many details and absolutely do not include some BS about what all of their dead relatives have done in the past are the ones giving you the real deal.

    Thanks again Mick.

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