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