I’m not quite sure how to start this except to say thank you.
I recently completed the track starting at Owers Corner on ANZAC Day with John Nalder, and I am proud to say that the track was so much more than i ever expected. It was an experience so very difficult to put into words, and as John explained to us it is impossible to give a three word answer when someone asks “how was it?”. I can’t manage to answer that question without at least talking for ten minutes.
Firstly I’d like to say a huge thank you for the professionalism of your company and the thoroughness with which you prepare. I was quite suprised to receive a phone call from John on Good Friday seeking more information on my gluten intolerance. I expect that gluten free foods are not that easy to shop for in PNG. Aside from my dietary requirements I was also impressed with the description that John gave of the trekkers he meets a the airport. I think that I was wearing the apprehension tinged with nerves and alot of excitiemnt quite well, and i t was not a look I was trying to achieve, it was exactly how I was feeling. I was also impressed with the quality of information provided on equipment such as boots and clothing for the trek. I know that if I ever do it again there will be a few small changes that I will make in the equipment that I bring.
The next big thank you I’d like to express is for the excellent way in which your company looks after the carriers, without them our journey would not be possible. They say that they all want to wear the red, and I can now understand why. I can not begin to understand that companies that make them walk back home, don’t provide them with enough food or sleeping mats. It is inhumane and surely goes against the charter of rights set out by the track authority. They are beautiful, generous people and worth their weight in gold along the track. When I signed up for a personal carrier, I thought that he would carry my pack and that was it. I never expected him to be by my side the whole way and helping me to stay safe. By day two my carrier (Ivan B) had figured out my strengths and weaknesses and was always there on the down hills, my weakness. I am still in astonishment at the way in which before I even knew I needed help he was there with a hand reaching down, a gentle shove on my pack or a steadying hand on my shoulder to help me through.
I am also appreciative for the general carriers, they did an amazing job and their sprit and sense of fun is something I will never forget. There would be total silence as we concentrated on where we were walking and then out of nowhere an infectious laugh would begin and then they would all be laughing, it was a beautiful sound. Almost as beautiful as their singing. I wanted so much to bring their voices home with me, never before have voices touched me that way.
The trek itself was so much more than I ever expected, it was more than the physical challenge, in fact I have forgotten about that side of it. It was an emotional experience that I can not compare to any other. I am not ashamed to say that several times every day I cried out of both respect and awe for our soldiers and what they sacrificed so that we could live in freedom today and out of amazement at the generosity of the Papuan villagers. They have nothing by our standards except themselves and yet they are willing to share it with us. The welcomes we received, the hospitality and the culture they shared with us was magical. They touched my heart and I wanted to bring their spirit, their smiles and their happiness back home with me. They are beautiful people with a generous and caring nature, they really do perpetuate the legend of the “Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels”. And talking of the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels, meeting both Ovuru and Tarvu (sorry if the spelling is wrong) was an honour I will never forget. To hold their hand and express my thanks for their contributions during the war bought me to tears. I am apalled that they have still not received their war service medals, it is a point of shame to the PNG and the Australian Government that they are waiting for them in Port Moresby. If i could I would hand deliver them myself. Their eyes have seen so much tragedy and yet they still radiated kindness. When Ovuru’s son translated his fathers words and said that maybe he had greeted one of our family members along the track, all I could think was I wonder if he said hello to my Grandfather or my great Uncles who all served in PNG.
I have come away from the track with so much more than I ever expected, I have gained new friends, I have a greater appreciation of what being Australian is, I have a thirst now for knowldege of my relatives war service and huge admiration and love for the people of the Kokoda Trail. I am also trying hard to hold to the perspective and the mind set that the track taught me. It is not easy back in the world of work and families but I am trying and I hope that it has changed me for the better.
John Nalder is a brilliant Trek Leader and his passion for both the people of the track and the history of the track is endless and infectious. His unwavering respect for our soldiers and the Papuan people is evident in the stories he tells and the way he is welcomed into every village and camp site.
Once again I thank you for a life changeing experience.