Where do I start… Well I know it was full of hope, nerves, uncertainty, trying to work out the unknown and excitement!
I kicked off my Kokoda campaign with a pre Kokoda and 40th weekend in Cairns with friends, this was simply perfect! Great friends who were keen to explore, relax, have a wine, cook a bbq and chat, not to mention my ‘toast’ birthday cake.
Then post another ‘re pack’, I think I did about 20 of these before the final pack in Port Moresby, I was off to the not so big Cairns International Airport, coffee and a pie and I was back to reading Turia Pitt’s book, I purchased it to read on the track and had it half finished by Cairns… needless to say it’s an amazing and easy read.
An easy flight across the ocean to Port Moresby as I chatted to my seat buddy who has been a fly in fly out for about 20 years, between Cairns and PNG and some of the stories he told me about working security, in the mines and other roles he’s had whilst up here. It’s fascinating to hear that the tribal way of life is still strong and yet typically they don’t involve the expats. It really just makes me curious to see more of PNG and to go back.
We arrived to walk from our plane into the terminal - the first bus was full… we didn’t wait for it to come back and then a long wait at customs to get the visa on arrival, apparently this is easier than trying to get the visa before arriving. The bonus, I had other trekkers in line in front of me and one happened to be the amazing Lisa who was with my team, the others we followed and stayed in similar camps along our journey.
Once through we met the smiling Andy and he gathered up all his nervous charges, we each introduced ourselves as the next person arrived and then before long we were off on a bus ride through the streets of Moresby to the Holiday Inn Express. Everything just ran so smoothly, the Back Track Adventures team have this down to a fine art and then I was up to my room to meet Barbara from Texas - yes Texas, we all questioned why she was there and also thought it was amazing!
I guess Kokoda is seen as such an ‘Aussie’ trek to do due to the history, but the Americans also fought there and well no one questioned why a Kiwi was on the trek, and we definitely didn’t fight in PNG… I Googled and stand corrected… apparently in 1944 the bomber squadrons of the Royal New Zealand Air Force joined against the Japanese in the fight for Rabaul, and then we stayed behind whilst the Americans went onto the Phillipines.
It was great how quickly we gelled as a team, and such a variety! From Jonah at 22, to I believe our oldest Ken, but I’m unsure how old Ken was and it didn’t matter as he left me lagging well behind! We discovered we had a 40th (me), 50th (Barbara), 60th (KK) and a 23rd (Jonah) birthdays whilst on the track, so September is a very popular month, post trek our leader Damian and fellow trekker Anna also had birthdays.
Our team was made up of 17 wonderful humans! Starting with 7 amazing women (KK, Teresa, Lillian, Mehere, Lindy, Anna, Lisa) who were raising funds for Femili PNG, and a combination of Australian or PNG and this made knowing what the Crew were saying a lot easier! Then we had the wonderful trio of Dave, Rod and John, three mates all doing the trek together, they were quiet, entertaining, amazing to talk to and genuine top guys. Then the rest of us, Brooke, Jonah, Barbara, Ken, Grant and Me, then not to forget our fearless leader Damian.
That night post dinner we learnt about the battle for the Pacific, where the Australian troops were in WWII and how we came to win the war for PNG. The craziest notion was that they thought a road could be built… Having walked over, I know there is no way still that that could happen.
Then it was time to head up, pack our packs, have one last shower (ok second last as I had another one in the morning) and try to get some sleep before our 3am wake up - Day 1 was going to be a very very long day.
So yes, I was nervous, excited, loving that our group was just so awesome and keen to get started.