When I thought the tears had finished, I was wrong! As soon as Joel came to farewell us and thank us for our time in Naduri, the tears started again as he said a prayer of wellbeing for our day ahead. Now tears on our rest day were perfectly fine, but tears on a day when we were to start trekking… not ok! As we were walking out of the village everyone was saying farewell and waving us on our journey, and as they were doing this it only made the tears worse so I had to try to clear my thinking and tell myself to snap out of it as I couldn’t walk an hour and a half down a mountainside and not be able to see!
Finally I gathered myself as we proceeded down the hill for about 400m before going back up again for another 250m to Efogi 2 and the most beautiful little faces welcoming us, whilst kicking a ball around and yes we joined in which was so much fun, the Team all love Rugby League so kicking a ball around is as natural to them as a Kiwi kid. Efogi 2 was beautiful, with mountains all around it and the sun shining, we purchased fruit off the ladies and oh the passionfruit so divine!
We decided that a few of us ‘slower’ team members would head down the hill to Efogi, which is the biggest village on the Kokoda Track, and wait for the rest to catch up. Whilst there we chatted with the villagers, I got to meet Simeon’s family, including his wife Jenny and Parents. His Dad ran up and got an item that was originally Made in New Zealand and even though I’m unsure what it was, he said he would use it to catch birds. To top this off Jenny told Simeon she thought I was 19 - bonus! And there was an adorable little one there wearing an All Blacks top, so I was definitely meant to be paired with Simeon.
Our stop at Efogi ended up being extended as one of our team was unwell and as we worked to see if she would need evacuated, or could keep walking with us we just chilled and took our time. Eventually post lunch at around 2pm we took off for Brigade Hill which was a nice hour and a half walk up hill, as we all put our heads down, watched our feet and made our way up the hill our Porters were busy making us a wreath to lay on the Brigade Hill memorial when we had our service. This really fascinated me, as Simeon was just building this beautiful wreath, collecting flowers, fern, flax and tying it together whilst walking uphill and whilst I was telling him he should be opening a flower shop as people would pay for this!
As we got towards the top we walked through potentially the narrowest part of the track with the steepest drop off yet and it was truly beautiful, the jungle was green and misty, quite magical. It constantly made you think of just how they fought a war through here, in my experience post walking I would have said it was impossible!
We were walking the track in well constructed boots, socks, tents, malaria tablets and ways to ensure our water didn’t affect our tummies too much (the imodium was still needed…) and the boys who fought the war wouldn’t have had half of what we had, even down to they had the wrong colour uniform! I thought about this a lot as we moved through our Dusk Service, sang the national anthems and played the song ‘The Band Played Waltzing Matilda’, this song induced so many tears, if you haven’t listened to or read the words then please do, it is a beautiful and sad song.
Just like our night at Isurava was special and meant to be, I feel the same about the night on Brigade Hill, everything happens for a reason and as a Team we were meant to spend our night in these campsites.
I remember lying in my tent, post chilling and chatting around the fire with some of our Team but then we had to go to bed as the guys weren’t going to eat dinner with us around, and reflecting as I listened to the boys chatting and singing, the water pouring out of the pipes, frogs, cicadas and other jungle noises keeping the silence at bay, on just how happy I was in this moment, even though I smelt (so bad), everything was damp, dirty and smelly but I was so happy and at that moment I couldn’t imagine being back in Sydney.
I was seeing such beauty from people and the environment, I was walking tracks most will never walk and building new relationships with people from all walks of life and multiple countries, I was pushing boundaries, learning to trust, speaking with people who have so little and yet so much and it made me question (and still is) what is wealth and why do so many strive so hard that it kills them inside, even if they look like they have it all from the outside, what’s it all for.
I’ve been trying to work out just what made me so emotional over these couple of days and up until writing this now, and I feel like it is coming down to community, Sydney has no sense of community. It feels disjointed, disconnected, busy and that if you really want to talk to someone about what is going on, then best to pay someone as that is the best way to do it.
So yes, I’ll have decisions I’ll need to make and whilst I’m making them I’ll be looking for those pockets of community and connection that I know is missing and working on how I can discover that in a city like Sydney. This learning from Kokoda has been a big one for me and when I reflect back on my life pre Australia, it always had community at the centre.
The majority of the time on the track you can’t think, all you can think about is each step and stopping to think or take in the surroundings but at night this is when you can unpack and explore areas of your being that needs to be unpacked and dealt with.