Before I left for Papua New Guinea, and said goodbye to my parents, my friends and my boyfriend, I thought it may be the last time I’d see them. With all of the recent deaths of trekkers occurring along the track, as well as the tragic plane crash that occurred exactly one week before I left, my confidence was at a low. Instead of getting excited for this once in a life time journey, I was scared and was trying to convince myself that I should not be doing it. Having suffered bouts of depression and anxiety for a number of years, these feelings were a natural reaction for me. I doubted my confidence, I doubted my fitness, and whether I had trained enough, I doubted pretty much everything.
Other people around me were not doing much to help ease my anxious feelings. “Why the hell are you doing that”, “I’m glad its you and not me doing that”, and “Aren’t you scared”, were regular questions and comments I got in the months leading up to the trek. As much as this dampened my confidence, there was a still a little voice in the back of my mind that told me I should be doing it.
And that I did.
The second day into the trek, after climbing the first big hill up to Isurava and looking back at where we had walked that day. Looking out at the cloud covered mountains of the Owen Stanley Ranges as the sun rose, hearing the voices of our carriers sing their national anthem and the song “Coming Home”, and experiencing my first tears of the trip, I knew that I had come to do something special and that I had to continue no matter what doubtful feelings I had in my mind or what anyone else said, I had a goal, and I was going to achieve it.
I saw the trek as a metaphor for life. There are ups and downs and bad parts and good parts. After a difficult stretch of walking, there was always a brilliant view, which I saw as a reward for the hard work I had put in. It has really changed the way I view myself, as there have been some times in my life where I wanted the reward straight away, but now I know that its not always possible.
Walking Kokoda has helped boost my confidence a great deal. There are still some times I feel a twinge of anxiety, but I just go for a walk and often reminisce back to Kokoda and it all goes away. These days I try and block out the negatives and when people say that I cant do something, I don’t listen.
The trek has inspired me to take advantage of every day. The men fighting on the track gave up their lives so we could live ours, so I like to think that sometimes we (as those who have trekked Kokoda) are living our lives on behalf of those men, and so we should live each day to the fullest. I have learned that our bodies are powerful and we should have more trust in them and treat them with more respect that most of us do. You can do almost anything if you put your mind to it and your body will do the rest.
Prior to the trek I did not have much interest in war history. As a young person, it is very hard to appreciate really what was done for us all those years ago, especially when you have no longer any living relatives that participated in the war that you could relate too. Walking Kokoda has really made me appreciate what those men did for us. This ANZAC Day that has just passed, when out at the local club with my friends, I looked around the room and saw lots of people drinking and getting drunk, and looking as though that ANZAC Day was just another excuse to get drunk and have a long weekend. But across the room I saw an elderly man, proudly wearing his war medals and suit, and that really struck me as what ANZAC Day was about.
So these are just a few of the main things I learned from Kokoda and how the experience has changed me. Those four words – Strength, Courage, Endurance and Mateship will be forever imprinted in my mind and the experience will be with me for the rest of my life.
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