Marilyn’s Kokoda Experience
I had tears in my eyes reading what Marilyn wrote as its the very reason I keep doing this. To all our guides and porters, thank you!
Marilyn’s words: This could be a long post…here’s my reflection of the past 8 days
Walking Kokoda started out as a goal 4 years ago. This year it became reality. Then as fate would have a memorial for our father Allan McPaul who transitioned over in February. Dad was posted to PNG towards the end of WWII and it was due to this connection that I wanted to walk the ANZAC trek. In some respects I knew what I was in for. Also no amount of training would make it easy.
It was hard. One of the hardest things I could possibly accomplish physically. Most things I’d done to date were short bursts compared to Kokoda. Camping 2-3 nights. Trekking 4-6 hours. Kokoda was days long. Some days 10 hours of solid workout where the burn never stops in your muscles. Never look up more than a couple metres because the path would appear endless!
It was spiritual. Something happened along the way connecting me to a sweet space between pain and bliss. When I found it there was no way I’d give up.
I spoke to spirits. My dad was the little blue winged butterfly who flew around me for about 10 minutes. Landing on my shoulders, head, arms many times. My mum I associated with the songs playing in my head. Oh Danny Boy or Galveston.
Then there was the Japanese soldier who died from a bayonet wound in the neck. Once I told him “thank you I get it” the pain I’d been feeling left my neck. The spirit of Mon who was my parents and later my older sisters house boy helped me carry my pack. Side by side we walked for hours.
My porter Lenny said “everything must leave the mind on Kokoda”. He was right. I usually have 12 spirit guides around me but on Kokoda I noticed a lot more just out of sight over my shoulder.
Lenny was my porter without whom I’d not have fared so well. From cutting steps (with bush knife) into the hillside so I wouldn’t have to step high or slide down to taking off my shoes at days end. I never expected my porter to do that. But from the first day as I sat wearily down he was at my feet untying my laces. Later he’d wash off the mud and dry my socks and shoes by the fire. Lenny helped me to appreciate the loyalty of the PNG people. I saw a truely magnificent being, always patient and caring.
There was nothing I couldn’t ask for and he’d do it. Lenny held my hand many times to pull me up over rocks to crossing rushing rivers. It’s his demeanour many of the people here have which is nothing like the Master/Servant but rather one of knowing who he is and why he’s part of this life.
He simply does his best without wanting anything in return. The epitome of the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels. Apparently he also holds the 18 hour record for the Kokoda Track. I felt his patience while it took us 8 days to traverse! Lenny never showed me anything but care and friendship. I’ll be forever grateful.
Our guide Pat is an amazing man. His knowledge of the track and history was the right balance between guide and personal trainer. I know I was a concern initially as I struggled to find my rhythm on the trail. Pat was always patient and somewhere behind me to give me a confidence boost as I knew Maggy was powering on ahead.
Along the way we stopped to hear stories and picture the battles fought in the WWII campaign. We could tell the porters and support staff respected him.
As with an island nation nothing goes strictly to plan. With Pat leading us we never felt unsafe and always knew what was happening.
This has been a memorable experience.