ANZAC Kokoda trekkers

ANZAC Kokoda trekkers

June 2016 | Lorraine Clarke

ON ANZAC Day this year, Meander resident Martin Webster attended a Dawn Service with a difference.

With numerous other stout-hearted Aussies, Martin trekked through the mountains of Papua New Guinea for 7 days to reach one of the most remote Anzac service venues. Ioribaiwa Ridge is the most southern location reached by the Japanese on the Kokoda Track in 1942.

“I first did the Kokoda trek in 2010 as a paying customer, to get fit, to learn more about our Diggers. I discovered my Uncle Mick had fought there, so I had to go back. I was approached by the owner of the company about leading treks across. I’ve now led 7 treks so far.”

The Kokoda Track day begins at 6:30 a.m. with 6 hours’ walking through dense rainforest, up and down steep muddy tracks, crossing rivers on precarious-looking single- file foot bridges. Native porters carry much of the gear and food. “The porters are considered as ‘rock stars’ by other villagers, as they earn 50 kina ($25) per day, where the average income is almost nothing.”

Accommodation along the track is in native villages. “The locals go out of their way to make us feel welcome. They sing to us. They provide us with local fruits in season, and we bring noodles, rice, cheese, Spam, Saladas.” The sun sets before 7.00pm, so it’s an early night in tents to rest for the next strenuous day.

“There are lots of unexploded shells and grenades and some plane wreckages in the jungle. Rusted Bren guns, helmets, shoes, along the track. We don’t touch any of them. We see the occasional snake, hear lots of birds, but hardly see any wildlife because the jungle is so dense.”

When Martin leads his next trek in July, fiancée Alison Bailey will accompany him for her first Kokoda experience. They train by bushwalking in the Western Tiers with their dogs.

“It is a fantastic journey to make with loved ones. It makes you appreciate what you have, and there is such a sense of accomplishment when you walk through the Arches at the end,” said Martin.

To trek with Martin visit www.trekkokoda.com.au.