Jeremy Andreani had always been interested in the Kokoda Track because his grandfather had served up in Port Moresby during WW2 and often spoke about what happened there. He was in the gun battalions and didn’t actually do the track while the 39th were going in and the battles took place but he did go AWOL and fly with the bombers over the top and dropped supplies down for the troops once or twice. Jeremy had also heard how challenging the walk was and he is someone who likes a challenge. Jeremy (pictured right) did the Track as a part of a charity event and was sponsored by his employers, the Greater Building Society. This entailed being a part of a challenge which was organised and run by Credit Unions Federation of Australia (CUFA). CUFA is an umbrella organisation that looks after the interests of Credit Unions in Australia and they sent an invitation to the Greater to nominate someone to be a part of the challenge. The Greater took care of the up front costs of the trip, but each person who participated had to fund raise an amount of at least $3,000. The money that was raised goes toward emerging credit unions in the South Pacific. CUFA is looking to help Papua New Guinea in setting up credit unions and so Jeremy also got to liaise with the people who would be the recipients of the money raised from the challenge. They spent three days with local people in Port Moresby before starting the
8 THE LAKE VIEW July, 2009
track. The opportunity to be a part of micro financing, raising money for charity and doing Kokoda was something that he could not pass up. There had been some talk about him possibly going in December but in January he was told that he would be going in March and so only had just over two months to train. As much as possible he tried to do a little bit of exercise each morning and also went bush walking on weekends with his friends. On these walks he had to find places that had some very steep ascents. Thankfully he was already fairly fit before this training started. The walk itself takes in nine days but the last day is only about 1½ hours, so eight days of full on walking. When asked how hard it was Jeremy said that it was “the hardest thing I have ever done in my life hands down.” The walk is 96 kilometres, but he says that doesn’t really do it justice because if you took all of the ascents and stacked them on top of each other, plus all of the descents, then you have three quarters of the way up Mt Everest. It is extremely steep and grueling and very tiring as some days they would walk for eleven hours with only breaks for morning tea and lunch. For six out of the nine days it rained and there was talk of it being as wet as when the diggers were over there in WW2. This made things very treacherous as they were walking ankle deep in mud. You can’t look behind you when you are walking but have
to keep looking for the next safe place to place your feet and that was on the easier parts. On the ascents it was just look ahead and put one foot in front of the other in what is known as ‘the Kokoda shuffle.’ One of the walkers had the path actually collapse under her and fortunately she managed to jump forward or she would have landed in the water. On day one Jeremy thought that he might not be able to continue because of how tired he was and the fact that he hadn’t paced himself properly. Day two he was worried that he might end up dying there and he didn’t know if he wanted to throw up or pass out from the sheer exhaustion of the climb. After a long climb he can remember trying to draw some air into his lungs and looking down to see a small plaque of a man who had died on that spot the year before from a heart attack and says that he can understand how that could happen. Jeremy had only just returned home when two Australians died on the track within about a fortnight which was very sobering. After crossing raging rivers and walking on treacherous narrow trails the nine people who participated where euphoric at the end and just so excited to have accomplished something so amazing as this. The group made a decision from the onset to remain positive and to not complain when things got too tough, something that would have been difficult as like Jeremy said that they were basically stripped down to raw emotions. He was surprised at the
strong friendships that were developed and the camaraderie they all experienced. Jeremy believes that it was a life changing experience that he will not forget. He says the only reason he would do it again was if he had kids and they wanted to do it. Anyone that is wanting to do the walk needs to go with a good attitude and to train every day and be super fit as it is a very unforgiving experience. On a final note Jeremy feels very humble about being able to stand on the same ground as our heroic diggers. They held two memorial services whilst there. He has a fairly good knowledge of the history of Kokoda but to actually do the walk has given him a greater insight into what they endured and was a humbling and emotional experience not to be forgotten. Where is the Kokoda Track? The Kokoda Track is a narrow, jungle-enclosed pathway across the Owen Stanley Range over the roof of Papua. It climbs from the hills north of Port Moresby through small settlements such as Uberi, Kagi, Efogi and Isurava to a height of over 2,200 metres. Why is it an important place for Australians? More than 600 Australians were killed and some 1680 wounded during perhaps the most significant battle fought by Australians in World War II. All photographs kindly supplied with permission by Jeremy Andreani.