KOKODA: The greatest ever Australian crawl to prove that the impossible is possible, has begun.
Paralympian Kurt Fearnley set out yesterday afternoon to drag himself on his hands over 96km of the gruelling Kokoda Track.
The 28-year-old wheelchair-bound athlete started the epic 10-ay challenge with 15 family members plus his Kokoda Spirit trek team of porters and guides.
In searing heat, mud and pain the group is tracking south through the Owen Stanley Range’s unforgiving mountains and dense jungle that already this year has claimed the lives of four able-bodied walkers.
“It’s such a long time coming, I’ve been preparing for this for 18 months,” Fearnley, the four-time New York Wheelchair Marathon winner, told AAP in Kokoda.
“So to actually be here is almost relieving.”
Fearnley, who grew up in the small town of Carcoar, west of Bathurst in NSW is using special pads on his hands to drag himself up and down the track.
To get to the start line he had to learn to crawl again.
“I grew up crawling all around the bush at home,” he said.
“When I was 13 or 14 I stopped crawling and got around in the wheelchair.
“When I first started crawling again my body wasn’t used to it, kind of tore it apart.
“But the last 12 months of crawling I’ve just got a bit stronger every day and hopefully its been enough.”
Trek veteran and Kokoda Spirit team leader Wayne Weatherall said there would be a few minor but essential adjustments for such an extraordinary trek, such as inflatable tyres for water crossings or a bit of carrying for safety purposes.
“The reality of this trip is probably equivalent to doing an able-body marathon everyday, to put it in context how tough this is going to be,” he said.
“It just shows the capacity of mankind, when people think things are impossible, things are possible and this guy is going to show us,” he said.
Fearnley plans to finish the trek at Owens Corner on Nov 18.