The National, Monday, May 2, 2011
THREE men from the Whitsundays in Queensland, Australia, endured the physical and psychological challenges of the Kokoda Track last week to coincide with Anzac Day.
The treacherous trail links the southern and northern coasts of Papua New Guinea through rugged terrain and tells the history of fighting between Australian and Japanese troops in World War II.
Craig Spence shared his story with the Whitsunday Times, saying there was little that could prepare even grown men for the experience.
He joined a group of strangers who wanted to follow in the footsteps of those brave soldiers who protected our shores so many years ago against the invading Japanese imperial forces.
Spence, Rod Dench and Wayne Priddle spent eight months training on the Great Whitsunday Walk but Spence said that did not compare to what they experienced in “the most demanding environment you could imagine”.
“In comparison, this was a walk down the road (the Great Whitsunday Walk) compared to the Owen Stanley Range in Papua New Guinea,” he said.
“I personally found it the most demanding of mind and body I have experienced so far in my 49 years.
“How any of the Australian soldiers who fought here in 1942 survived the track, let alone being shot at, getting any number of diseases that were present at the time, and trying to find food, is truly amazing.”
They learnt about out-of-the-way battle sites, ammunition dumps and plane wrecks while on the ground during the trek – things that are not in the books you read.
The trekkers finished the trail with an Anzac Day service at Bomana Cemetery in Port Moresby.
Spence said it was that moment that he truly felt proud of the brave young Australians who freely gave their lives to protect what we had now.
“We should not let our future generations forget the suffering and sacrifice that they went through to give us the Australia we are proud of.”
For those wanting to try the Kokoda Trrack, Spence said they should do it as soon as they could.
“Be prepared for a never ending struggle and an emotionally uplifting ending.”