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Walking the Kokoda Trail - Courage, Endurance, Tenacity


The preparation and experience of a new bushwalker

Liz Thompson, a member of the Melton Bushwalkers, walked the Kokoda Trek in July 2019. She shares her experience below.

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My Kokoda experience started six months before I left. The ticket was booked by my sister who lives interstate and wanted to do the trek for her 50th birthday. I had six months to start training and I had no real bushwalking/hiking experience apart from a few weekend walks at the You Yangs.  I had never really walked further than 5 km at a time. So the thought of 110 km in 9 days was a bit daunting but it motivated me to get cracking on the training. I had recently moved to Bacchus Marsh so I had the Lerderderg Forrest and Werribee Gorge at my doorstep. I looked up bushwalking groups on Facebook and that’s where came across the Melton Bushwalkers. I went on a few walks with them and met lots of wonderful people, I talked about my mission and a few members decided they would help me train in more challenging elevation outside of the regular group walks.   So every Sunday, we went out for hours on end in the winter chill, climbing steep hills, getting a great workout all the while having great conversations.

Fast forward 6 months later, I land in Papua New Guinea (PNG). It is hot and unbelievably humid for a Melbourne girl. The 25 walkers on our trek meet at the airport. Our trek leader, Major Scott Babington, herded us into an old bus headed for our accommodation before the trek starts the next morning. One thing to mention is the poverty that can be seen in Port Moresby. As soon as you leave the airport you can see the harsh conditions the locals live in. It was an eye-opening experience. Below is a short diary of each of the 9 days. 

Day 1:  We take the short 10 km drive to our starting point and meet our porters. These are men from the local villages who help carry some of our belongings.   The weight is restricted to 12kgs, allowing for them to also carry their own stuff and not exceed the 18kgs limit imposed by our trekking company. Excitedly we all start the steep descent into the jungle. The temperature was around 28, it was humid but bearable. It was a short walk today, including a big river crossing then into camp and as soon as we arrived it started to rain. Everyone was in good spirits and happy to get to know each other. We get acquainted with our tents for the first time.

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Day 2:  The hills started. This is what I had been training for. The jungle was so beautiful, the twisted roots made natural staircases up the hills. The tree canopy kept the temperature down and whilst there was a little mud, it was OK. Even though the uphill was hard, sometimes the steep descents were more challenging. We reached camp after an 11-hour day, still high on the adrenaline of being here. Our fabulous trek leader gave in-depth talks at various stages on the history and significance of the areas we were walking on.  That night, before dinner, however, I didn’t feel well. I was physically sick. I tried to eat something and then went to bed only to wake up and be sick again. Oh no….

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Day 3:   Described as one of the hardest days on the trek due to some of the sheer elevation of one mountain which was aptly named The Wall, I woke up, still unwell, dizzy, racing heart and nausea and wondering how exactly was I going to get through this. I missed breakfast and got straight into the 5.30 am start but 100 metres in I knew I was in trouble. While the other trekkers were ascending the first hill, I spoke to the trek leader and told him I was done. I felt so horrible, I couldn’t even fathom walking up a hill. Reluctantly he made the phone call for a medical evacuation. Turns out, at that time of the morning, no one answers their phone. I took an anti-nausea pill and after some tears, I actually felt a bit better and Scott said he would carry my backpack while I recovered, and reassess my condition up further ... so I kept going. We reached the group that was waiting at the top of the first hill and three army reserve guys who were on our trek immediately stepped up and said they will take it in turns to help carry my backpack .... so I continued. I made it up “The Wall” and “Wall 2.0” and all the way to the next camp 12 hours later. It poured rain all day, everyone was wet through, muddy and exhausted. It was one of the hardest days in my life and a day I will always remember. Not because of the bad, because of the way everyone in the group helped me out, kept my morale up and got me through.

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Day 4:  Feeling slightly better, I had assistance with my bag again today. Another gruelling climb and hard day but getting it done. One of the highlights of the Kokoda trail is going through the villages on the way. The kids all come out and wave and smile and say hello. At some villages, they sell treats like cans of soft drink, small packets of Twistee’s and local fruit like bananas, pawpaw or coconuts. It rained on and off all day but we had bouts of the sun to dry us off.

2019 07 Kokoda Trek Liz Thompson 1

Day 5: There are many places of interest along the trail but some that have more significance than others. Today was a highlight as we made it to Brigade Hill, an impressive mountain ridge that is roughly halfway through the trek. The spot saw a great battle in September 1942 as the Australians tried to hold the advancing Japanese. We had a short ceremony here and paid respect to the soldiers who lost their lives on this battleground. Another thing that became a staple on the trek were river crossings – sometimes we had a fallen tree to cross on, and some we had to walk through waist-deep.

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Day 6 - 7: By now everyone has settled into a routine. It was hard at first trying to pack up your gear every morning in a tent but by day 6 I have finally worked out some tricks. One interesting thing, you rarely see any animals in the jungle. You might be lucky to see the odd bird and a few mozzies but I was surprised that there were no animals around. There is also very little colour, just the brown ground and green trees. There were a few fungi around but not many flowers. Occasionally the trail would lead to an open space on the side of a mountain but for the most part, we are in under the canopy of the trees. When there was a view, sometimes you couldn’t see it because of the cloud cover.

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Day 8 – By far my favourite day as we had an amazing dawn service at the Isurava Memorial. A beautiful memorial,  literally in the middle of the jungle.  I later discovered the memorial materials were brought in by helicopter. Four huge granite stones, each inscribed with a single word – Courage, Endurance, Mateship, Sacrifice. The significance of getting here and hearing the letters written by soldiers and poems after we had walked in their footsteps was amazing. We understood what those 4 inscribed words really meant as we were nearly at the end of our journey. From here we started a descent into Kokoda for our final night.

2019 07 Kokoda Trek Liz Thompson 2

Day 9 – It was a different atmosphere waking up today. We were no longer in the jungle and we had a short walk to the airfield. On the way, we were treated to a baked breakfast and cultural show before heading to the airfield. The airport consisted of a concrete slab with a tin roof and a lady with a clipboard who weighed our bags and us and wrote it all down in her book. After less than an hour’s flight in a small plane, we were back in Port Moresby. On the way back to the lodge we visited the Bomana cemetery where over 4500 Australians lie buried. It is hard to look at all the headstones, mainly young and ill-prepared boys 18 to 20 years old. It was a very emotional experience having walked through the jungle, and to know what they had to endure and the conditions that they would have had no time to prepare for.

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Upon reflection of my time at Kokoda, it’s hard to put into words the profound effect that experience has on you. It’s not just a journey you take for a physical challenge even though it is physically very challenging. It was also a very mentally challenging experience of having to push through when you think you can’t walk up to another hill, and the emotional journey, the empathy you have for those soldiers who did the same trek but in much worse and harsher conditions. It certainly piqued my interest in finding out more about Australia's role in WW2. The amazing people you meet and bond with over a very unique experience I would highly recommend.

Correct track notes and maps for bushwalks are essential!

So you're going on a bushwalk - do you know the true track conditions or are you heading out into the great unknown?

Brad Lester cartoon 1

Cartoon by Brad Lester

Don’t let this happen to you!

Rainy weather

When is a track not a track? When it is a creek ...

  • Have you checked the weather forecast for the area?
  • Do you understand how quickly weather conditions can change in the area, especially in the High Country?
  • What are the current track and access conditions?
  • Will you be checking with someone who knows or has recently been there?
  • Have you had a look for updates on the Parks Victoria website or if possible, speak to the land manager or park ranger? 
  • Have you been to the area before?

Mountain Track

When is a track not the track? When it's the wrong track or it's not a track...

  • Can you read a map?
  • Do you have a decent and recent map of the area? (Here is a good guide on where to source maps)
  • Do you have adequate navigation skills for the walk?
  • Are you able to follow a faint track or stay on an unmarked “route only” and not wander off into a scrubby gully?
  • Are you respectful of the environment by not walking off track? 

Answered NO to the above? You should be going out there with a Bushwalking Club!

Club walk leaders:

  • Are trained to plan and successfully lead walks,
  • Will mentor inexperienced walkers,
  • Guide aspiring walk leaders into being capable and confident leaders, and, best of all
  • Will get you back to civilisation.

A club walk leader will have done all the planning for you, so you can:

  • Walk with confidence,
  • Enjoy on the scenery,
  • Socialise,
  • Experience the pure enjoyment of being out there in the bush, and
  • Forget time - as the club leader knows where the group should be and when they should be there.

Bushwalking Clubs have a wealth of experience in their membership which club leaders draw on when planning walks. So you will receive the benefit of all that experience.


Want to answer YES to all the above? A Bushwalking Club ticks all the boxes!

  • It is inexpensive. Annual Membership of a club is on average between $50-$100 a year and you can go on as many walks as you like!
  • Clubs often have a bushwalking/camping gear for hire/loan to members, so you don't have to buy lots of stuff.
  • Enjoy the companionship, and the pleasure of being with like-minded people;
  • Relax in the safety of a group,
    • Be rescued if you accidentally walk into an irate wombat’s burrow,
    • Be missed if you inadvertently disappear into a ferocious Bunyip’s den.
    • First Aid - there will probably one or more people on the trip who have First Aid qualifications.
  • Meet new people, some may even become close friends!

Please do not go out into the bush on your own, even very confident and experienced walkers can become disorientated in weather changes or sprain an ankle and be unable to walk further!

Be prepared – enjoy the bush- and easiest of all - join a club! 




Bushwalking for fun, fitness, friendship and nature!

Retiring soon? Consider bushwalking as a way to stay fit, get outdoors and socialise!

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At last, you have the time to make your dreams of leisure a reality ...

You have retired! 

Or at least have reduced your working hours. 

You most likely have this on your wishlist:

To get fitter or maintain your fitness,

To get outdoors more – commune with nature, as they say in the classics,

To socialise more, meet new people and make lasting friendships,

To spend quality time with your spouse or showing your grandchildren the bush,

You cannot, no you must not be stuck at home, looking for a new weed to pull from the garden!


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Most of us look forward to retirement with so much anticipation, but once the dust has settled:

  • You have been on that trip, and there will be more travels, but not next week.

  • You have, at last, put the regimen of working life behind you, swept away the former routines, and finally grasped the concept that work, paid or voluntary, is now optional, not compulsory.

  • You have caught up on all those jobs around the house that have been deferred for as long as you can remember.


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Retirement can bring on many challenges such as:

  • Adjusting to a change in the pace of life;

  • Settling into your new lifestyle, new routines;

  • Coming to terms with your changed financial position, and for many,

  • Downsizing from the family home and moving to a new neighbourhood;

  • Moving to be near family, more childminding.

Some retirees find it hard to imagine how they had time to go to work while others find time weighing heavily. Many retirees speak of feeling lost and disconnected or socially isolated.  Few retirees will spend their golden years cruising the seven seas, living the life of the eternal grey nomad or find the meaning of life managing their personal superannuation fund.

Everybody needs and wants to find their correct balance between satisfying, meaningful activity and leisure. 


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Eventually, the years move on and the physical realities of aging cannot be swept under the carpet any more. To keep the aches and pains to a minimum, to help medication do its job and reduce the risk of all the ‘modern’ epidemics, all advice leads to staying socially connected and physically active.

BUSHWALKING TICKS ALL THE BOXES - Fun, fitness, friendship, well-being and nature!

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So let’s look at the amazing opportunities of having time on your hands and the world at your feet:  

  • Bushwalking is a fantastic way to meet like-minded people, make new friends and to keep in touch with old friends. For families, it is a great multigenerational activity to enjoy together, to share in the wonders of nature and to learn or pass on knowledge of the natural world.

  • Here in Victoria, we are blessed with ample opportunities and a variety of terrains in which to explore.

    • Close to Melbourne, near to regional cities or towns, one hour from home near public transport or two hours drive out in the countryside, and if you are so inclined, at more remote destinations.

    • There are Council Parks, State Parks and Forests, National Parks and popular recreational areas.

    • A choice of short, medium or long walks;

    • Every grading of walk from easy through to challenging, catering to every level of fitness and ability;

  • Bushwalking does not require expensive membership fees or elaborate equipment.  It is something that can be enjoyed as a member of a club or group or in a casual get together with friends. Best practice is not to go onto less travelled tracks on your own.


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Most bushwalking clubs will allow you to join them as a guest (usually for up to three walks), that way you can get a feel for the club and its members and what recreation it can provide for you, before you commit. You can explore our affiliated bushwalking clubs here. Many clubs arrange interstate and international walks, so there are many options for you to spread your wings. 

Click on this link to see how Bushwalking could be your gateway to safe outdoor recreation!

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All Images courtesy of Melton Bushwalkers, one of our affiliated bushwalking clubs. 



Injured or ill in a remote area?


Demo at BWV Leadership Forum

The last few years have seen Ambulance Victoria up-skilling specialist paramedics across the state for responding into remote and wilderness environments. Wilderness Response Paramedics are trained to assist in medical emergencies in Victoria’s bush and alpine areas and can provide patient care over protracted periods in challenging locations. We had the privilege of being introduced to this service by Andy Oates (paramedic with Ambulance Victoria) and volunteer with our Bush Search and Rescue (BSAR) team (photo above) at the recent Bushwalking Victoria Leadership Forum. 

They respond as part of a multi-agency team which typically sees members from Victoria Police (VicPol), Victoria State Emergency Service (SES), County Fire Authority (CFA), or the Department of Land, Environment, Water, and Planning (DELWP) co-respond.

The team is able to access areas that are otherwise inaccessible. Wilderness Response Paramedics then assess and manage a patient until extrication can be arranged either by ground or air.

Troopies front  Training at Tawoga Huts

This month (June 2019) saw the rollout of this service extended to a group of paramedics working in the metropolitan region. There are now more than 90 trained responders throughout the Victoria. A number of the paramedics involved in the program have a BSAR background. Note that VicPol is the ‘Lead Agency’ in any Search and Rescue incident in Victoria and that the new Ambulance Victoria program is aimed at giving its paramedics the capacity to safely provide a high level of medical support for an injured or ill patient once located. Here is a training video. 


More information about Ambulance Victoria Services here

Bushwalkers are most grateful for this service in the unlikely event of an incident whilst on a remote bushwalk - thank you Ambulance Victoria! 

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