An emotional journey at Kokoda

April 27, 2017

Honour: The group paused to reflect at significant points and battle grounds along the Kokoda Track.

Special experience: David Petersen, Alan Stevens, Philip Stevens, Chris Kelly and Murray Lumley on the Kokoda Trail.

A group of local men have returned from a tough yet very enjoyable trek after tackling the Kokoda Track in Papua New Guinea earlier this month.

Finley’s Chris Kelly, Tocumwal’s Murray Lumley and David Petersen and Koonoomoo’s Alan Stevens, with Mr Stevens’ son Philip from Tatura, completed one of the most difficult treks in the Southern Hemisphere, setting off on April 3 and finishing their journey on April 12, returning home the day before the Easter long weekend.

Their trek was in the 75th anniversary year of the battles of Kokoda, and it also held special significance for Mr Stevens, who was born four days before the first major battle of Kokoda.

‘‘The four of us, except my son, are all members of the Beef, Steak and Burgundy Club and someone mentioned it over a glass of red wine,’’ Mr Stevens said.

‘‘I’d also spent much of my working life in New Guinea.

‘‘We discussed it, and I said I’d really like to do it if my son participated as well. He said he’d love to and it all went from there.’’

The adventure was decided on last November, which gave the team enough time to tune up their fitness, although a number were already keen cyclists.

There were also eight other people on their trek from Bendigo, who were raising money for melanoma research.

‘‘Our group was slightly older, the average age for us was just over 60, with Philip being the youngest at 43 and myself the oldest, a few weeks shy of 75,’’ Mr Stevens said.

‘‘We were all fairly fit and we coped with it quite well, everyone really enjoyed it and there were no injuries or anything.’’

The trek was also an opportunity for the group to reflect on those who’d fought along the Kokoda line — where many of the main battles between the Allied forces, mainly Australian, and the Japanese, were fought to prevent them from reaching Australian shores.

The group said it was an emotional experience, with a few tears shed along the way.

‘‘It was really sobering to see all the young people who didn’t return,’’ Mr Stevens said.

‘‘It was also special for us to remember those young people who fought here, because without them and what they did and their sacrifice, we could be living a very different life.

‘‘We had some services along the track, and we had a recording of the Last Post and after saying a few words, we’d play that.’’

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