Kokoda dreaming stays with trekkers
By EMMA CORNFORD
I'M walking along an overgrown track; it's muddy and slippery. There's rustling around me ? but I can't see anything through the deep jungle. The darkness has closed in around the track. I'm moving fast, almost jogging, and my breathing is getting harder. I look down and see my boots. They're standard army-issue, but worn and wet. There's a steep downhill and ahead I can see stones .. I slip ...
... and jolt myself awake. It's the second night of walking the Kokoda Track and I'm alone in a tent at Eora Creek, knees aching as I try to straighten them.
I try to sleep again but the dream has flustered me. It's the third time I've had the same vision tonight, but I put it down to a hard walk the day before and close my eyes, eventually drifting off to a troubled doze.
The next morning, Grafton paramedic Mel Rogers asks if I had strange dreams last night.
"Yeah, they were bizarre," I reply, thinking nothing of it.
"I did too, and so did some others," she says. We're quiet for a moment before she says "Aidan reckons a lot of people have weird dreams up here."
Later that day I ask our trek leader Aidan about Eora Creek. He says lots of people report odd dreams up there ? apparently it was a place of extreme bloodshed of Australian troops during the war.
To be honest I'm a complete non-believer and dismiss all aspects of the supernatural, but remembering the boots makes the hairs on the back of my neck prickle. I've heard that many people experience weird goings-on as they walk the Kokoda Track and I know a couple of people in our group pictured Australian troops in the jungle and said it was too real to be just their imaginations.
Aside from the weird parts ? which for me included running into a high school classmate along the way, deep in the jungle as I was crossing a river ? I think everyone in our group was emotionally touched as they walked the track.
For some it was the sense of loneliness in the jungle or the raw emotion at the Isurava War Memorial. For others, it was stories of wounded soldiers dragging themselves along the muddy length of the track.
I was rarely emotional during the hike, but after eight days of trekking there was one part of the Kokoda journey which did prick at my eyes.
It was linking arms with our local 'legends' ? the guides who took us along the track like modern day Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels ? saying The Ode to the Fallen and seeing the hundreds of white, marble headstones at the Bomana War Cemetery in Port Moresby. Reading a number of war dead in a book rarely means much, but seeing a marker for each one of those people gives them a name. It gives them a personality and you realise there were people who loved every one of them. People who shed tears as lives were snatched away during a cruel and unforgiving war.
The group that walked the Kokoda Track did so to raise funds for the Grafton ambulance and hospital. To get behind the appeal contact Rob Brown on 0428 664 232.