Students retrace soldiers’ steps
LIFE lessons learned during a gruelling week on the Kokoda Track will stay with a group of Clarence Valley high school students for life.
Clarence Valley Anglican School students Nikita Avery, Mathew Gaudoin, Ewen McInnes and Chloe and Georgia Campbell used the words "hard" and "very intense" to talk about their trek on their first day back at school yesterday.
The group, led by teacher Wayne Culph, also included parents Howard Avery and Scott Campbell.
They were in awe of the efforts of Australian soldiers, turning back the Japanese invasion of Papua New Guinea 72 years ago.
For Nikita this was her second Kokoda trek but experience did not make it any easier.
With local guide and war historian Rob Brown, plus a contingent of native New Guinea legends, they walked 96km from the village of Kokoda to Owens Corner from April 16-24.
"It's actually only 30km as the crow flies," Mr Culph said.
Mathew said he was in awe of the treacherous terrain.
"The track just goes up and down, mountain after mountain, it doesn't stop," he said.
"The track is about 30cm wide most of the time and you have trouble not falling over or even off it."
Chloe experienced falling off the track.
"I fell down a cliff. I rolled in the mud for about 20m until my water bottle caught on a tree," she said.
"The New Guinea legends came down after me and got me back up."
The fact Australian soldiers, many wounded and with jungle diseases were able to fight battles along the track amazed them.
"They often fought at night and you can't see your hand in front of your face at night," Ewen said.
"Even in the daytime you can only see a metre or two in front of you. How they did it with rifles shooting at them and grenades going off, it's hard to imagine."
For 13-year-old Georgia, the youngest in the group, the daily rain was an abiding memory.
"Every day exactly at three o'clock it started. Every day, right at three, all the time. There was thunder and lightning and this tropical storm," she said.
The day after their trek the group laid a wreath at the Bomana War Cemetery at Port Moresby during the Anzac Day ceremony.
Mr Culph said this was the school's second trip to walk the track and he hopes it will be an ongoing opportunity.
This year CVAS and Grafton Public School, where Mr Avery is principal, combined to make a $500 donation to a children's orphanage at Efogi Village.
He said the 11-day journey included a visit to the Isurava battlefield and seeing trenches and foxholes, a crashed fighter plane and other war relics that remain as reminders of the conflict and sacrifices endured by past generations.