Wednesday, August 13, 2008

I celebrate my 41st birthday by trekking the Kokoda Trail

I celebrated my 41st birthday the hard way by walking part of the Kokoda Trail from Owers Corner to Ua Ule Creek last Saturday, and back on Sunday, together with senior management and staff of Telikom.
It all started on Tuesday last week when my good mate Defol Jabbar, who runs up-and-coming trekking company Fuzzy Wuzzy Expeditions, asked me to accompany Telikom management and staff on the two-day trek.
Last Saturday was to be my birthday, and after weighing all the pros and cons, such as the fact that I would be away from my four young children, I took the gamble to walk Kokoda.
I walked the full Kokoda Trail from Kokoda to Owers Corner in 2003 and in 2004 walked from Kokoda to Isurava and back, so this would be my third trek, although I have written countless articles and taken hundreds of pictures about this WW11 icon.
Last week was also not the perfect one for me, with so much stress, that I decided that Kokoda would provide the much-needed therapy that I needed.
The late Sir Edmund Hillary, the first to climb Mount Everest in 1953, once remarked:" It is not the mountains we conquer, but ourselves."
Fears about the trek, hopes about reaching the end of the journey, at first seemed insurmountable; but they were met and conquered by the hardy Telikom staff including a female.
It brought out of them hidden physical and mental reserves that they never knew that they had!
Walking the Kokoda Trail made them envision the journey of life itself beginning with one small step, followed by another and another, until somehow, with time, you ultimately reach the pinnacle by taking it step after painful step.
The 15 staff - from marketing, regional operations and supply andlogistics divisions - walked from Owers Corner to Imita Ridge and downto Ua'Ule Creek last Saturday, overnighted, and then returned alongthe same route the next day.
In a nutshell, the Japanese captured Kokoda on July 28, 1942, and advanced over the Owen Stanley Ranges towards Port Moresby.
Australian soldiers delayed and finally halted the enemy at Ioribaiwa Ridge on September 26, 1942.
The 7th Australian Division began an offensive, which drew the enemy back through Kokoda to the coast, around Buna, where Australian and American troops combined to destroy the entire Japanese force.
For some of the trekkers such as marketing manager Jerry Damoi -overweight, unfit and out of shape - it was a real eye opener.
"Initially, it's about team building, wellbeing and fitness," he said.
"The idea is to mix management, team leaders and top management andsend them in a team to the famous Kokoda Trail to really get to knoweach other better.
"The terrain is quite challenging and brings out teamwork andtogetherness beyond the office, general wellbeing, as well as fitnessand a healthier lifestyle.
""What better place than the Kokoda Trail to have such a particulartherapy take place?"
Kokoda has made the Telikom employees realise many things.
They now better appreciate the rugged and heartbreaking terrain the Australians, the 'Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels', and the Japanese encountered during those dark days of WW11.
The hardships the forgotten Orokaiva and Koiari people who live on the mountains, ridges, and gullies of the Owen Stanley Ranges endure daily brings tears to your eyes.
The smiling, happy faces of children as they called out a "hello" to visitors - amidst these abject hardships - brings so much joy to your heart.
You find peace and beauty in nature, with answers to troubling questions being found on the wind, in the trees, in the song of birds, in the pure voice of an ever - flowing mountain stream splashing over the rocks, and in the stillness of the forest.
Being along the Kokoda Trail, one becomes aware of the infinite circle of life: there is evidence of decay, destruction and death; there are also examples of rejuvenation, restoration and renewal.
But most of all, it has shown them (and me) that the human spirit can triumph over adversity.
The trek was facilitated by 100% nationally-owned company Fuzzy WuzzyExpeditions, which also organises similar treks for major corporateentities such as SP Brewery and Ela Motors.
Senior staff and management of Telikom, including CEO Peter Loko, willhave a series of Kokoda treks over the next few weeks.
Port Moresby journalist Stan 'The Man' Ivahupa from the NationalBroadcasting Commission and yours truly accompanied Telikom managementand staff on the first trek last weekend.
Mr Ivahupa featured it on his morning show on Monday morning.

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