A Kokoda Track experience for Evening CWA

Rowena Casey presenting a gift to guest speaker Marc McLeish.
Rowena Casey presenting a gift to guest speaker Marc McLeish.

At the August meeting of Cowra Evening Branch CWA, guest speaker, Marc McLeish, was warmly welcomed by President Ann Apthorpe to speak about CWA's current country of study, Papua New Guinea.

Marc used a power point presentation to describe his experience on the Kokoda Track with 'On Track Expeditions' last year with a group of 16 men, a few from the local area but mostly unknown beforehand.

He also referred to a number of aspects of Australia's involvement on Kokoda during World War 2.

Marc said he wanted to physically challenge himself by carrying his own pack the whole way, as well as describing some of the mental and physical challenges the group faced and the hard-won understandings they gained.

Each trekker was given an Australian Kokoda Track soldier from WW2 to study.

Marc's soldier was Corporal John Metson, who was wounded and crawled behind stretcher bearers, rather than be carried and suffered silently so as to not give away their position to the Japanese.

To "do" the Kokoda Track one has to pass a medical with an ADF-approved trekking company such as "On Track Expeditions" that employs local men to cook, carry supplies and set up camp.

Meals were necessarily simple such as tinned tuna and dried noodles.

Everyone took anti-malaria tablets and were careful with the water they drank. The group were entertained at night by the local employees singing religious songs, with both trekkers and employees getting along very well.

The group visited the well looked after memorials and monuments (paid for by the Australian Government) as well as a number of schools, libraries and health clinics provided by Rotary. The photo of the Isurava Memorial was particularly moving. The inscription on the 4 black granite pillars are COURAGE, ENDURANCE, MATESHIP and SACRIFICE, which represents the qualities of the Australian soldiers who fought along the Kokoda Track. At the end of the trip Marc learned that his Uncle, Rueben James "Doolie" Newton had fought in New Guinea and he was shown the very spot where his photograph was taken. A family mystery solved!

Some highlights were crossing a footbridge at Templeton Crossing, reaching Mt Bellamy (where supplies were dropped during the war) and a final charter flight to see from on high the vast terrain they had all covered on foot over the preceding 9 days.

Rowena Casey thanked Marc for his very moving presentation and handed him a box of freshly cooked goodies - his favourite scones and jam.