A group of seven students, teachers and parents from St Columba Anglican School (SCAS) have returned after successfully completing the Kokoda Track.
One of those students was 15 year old Connor Bailey, who says the journey challenged him in ways he did not expect.
“I walked the track because I wanted to experience a different culture and so I could get to know the history and meet some new people,” Connor said.
“The track was hard, lots of ups and downs… We walked 96km plus a little bit at the end. It took us 8 days to walk the track. My feet were pretty good by the end - a little sore.”
According to Connor, getting to camp at the end of each day was a milestone, but the most memorable moment was the memorial at Isurava.
“When I did my speech there it was a very hard part, maybe the hardest part of the track,” Connor said. “I did not expect it to affect me the way it did.”
Connor’s father, Scott Bailey, was also part of the group. Together, they have a lot of family history associated with the Kokoda Track.
“The fact that I am an ex-serviceman myself, and that Connor’s great-grandfather on his mother’s side served in PNG, were contributing factors,” Mr Bailey said.
“The track was incredible. It varied from tree root covered areas to slippery mud and then the manicured lawns of the villages,” he said.
“When you are standing on a piece of mud less than a metre wide and a drop of hundreds of metres to your left and right, it’s amazing to think how both the diggers and the Japanese managed to fight each other.”
Mr Bailey says that completing the trek with his son has created lifelong memories.
“We helped each other through some of the difficult parts of the trek and found great support in each other’s strengths. We bonded over fires and stories as well as developing a better mateship between us. It is something neither of us will forget.”
For Mr Bailey, walking into the Memorial at Isurava was also a special moment.
“This was where I got a real sense of completion and that I had made it,” he said.
“SCAS conducted the memorial service here and as a part of this I conducted an official poppy laying service … To see the recognition of events in the faces of those present, including my own son, was a very proud and memorable experience for me.”