Tony Casu of Narooma has made it back from an epic hike along the Kokoda Track in Papua New Guinea that he made in honour of his digger grandfather.
Mr Casu is the general manager of the Narooma Sporting and Services Club and his grandfather was Roy O’Reilly from the Central West NSW town of Matong, who fought as a Bren gunner with the Australian 9th Division.
The following is Mr Casu’s account of his time spent on the historic track through the jungle walking in the footsteps of his grandfather:
“We started at Owens Corner, a little apprehensive and thought ‘Let’s do this sucker’.
“The first step off Owens Corner was a bit like ‘free falling straight down’ for the first hour and we thought, ‘Welcome to Kokoda boys’, as it got no better from there.
“We soon learned that the porters had a completely different set of definitions when it came to the English language.
“When you asked what’s coming up next, and the answer is “just a little up”, well 2.5 hours later and you are still slogging it up a cliff face, was the first realisation that the porters do not fully understand English, or they have a sick sense of humour.
“Their version of flat is only half hour each way up then down then up then down and with a smile they say ‘Kokoda Flat’.
“How the boys of 75 years ago were able to walk, run and fight on the track is nothing short of a miracle. It took everything that our group had to walk the 98km to Kokoda, and had the bumps and bruises to show for it, our war wounds.
“Walking through the historic battle sites, seeing what the boys endured, what they had to suffer through and then keep on going, the admiration for my pop and the boys he fought with kept growing with every step as words go nowhere near being able to describe the terrain and the conditions as it is truly a case of ‘you just have to see it to believe it’.
“The memorial at “Isurava” really sums it up in the four words engraved into the four black marble stones standing sentry over the famous battle site, Mateship, Sacrifice, Courage and Endurance.
“We were both physically and mentally exhausted after doing a seven-day, six-night, 11-hour treks mostly straight up or straight down, but with a hot meal every night and a fire to help stay warm at night.
“And at almost 2200 metres above sea level coming through the Kokoda Gap, you needed to try and stay warm, not to mention that it was bucketing down rain, the wind was trying its hardest to blow the tiny grass huts down and dump as much rain as possible through the open windows.
“We learned that a tree root was both your enemy and your best friend, as it was the easiest way to break an ankle and at the same time it was also the easiest way to try and walk through the mud and slush by trying to step from root to root.
“We learned why places called ‘The Golden Staircase’ and another called ‘The Wall’ are so much better when you are standing at the top and looking down and feeling proud of yourself, then the porter says ‘Come boys just another little up before camp’ so with a groan and a moan off and up we go again.
“After a small taste of what the boys went through 75 years ago, it made all the more frightening to think that they did if for over nine months through one of the wettest years in the country’s history, living with the disease, mud, insects, knowing that to light a fire was suicide and trying to fight off a determined enemy that started with a 6-to-1 advantage.
“I have been and I have seen, but I still find in un-comprehendible to think that battles could be fought in terrain that even a pack horse in unable to get to, yet for the villages of the area, life is what it is and life goes on.
“To the boys of the Kokoda track of 75 years ago, including the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels, ‘Lest We Forget’.”
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