Tag Archives: Kokoda Track

A walk on the wild side…

On the 8th and 9th of August I was immensely privileged to be able to accompany a group of Aboriginal Australians on part of their walk of the historic Kokoda Track in Papua New Guinea. The trek, backed by the Jobs Australia Foundation, was part of the Indigenous Leadership Youth Program.

The end of the journey for the participants in the Jobs Australia backed expedition at the Kokoda Memorial , 9th August 2010. © Rob Walls 2010

My part in this adventure was what the Papuans call in pidgin, “sumting, nutting” (something, nothing i.e. of little consequence). With blind trekker, Steve Widders, and trek guide, Dion Taylor, I walked from Kokoda to Daniki; a hard climb for two elderly men, let alone a blind one; and then back from Hoy Village after camping overnight, to Kokoda in the pre-dawn darkness. Steve, of course handled this with aplomb, even telling Dion when he sensed we had taken a wrong turn on the track.

In photographing them together, I couldn’t help remembering George Silk’s famous photograph from 1942.

Steve Widders is helped by Kokoda Spirit guide, Dion Taylor on the way to Daniki.

For me one of the highlights, apart from the knowledge that I had completed a demanding physical challenge, was the opportunity to wash off the sweat and mud of the trail in this cool, rushing, mountain stream.

Almost there. Participants in the Indigenous Youth Leadership Program trek across the Kokoda Track relax in a cool mountain stream at Hoy Village just a few short kilometres from the end of their gruelling march across the Owen Stanley Ranges in Papua New Guinea. © Rob Walls 2010

The Kokoda Track is said to be one of the most challenging treks in the world. I salute all of those who completed the entire journey. You have my ungrudging admiration and respect. You must be proud.

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Reflecting on photography and travel…

Wide awake at 3am. In a few hours, when the streets are filling with people heading off to work, I’ll be setting out for work too. To Papua New Guinea.

It’s 47 years since I first went there, and in the intervening years, I’ve been back about fifteen times. Why so often? Part proximity, part adventure, part curiosity, but always enthusiasm. I like the place.  During those years, my reasons to go there have been to cover the young nation’s independence, several elections, a papal tour; and sometimes I’ve just dreamed up excuses to get back to this bewildering, exciting, slightly dangerous country.  This time I’m going there to photograph twenty-four aboriginal Australians walking the Kokoda Trail.

The reason though, is not important. To be travelling, is an end in itself. For me, the camera is not just a creative outlet, it is the key to experience, the key to satisfying my curiosity. For nearly fifty years, a reasonable competence with this instrument has privileged me to travel to out-of-the-way places and corners of the world. Tomorrow, it will do so again. It is more than twenty years since I was last in Papua New Guinea. I wonder what changes I will find?

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote down these quotes from Alain de Botton’s book, The Art of Travel. In the small hours of this morning they seem particularly apt.

“It is not necessarily at home that we encounter our true selves. The furniture insists that we cannot change because it does not; the domestic setting keeps us tethered to the person we are in ordinary life, but who may not be who we essentially are.”

“Journeys are the mid-wives of thought.”

Better go back to bed. It will soon be time to get up and go to work…

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