Peter Ryan of Wild Trek Tours has a direct connection to the Kokoda Track, his father fought there in WWII
When we were kids we walked everywhere – our family did not have a car so our little legs were used to travelling on foot. My first bushwalk would have been around the Dandenong Ranges near Melbourne and my first overnighter around Wilsons Prom in Victoria. From there the bug had bitten and progressed to Nepal, Panama, Columbia, New Zealand, PNG, and of course home in OZ.
It was a natural progression to turn my passion for hiking into a business – life’s too short to not follow what you like. I enjoy the hiking challenge (the tougher the better) and to pass that on to clients and see them meet the challenges along the way and come out at the end is rewarding. There is a bonding experience on treks as you all share the same tests of weather, terrain, mud, and more and still smile at the finish.
We trek Tasmania (South Coast Track, Overland Track, South West Cape) and Victoria (Northern Circuit at Wilsons Prom plus lots of overnight hikes, training hikes, and bootcamps) and of course PNG, where we run a number of tours including Rabaul, Mt Wilhelm (the highest peak in PNG and twice as high as Kosciusko), Bulldog Track, Black Cat Track, Shaggy Ridge, and my favourite trek - Kokoda.
Kokoda is a bucket-list trek for most. It has it all – the extreme terrain and the sheer physical challenge, plus the history and significance to Australia, coupled with the villages, the locals and the spectacular scenery. If I ask a trekker at the finish their opinion, without fail they will say it was one of the best experiences of their life, one they will never forget.
Their highlights : The unrelenting hills, the pristine rivers (for a soak at night), the food (they are always hungry), the views, their fantastic porters, the first cuppa in the morning, the villages and the locals, especially the kids, buying a can of coke in the middle of nowhere, and the history lessons along the way – and the moving dawn service at Isurava. Plus the fact that they finished and are still breathing!
My father fought along Kokoda in WWII, so I have a personal connection to the walk. When you are walking along and retelling the history, it is hard for the trekkers to imagine how anyone ever fought in this jungle and survived. Now the villages have recovered, the locals back to their subsistence farming, and are welcoming the trekkers with market stalls, and employment for the porters, plus income with the campsites fees and more. We get home, and back to so called civilisation, but who leads the less hectic and stress-free life?
Kokoda does not lend itself to DIY and must be trekked with a licensed and reputable company. However that does not detract at all from the experience, and in fact it is part of the journey – you not only hike one of the toughest treks in the world, but you learn the history from experienced guides, and you always form a bond with not only your fellow trekkers, but also your porters and the locals.