You’ve got mail! That time a surprise mail delivery in the jungle while walking the Kokoda Track made you laugh and cry.

According to Facebook, 11 years ago today, this was my status:

is back from Kokoda – amazing, hard, liberating, sweaty, dirty, smelly, unbelievable, fun

This struck me as quite timely, with my husband, the Mathematician, returning home from his 8th walk over the infamous Kokoda Track today.

On the Kokoda Track in 2008
On the Kokoda Track in 2008

He obviously enjoys it – I decided once was enough!

I have mentioned my Kokoda experience in numerous posts, mainly in conjunction with my fear of heights and edges. I wrote about it in some detail in this post which gives you the background to this ‘life changing’ Rotary Youth initiative – A Wanderlusting Traveller. I’m proud to be involved in this program, even in just a small way.

A bridge crossing on Kokoda Track
A scary bridge crossing

I also wrote this post for International Womens Day and it tells the story of how I walked the infamous Kokoda Track at age 47 with a severe fear of heights – To all the brave courageous women of the world – we’re all walking on the wild side

I must say I was surprised at how much fun I had being dirty, smelly, sore, sweaty and physically exhausted for ten days straight!

Debbie 2008

You’ve got mail – in the jungle

One of the nicest things to have come out of this Rotary Youth initiative, and life changing program, is the simple act of writing a letter.

Letter writing is becoming a long lost art unfortunately, especially when done by hand and on paper. Receiving a letter is also very special!

Photo by John-Mark Smith on

Every second year when my husband helps lead a trek across the Kokoda Track in Papua New Guinea, they contact the parents and ask them to write a secret letter to their child. This is to tell them how proud they are of their child for undertaking this trek, what they miss about them and how much they have grown since starting the training.  It’s usually given out at the halfway point and the kids are normally quite homesick by then.  It’s a very moving experience for many! The leaders also get a letter from their family but even though they’re more aware of the whole process, they still get affected when it’s letter day.

There’s usually tears and laughter and everyone goes quiet for a while. They then regroup and may share snippets before carefully folding their special letters away in a safe dry spot.

Leaving for Kokoda 2019
Leaving for Kokoda 2019

My husband has done this trek 8 times now and I sit down and write him a letter each time. I also get our grown up daughters to write him one too. Our new granddaughter also wrote one this year, with the help of her mother, and I slipped in a photo of us with her.

He is always grateful for our thoughts and loves getting our letters and keeps them safe.  Many of the parents comment that it’s the first time they have ever sat down and written a real letter to their child, and how they found it quite a difficult thing to do. As well as emotional.

The amazing group of leaders train the volunteering high school students for months beforehand and build them into a cohesive team, physically and mentally. The Mathematician is just one of the team of energetic and caring leaders who volunteer their time for this life changing trip.

Usually it’s a very immersive experience with little outside interaction, apart from the letters. The students aren’t allowed to take their phones with them on the walk, most leaving them safely in their accommodation in Port Moresby. They have a Spot tracker which we can log onto to see where they are but (and a sat phone for emergencies) and up until now, that’s been it.

Kokoda group 2019
Kokoda group 2019 on their last day

This year the local community radio station provided the group with a sat phone and made contact most mornings with each student being interviewed about their progress. I think the main reason they were in contact was the local Council General Manager was on the trek and he was able to be in contact with home base.These went live to air on the radio and were later loaded to their facebook page. I can see the benefit of this type of interaction but I can also see the benefit of being away from the world and totally immersed in the experience. Most parents really enjoyed hearing their child but some didn’t want to hear anything until the end.

This photo shows the type of image from the tracker and I must admit on the final day of walking I was glued to the tracker waiting to see them reach the finish at Owers Corner.

Awaiting their triumphant return

We have now been in contact with them and they had a great trip with unusually dry weather except for the last bit which was in a tropical thunderstorm. So much so that the bus to pick them up was bogged on the way and the trip back to Port Moresby was a very slippery slide of a drive.

We are all awaiting their triumphant return to Tumbarumba and hearing their stories. They’re due back into town in the early hours of Monday morning after arriving in Sydney late Sunday night and then the gruelling 6-7 hour bus drive home. The weather has turned cold and I have had to light the fire so I’m sure they will notice the difference from the humidity of Papua New Guinea.

Isn’t it funny what a single Facebook memory can unleash? A whole new story of getting mail in the jungle and the importance of keeping letter writing alive.

Who are you going to write a letter to today?

Deb xx

Linking up with Denyse’s #Lifethisweek

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Debbie - mother of a 40 year old

Everyone has a story to tell! Deb is a young-at-heart & active 60+ blogger/retiree, after being made redundant from her 22-year career managing education programs in a men’s correctional centre (jail). She now spends her time reading, blogging, riding her ebike and travelling. Deb was awarded a Bravery Award from the Queen when she was 17 after a tragic accident – a definite life changing moment! She is married with 3 grown-up daughters & has 4 grandchildren. She never imagined being Granny Debs would bring so much joy to her life! You can read more of Deb’s story here

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39 Replies to “You’ve got mail! That time a surprise mail delivery in the jungle while walking the Kokoda Track made you laugh and cry.”

    1. Thanks so much Toni, it’s a great opportunity for the students in our town and they are lined up for years to come wanting to go when it’s their turn. My husband has been involved since 2006 and enjoys it just as much each time he does it! I was proud to do it but that was enough for me!

      Liked by 2 people

  1. You are such an inspiration Deb as is the Mathematician. What a wonderful experience for these young people and they will learn so much from their trek in many areas of their lives. Thanks for sharing your story and yes the days of writing letters is becoming a lost art but how lovely that you, and all the girls including Emilia wrote letters to Grant to keep his spirits up. You will be glad to have him home. xx

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I sure will be happy to have him home safe and sound Sue! I’m so glad you found this post interesting, I wanted to share a different type of activity rather than just the day to day hard slog of walking up and down hills! I can’t wait to hear what he thought of Emilia’s letter 🙂


  2. What an amazing, life enhancing experience – how great that your husband is able to return and guide each year’s young people. I’m sure they find it quite liberating to be away from technology for that amount of time, although I’m sure they took cameras to record a few ‘selfies’ along the way! You’ll be pleased to have them back safely again. What a lovely idea to write those surprise letters, I bet there are a few tears at that point!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. When I lived in PNG I visited the Moresby end of the track many times but never walked it. Well done on completing it. I was back in POM mid last year and met a man and his son who were evacuated out..they were devastated ..certainly not a walk in the park.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. No it’s certainly not a walk in the park Albert. That’s interesting that you lived in PNG, it’s an interesting place to visit but not on everyone’s bucket list! I have heard of many who haven’t been able to complete it and being evacuated is a sad end for anyone. Thanks for your comment, I am proud of having done it and proud of my husband’s efforts with the students, it has the potential to make a real difference to their lives.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I admire what your husband is doing.I lived there for nearly 3 years 1989-91 and visited nearly every part of the mainland and islands with the exception of the Sepik which I regret not having the opportunity to visit. If PNG could sort out its crime and corruption issues the rest of the Pacific would suffer greatly as tourists flocked to PNG. It is without doubt one of the most scenically beautiful and interesting countries in the world.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. You have a right to be proud of such an achievement. I’m sure there must have been many, ‘get me out of her’ moments throughout the experience, and then the euphoria of, ‘I did it!’ Yes letter writing is a bit of a lost art, as is postcards. Even emails are slim sometimes, short texts seem to be today’s distance communication method.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes Chris, it’s one of my highest achievements and i had quite a few get me out of here moments! The letters are so important and brings home to us the lost art of letter writing. Thanks for your comment.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. What an amazing journey for everyone involved. I love the idea of the letters – whoever came up with that is a genius! I imagine about halfway through, the kids are experiencing many feelings… and being homesick is one of them. I also love that you send letters to your husband too. We are never too old to be told that we are loved, missed, and valued.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. It’s interesting how these challenging walks have become such a part of a lot of people’s life stories Deb. I can’t see the appeal myself, but I totally understand that for others it can be life changing – especially young people. I think the idea of a letter from your parents is lovely and I’m sure a lot of them would treasure them (although with this new generation they might just chuck them in the bin!) Thanks for an enjoyable read (much easier than walking it!)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes it’s much easier reading about it than walking it Leanne! The letters are brilliant and hopefully they’ll be kept for a little while at least. Thanks for your visit 🙂


  7. Wow Debbie! I’m in awe of you for completing the Kokoda Track. I understand you saying once was enough, even though I have never walked it. I bet your hubby is a legend in the local community. He would have obviously given so much to the young people who he has walked with. The letters would be so touching, especially when they are received at the half way point. It’s such an opportunity for the parents to openly (in a letter) restate their love and devotion to their young person. And what a growing experience for the youth, in more ways than one.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for your comment Estelle! It’s a great project and we’re so proud to be involved in it. I love the letters and wanted to share this aspect of the trek with others.


  8. That is a huge achievement indeed! 10 days! I’m impressed. For me, after the Overland track, I gave up on multiday hikes where I had to carry all my stuff. And that was only 7 days. I love the idea of letters being sent into the jungle though – it must be such a wonderful feeling to receive that.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. I adore everything about this – the trek, the letter writing, the love, the dedication. Your husband is incredible to have to lead this hike so many times. While I feel blessed to be able to stay in touch while globetrotting with friends and family via the web (in most places) the thought of receiving a hand-written letter in the middle of the jungle would be incredibly moving.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Conquering challenges is in yours and the mathematicians DNA I think…and those who complete this walk are left changed as I hear. I guess when I hear or read about Kokoda I think of those who fought in that awful place, under awful conditions. I see what the appeal is….to respect and to show we understand the sacrifice of all who went before.

    Hope he is well and all kids and adults came back that way too.

    Thank you for linking up for #lifethisweek. Next week’s optional prompt is Taking Stock 18/51. Hope you can join in and link up. Denyse.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. I like nature, Deb, but this would not be “my thing”! Kudos to the Mathematician for undertaking this journey so many times, and for you doing it as well. I love the letter writing idea as well. A lost art – but a priceless way for families to communicate with their members “on the trail” as well as in life.
    There is something about the hand-written word.

    Liked by 2 people

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