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.
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.
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
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!
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.
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.
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?
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A tragic accident at age 17, resulting in a Bravery Award from the Queen, didn’t deter Debbie from travelling the world. A young retiree, after being made redundant from her 22 year career managing education programs in a men’s correctional centre, she now loves reading, blogging, riding her ebike and a good cup of tea! Also known as Granny Debs to her 4 grandchildren.
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