Trekking footsteps of those who fought
THE Kokoda trail has always been something Peter Townsend wanted to achieve and it was only two weeks ago that it was accomplished.
Along with his friend Neil Reinke, he set off on the arduous and challenging track, trekking over 96km of terrain where Australian troops fought the Japanese on July 21, 1942.
It was labelled the bloodiest campaign of the Second World War.
Mr Townsend's great-uncle fought in the 39th Battalion and killed in action.
Part of his mission was to find and visit his relatives grave site.
"I was told that nana's brother died in PNG and nobody in the family knew where,” he said.
"When I was a young teacher I taught history and this led me to start looking for evidence to find out where my grandfathers were involved in the war and also where my great-uncle was killed in action.”
Mr Townsend said how other family members fought during the war.
"I found out that Jack Irvan Townsend was in the 39th Battalion, the first militia unit to face the Japanese on the Kokoda trail and fondly known as 'Choko soldiers' because it was the belief that they would melt in battle,” he said.
"My great-uncle Stanley Ormond Neilsen was in the 29th Battalion who had fought in the battle for Tobruk, at Milne Bay where the Japanese had first tasted defeat and finally at Buna where he lost his life on December 18, 1942.”
Mr Townsend said it was a challenging week for his team of trekkers.
"This trek was the culmination of wanting to walk in the footsteps of the proud Australians that fought in the Kokoda campaign and to also pay my respects to our family member who lost his life in Buna 75 years ago,” he said.
"The trek was tough, Neil Reinke and a mate from university travelled in a group of 10 trekkers, 1 trek master and 20 PNG nationals. The walk was 96km through dense jungle, across swamps & rivers, up mountains and down valleys while dealing with humidity and your own fitness quest.”
For those interested in doing the Kokoda trail, Mr Townsend believes people should be aware of what you carry and not to over do it.
"Every gram that you decide to carry makes a difference to your ability to move efficiently across the track and as the days went on I would carry just enough water to get to the next stream to fill my water container,” he said.
"We bathed in streams that were often single figure temperatures.”