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My Kokoda experience

My Kokoda experience - as told by Jarman Impey

Kokoda. A trip synonymous with the Hawthorn Football Club. An opportunity few receive, and one I’ll certainly never take for granted.

Chad Wingard stayed at my place the night before we left.

As we packed together, we instantly got nervous with how heavy our bags felt.

It would just be the clothes on our back and whatever we had in these bags that would get us through the next six days – but they were not light!

Getting to the airport early the next morning, there was a sense of nervousness in all the boys, mainly due to us having very little idea of what to expect in the days ahead.

Nevertheless, we all managed to remember our passports, so we were ready and set!

Read: Chad's Kokoda experience

Getting off the plane in Papua New Guinea, it was damn hot.

The humidity in the air just hit me square in the face. I looked around and saw that everyone was making a similar realisation; the weather was just another challenge to factor into the daunting next few days.

When we got to our hotel, we were introduced to Aidan who was coordinating our trek. He was magnificent and made a great first impression on the group. He gave us a few tips for how to prepare ourselves, and shared a few stories from his time out in the jungle. I’m not sure whether these ultimately calmed us, or made us even more nervous.

We loaded our bags up with our tents and food for the next few days. I quickly realised the weight of the bag I tried on at home was a luxury compared to what it was now.

The next day it was an early rise - 3am to be exact.

After a pretty lengthy transit to the start of the Kokoda track, we eventually arrived and set off on our way.

In the first half an hour the track was pretty flat, and I could tell everyone was thinking to themselves, “oh, maybe this won’t be too bad”.

But then, we got to the first hill…

I tell you, it was one of the hardest things I have ever done! 

On the first day, an hour and a half in,  I was just thinking to myself “I don’t know how I’m going to get through five or six days of this.”

Over the next few days, the task at hand remained extremely difficult but the boys were awesome in helping each other through.

The trek itself was tough enough but what was extremely brutal were the challenges along the way.

They would often come about without warning and usually when fatigue levels were sky high. 

They would include things like carrying logs.

Up hill.

On a narrow track.

In humid and slippery conditions.

Yep, thanks Clarko!

What made the experience of Kokoda incredibly special were the constant reminders that we were following a similar path to that of the Australian soldiers, when they fought for our freedom during World War II.

A lot of our challenges had a similar theme to what it would have been like for these soldiers – albeit on an extremely different level. Keeping the soldiers and their sacrifices in mind helped get a lot of the boys through. We grew an incredible appreciation for the courage and commitment of these men who were similar ages to ourselves.

I had my own personal connection with the Kokoda trail that I drew further inspiration from across the trip; I had a great uncle who lost his life over there at the age of 23 - the same age as me today. It was incredibly eye-opening to walk the same track that he did and take moments to imagine what would have been going through his mind at that time.

I have a great respect for all those who fought for us to allow us to live the lives we have today.

The main things I have taken from the trip are the bonding and the mateship. As teammates, we hiked together, we completed challenges together, we laughed at Clarko’s stories together and we grew together.

I became closer with the young boys on the back of the trip and got to know a bit more of what they’re all about.

Olly Hanrahan was one bloke I was very impressed with. He is naturally a pretty shy kid, but we saw him come out of his shell each and every day. I feel he grew as a person a lot across the trip.

Mitch Lewis and David Mirra were also fantastic. They showed some great leadership qualities and were consistently helping the group to get through some of the toughest times.

In hindsight, the trip was an incredible experience, and I left with memories that I will cherish for a long time to come.

Apart from the blisters and the bruises, and the memories of lugging those tree trunks up endless hills, the group got through unscathed. Now, we are ready to take on the rest of what pre-season has in store for us.

Bring on 2019!

The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the AFL or its clubs