My feedback will be in the form of a major article I am writing in Reader’s Digest, which will be distributed throughout Australia, New Zealand and Asia, more than likely in next March’s issue.
Kokoda Spirit, you, Cam and Craig all get a pat on the back.
Let me just say this. Although I was sceptical it would, my experience on the Kokoda Track did, in fact, change my life … I saw my son mature … I saw myself react in ways I never thought I could.
It’s interesting … when I am having some difficulties I think back to Kokoda and that adventure brings a smile to my face and makes me realise that what I see as an insurmountable problem, may not be so significant.
Thank you again
1 June 2011 By SBLT Ryan Zerbe
Mud, steep hills and river crossings were all just part of the experience for the Top End Navy team which recently returned from a seven day trek with trek company Kokoda Spirit along the Kokoda Track in Papua New Guinea.
The 10-strong joint group from HMAS Coonawarra and Assail 4 returned sore and weary, but proud of their effort to trace the path of Australian veterans of the battle that “saved Australia”.
Setting out from Kokoda, Top End Navy travelled 96 kilometres to Owers Corner battling heat, heavy rain, exhaustion and the mental challenge of false peaks.
For LSPT Scott Daniel, the experience has been a long-term goal and he spent many spare hours preparing himself for the challenge.
“I was pack marching in the Darwin heat on weekends and making sure I was strong and ready to take it all on”, he said.
“Everyone on the team had to push hard to keep their legs pumping but getting to the end was one of the most satisfying feelings I’ve ever had”.
Despite the hard march they faced each day, the team took time to appreciate the significance of Kokoda and Australia’s wartime history. Weapon pits, trenches and left over ammunition all served to remind them of the battlefields that once covered the region.
“We stopped at Brigade Hill to remember the deeds of the Australians who were there long before us”, LSPT Daniel said. “Beyond beating the personal challenge we had set ourselves, seeing those relics and memorials made the trek all the more worthwhile.”
Team Top End Navy at the start of their trek. Heavy rain made was one of many challenges the team faced.
Congratulations to the crew of HMAS Coonawarra, who have just completed walking the Kokoda Track with Kokoda Spirit owner Wayne Wetherall.
The crew of HMAS Coonawarra comprised members of the shore based crew and members of our Elite Sea going border security teams out of Darwin.
The team was led by Patrol Boat Captains Kylie Beumer and Zane Geary. All members of the crew carried their own packs and completed the trek in under 7 days.
The crew was blown away by the intense history of the track presented by Wayne and commented how life changing Kokoda is for the participants.
Kylie was very impressed with the whole Kokoda Spirit operation and commented that it was very slick and professional.
Wayne, commented that is was a great experience and humbling to be part of such a great dynamic group. He also commented that it is very reassuring that Australia’s borders are being protected by such professional and dedicated people.
The team is very keen to bring more members back across Kokoda to walk in the footsteps of heroes.
Northern Navy Trek 2011 HMAS Coonawarra
Thank you for a great trek. It was well organised and exceeded all of my expectations.
Your leadership and knowledge of the Kokoda Track and its history was first class.
Congratulations on a job well done.
Dr David Stevens
Director of Strategic and Historical Studies
Sea Power Centre-Australia. Royal Australian Navy
I thoroughly enjoyed the recent trek across Kokoda and thought it was well organised and led.
In the RAN a ship’s Captain is the ship, and sets the standard for his ships performance.
Wayne is the ship’s Captain for Kokoda Spirit and has done an outstanding job. His knowledge of the track and in particular the battles along the Kokoda Track were excellent.
His positive and warm relationships with his local staff and landowners and his passion to improve their lives and protect the heritage value of the Kokoda Track is to be commended.
His leadership, professionalism and easy mannerism are to be commended.
Royal Australian Navy
On behalf of the Queensland Police Service contingent who recently visited the Northern Beaches of PNG and walked the Kokoda Track with Kokoda Spirit I wish to express our sincere thanks for your professional and comprehensive service. Your passion, knowledge and respect for the track and its local inhabitants are truly inspiring.
As you are aware we conducted an in-depth evaluation process of numerous Kokoda Track service providers before selecting Kokoda Spirit. Your adherence to risk management protocols, delivery of promised services, professional conduct and historical briefings were of the highest order.
Detective Senior Sergeant
State Intelligence Group | State Crime Operations Command, Queensland Police Service
If you want to challenge yourself, learn more about yourself and those that you walk with learn about the importance of team work or honour those that fought and died for this country, walk the Kokoda Track with Kokoda Spirit, their knowledge of the history and battlefield operations along the Kokoda Track were outstanding.
Wayne and his team really know the lay of the battle fields and build such a comprehensive story that you can really feel the spirit of the Diggers and what took place back in 1942.
Queensland Police Service
Australian Army Kokoda
I was able to obtain permission from the Australian Army to lead 14 serving members, predominantly gunners of the 48th Field Battery, to conduct a Battlefield Study Tour of the Kokoda Track.
Crucial to the success of ‘Exercise Bold Angel’ was the choice of trekking company Kokoda Spirit.
The assistance that Wayne and Kokoda Spirit provided in terms of advice on equipment, training and practical experience was exactly what I required as the Activity Commander.
I was impressed with Wayne’s and Kokoda Spirit’s ability to make things happen in very trying circumstances.
Wayne provided in depth knowledge of the events on the track and we were thankful that we were trekking with a company that held our safety and best interests as their primary importance.
Wayne impressed the team with his calmness under pressure, decision making and organisational ability, and communication skills. The professionalism, knowledge and experience of Wayne and his team at Kokoda Spirit was outstanding.
I have been in the Army for 10 years, and was privileged to work with Wayne, and I know that years ago Wayne would have jumped at the chance to serve in the Australian Defence Force, and I believe that we were unlucky to miss out on him.
He displayed the skills, knowledge and attitudes of current commanders of Australian troops serving overseas on operations.
I would highly recommend Wayne Wetherall and Kokoda Spirit.
Captain Scott Calvert
Exercise Bold Angel
48th Field Battery
Wayne, I would like to express my personal appreciation and that of my patrol of ex Army officers for the outstanding organisation and delivery of the trek. As ex military we had high expectations and it was everything and more that we expected when looking for a trekking package solution.
I know that your personal passion about the track, its history, people and environment rubbed off on us all and we are all the richer for having trekked with Kokoda Spirit.
Thanks for always being available for advice – best wishes to Kokoda Spirit.
Lieutenant Colonel (Retired)
Australian Regular Army
The Kokoda track presents itself as an ultimate physical and emotional challenge. The steepness of the mountains cannot be found in Australia, or anywhere else I have been. It bears no resemblance to any other track I have been on.
I was blessed by being guided on the trek adventure by Wayne and Michelle Wetherall’s, Kokoda Spirit Company. They provided us with a wealth of information beforehand, provided excellent equipment, met us at the airport, briefed us at our hotel, and then linked us up with our fellow guides, trekkers, and porters.
Wayne himself moved up and down the track providing briefings at key historic sites complementing the daily briefings.
I had to come on this adventure desiring to gain a deeper understanding the Kokoda campaign and I came away very satisfied of the experience I had. I experienced Kokoda at both the physical and emotional levels. Highlights of the experience for me were:
– bonding with a group of like minded Australian trekkers.
– Meeting and getting to understand the Papuan guides and porters. My personal porter Simon Nasavi was constantly by my side and saved me from falling more times than I can remember.
– the on site briefings of the key battles such as Brigade Hill, Kokoda Gap, Templeton’s Eora Creek and Isurava.
– Memorial services at Bomana Cemetery, Brigade Hill and Isurava.
– The personal inspiration of the Kokoda Spirit team in offering a personal and comprehensive package
–successfully completing the trek at age 55!!
I can heartily recommend the Kokoda Spirit package.
Australian Army Infantry officer 1970 -1996 Lieutenant Colonel,
Australian Army chaplain 1996 to present.
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