Charlotte Prior’s 2019 Journey on the Kokoda Trek

Each year Dee Why RSL sponsors two specially selected employees on an arduous 10 day, 146km trek across the original Kokoda Trail in Papua New Guinea.

Organised by the RSL & Services Clubs Association, it gives employees the chance to experience and foster courage, mateship, endurance and leadership.

Through your support, your Club selected Marketing Co-ordinator, Charlotte Prior and Senior Events Supervisor, Daniel Blake, to complete the trek earlier this year. This month, we reflect on Charlotte’s journey on the Kokoda Trail and the impact it has had on her since.

What inspired you to apply for the KOKODA Trek?
Many reasons contributed to me wanting to complete the Trek. Personally, I wanted to see how far I could push myself both mentally and physically. While professionally, as I work for an RSL, I felt it was important to develop a deeper understanding of Australia’s wartime history.

How did you prepare yourself mentally and physically for the trek?
I tend to live my personal life as ‘organised chaos’, so naturally, the most intense training and preparation was crammed into the last month or two. During this time I went to the gym almost every day and did forty-five minutes to an hour on the step machine. I also went on numerous hikes wearing a backpack filled with roughly 10kg.

Mentally, I prepared by spending hours on the internet researching reviews and tips from previous Kokoda Trail trekkers so I knew what to expect.

What was the hardest part of the experience for you?
The track itself was pretty tough and the 20km hike, 1420m climb up Brigade Hill on day four was definitely a huge endurance test. I found the camping side of things mentally draining. When you’ve been hiking for 12 hours straight all you want to do is have a shower and hop into bed. Instead, you have to wash in a lake, change back into dirty clothes
and sleep in a soaked tent.

How has the experience had an impact on you?
The trek is more than just a history lesson, it’s a pilgrimage that highlights the strengths and weaknesses of everyone’s character.

Over the ten days, I learnt a lot about myself, becoming more aware of the things I like, the things I wanted to work on as a person, and the direction I want my life to take. Ultimately though, the trek has made me appreciate the little things in life a lot more.

Since returning I feel inspired to work harder and be a better person, to honour the sacrifice of the fallen, honour others around me and to honour myself.

What would you say to anyone thinking about taking part on a KOKODA trek?
I can’t recommend the experience enough! The ten days can be physically challenging but it’s also really good fun. You will meet some great people and walk away with memories that will last a lifetime.