Daniel Blake’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 Daniels’s journey on the Kokoda Trail and the impact it has had on him since.

What inspired you to apply for the KOKODA Trek?
I’m drawn to a challenge and when I saw that Dee Why RSL was sponsoring two candidates to walk the Kokoda Trail, I knew I had to apply. Being able to walk in the footsteps of our Diggers, see first-hand the conditions that they fought in, and learn more of Australian wartime history, while challenging myself both mentally and physically was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up!

How did you prepare yourself mentally and physically for the trek?
Nothing can fully prepare you for the Kokoda Trail. I knew I would have to put in a lot of physical training if I were ever going to make it, so I started with the gym. I went from having never trained in a gym before to working out five days a week for four months. The stair master soon became my best and worst friend (leg day really is as bad as they all say!). I also concentrated on building upper body strength as the thought of carrying an 18kg pack was a little overwhelming.

Mentally to prepare, I watched hours of YouTube videos of past trekkers’ experiences, read online reviews and spoke with previous Kokoda Trekkers from the Club.

What was the hardest part of the experience for you?
Brigade Hill. Words can’t describe how exhausting it was! The gruelling conditions of that hill on day four truly tested my endurance.

How has the experience had an impact on you?
I look at life a little differently now. Experiencing the conditions that those who live along the trail currently go through day-to-day and knowing what our Diggers fought through, I have realised just how lucky we are to live in Australia. I think I’ve gained a lot of maturity and perspective from this experience.

What would you say to anyone thinking about walking the KOKODA Trail?
Do it! Walking the Kokoda Trail was the best experience of my life. Although challenging, I met some incredible people, shared many laughs (and tears) and learnt so much about myself, our wartime history, and what it means to be a proud Australian.