October (training ends)

Even apart from Maria, the youngest in our group at age 43, giving birth to baby number five (and moving house at almost the same time. Wow), several rather significant things have happened in the past month. The first - and arguably most significant - is that Lorraine has rather perfidiously persuaded everybody else that we are not getting any younger and therefore it makes logistical sense to do the trek in late 2009 rather than mid 2010. In one fell swoop, I have lost six - ten months of training time (and no doubt this period would have been my most productive).
The second thing was that it occurred to me I might be able to turn the whole Kokoda experience into a book, so I sent a proposal off to my publishers and got a positive response. Now all I need to do is break it to my fellow trekkers that they are each about to be given starring roles in my next literary production. And then persuade a couple of them to share their innermost secrets (or seduce one of the porters?), to give the narrative some drama.
The final thing was that I managed to lose nearly two kilos in weight by just exercising (who would have thought?), and then ruined everything by doing myself some sort of knee/cartilage injury. That's what you get for playing tennis and trying to slide across the court rather than actually move your feet. So I am temporarily on crutches, which means that soon my shoulders will be built up most impressively, but my legs will still be damn useless. Great.

September (training begins)

This month I finally start training. Even though we have tentatively settled on Anzac Day 2010 as our time to trek, a casual glance in the mirror tells me that even nineteen months may not be enough to get into shape. I begin with a mental assessment of my current state (classic procrastination - one of my strong suits). I am 48 years old, and at least ten kilos overweight. I am probably at my lowest level of fitness ever (apart from, perhaps, immediately prior to giving birth to each of my offspring). On the plus side, I did give up sm0king over ten years ago, but unfortunately I replaced it with an addiction to nicotine chewing gum (preferably mint flavoured but I'll settle for citrus in a pinch). I also have chronic headaches from prior neck damage, problems with low blood sugar, a bladder the size of a deformed pea (no pun intended), a dodgy calf muscle in my left leg and severely flat feet (although they might be a plus with all those Kokodian cliffs).
Not altogether encouraged by this mental assessment, I decide to be more pro-active. So I begin by drawing up a chart with my current weight (82.5 kilos [gulp], and as I have one of those you-beaut scales that also gives extra info, I learn that 43.6% of me is fat and 36.6% is liquid. This does not seem a good ratio. Clearly I need to drink more). Quickly moving on, I name today 'day one' using a nice font that I shade artistically with red and black pencils. This immediately gives me a sense of achievement. I now feel motivated.
I clamber on the exercise bike but only last six minutes and twenty-three seconds before deciding that perhaps the treadmill is more suited to my current level of fitness. Unfortunately this turns out to be stultifyingly boring so instead I exercise by moving it into my bedroom in front of the spare television. To finish up, I decide to run up and down the front stairs ten times. On the ninth upward run, with my vision rapidly blurring with exhaustion, I trip over and strike myself across the bridge of my nose on the concrete edge of step number six.
With tears streaming from my eyes, blood dribbling from my nose and obscenities spewing from my mouth, I stagger back into the house. Now I'll need to add a nose job onto my wish list.

September (research)

This month I decided to do some research into the Kokoda Track itself. I would have begun training but felt it was more important to first arm myself with knowledge because knowledge is power. And I like power. With the aid of the Internet, I started with geography and soon discovered a level of personal ignorance that was almost embarrassing (I'm not sure why I was so surprised - when I joined the RAAF straight from school, I thought Perth was somewhere in Queensland - which would no doubt have come as quite a surprise to most Western Australians. But Sir Joh Bjelke Petersen was the premier of Queensland at the time so perhaps I just saw him as an all-embracing kind of chap).
It turns out the Kokoda Track is in Papua New Guinea, and runs for about 100 kilometres through the Owen Stanley Ranges. It became part of Australian folklore when the Japanese decided to trek along it down to Port Moresby, and were prevented largely by a vastly out-numbered Australian force. Aided, of course, by the heroism of the native Papua New Guineans. While I already knew that Kokoda was a tale of extreme bravery, of comradeship, and of victory against the odds, the details themselves are well worth reading. So many of the men were barely more than teenagers, and the conditions so unbelievably harsh (a good site for an overview is http://www.anzacday.org.au/history/ww2/bfa/kokoda.html)
After a few hours reading all about the campaign, I went back to geography and found out that the Kokoda Track, which is a single-file trail in most parts, runs along some of the most rugged and isolated terrain in the world, reaching a height of 2,250 metres and combining hot, humid days with intensely cold nights, torrential rainfall and endemic tropical diseases such as malaria. Not to mention those leeches. I think I need a drink.