Eight in training for Kokoda epic

By LEE McIVORlmcivor@gladstoneobserver.dyndns.org

"I DON'T know why we didn't do this when we were 21,'' exclaimed Neil Collins.

Mr Collins is one of a group of eight Agnes Water residents and family members planning to walk the Kokoda Trail in August this year.

"It was all Dave Chapman's idea,'' Mr Collins said.

"Yes it was me,'' agreed Dave Chapman. "Neil and I discussed the idea over a bottle of red wine one night late last year.

"We put an ad in the Coastal Rag seeking like-minded people and got about 15 inquiries.

"That has narrowed down to the current number.''

Mr Chapman said most of the walkers were in their 50s. "The exception is three of Neil Collins' nieces who are in their mid to late 20s.''

Both Neil and Dave have family members who fought in Papua New Guinea during WWII.

"We are doing this as a commemoration to our fathers,'' Mr Collins said.

Neil Collins' father fought in the second 6th around the edges of Wewak and into the Kokoda Trail and Dave Chapman's father served in the second second commandos (AIF) in the Ramu Valley off the top end of Kokoda.

The men will be taking a small plaque with them along the track.

"It will be to commemorate all those men who lost their lives in Papua New Guinea,'' Mr Collins said.

"We see this trip as a way to pay tribute to these soldiers and gain an understanding of what they endured.

"When we get back we will be giving the plaque to the RSL and it will be placed at the revamped Agnes Water war memorial due to be completed by the end of the year.''

Both men said the group had been in serious training for the trip.

"The Kokoda Trail is the third hardest walking trail in the world and we want to be prepared for it,'' said Dave Chapman.

"Most of us have a reasonable level of fitness and we are all exercising regularly.''

The tour company taking them on the trail, 'Our Spirit', has given the group an exercise and diet regimen they must follow for at least three months prior to the trip to ensure everyone is ready for the adventure.

"I have already tested it,'' said Neil Collins. "In fact I reckon I am fitter than I have been for the past 20 years,'' he laughed.

"But this is certainly going to be a challenge for all of us.

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