Image: Debra Bath with her Kokoda Track souvenir. (Photo: Geoff O’Neill)
By Juanita Nonwo – EM TV Online
After her husband was diagnosed with Motor Neurone disease (MND), four years ago, Debra Bath decided to take on the challenging Kokoda Track to raise funds for Macquarie University Motor Neurone Disease (MND) Clinic and Research Centre.
Mrs Bath tracked the rugged terrain in late April after many months of practice back home on Tamworth hills.
The first day of tracking was only two hours, but the following days would prove the stamina and willingness of the trackers to go on under the fierce humidity of the Owen Stanley Range.
Experiencing the track gave Mrs Bath a new appreciation of what the soldiers and their bag carriers went through in World War Two.
It was even a more personal experience for Mrs Bath whose porter was Stanley, the grandson of the last Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels.
“I couldn’t believe what they went through. At night, anyone could have gone missing and they would never have found them,” she said.
“Everything was wrong with them, with disease and injuries, as well. The night before Anzac Day, we were on Brigade Hill, all the boys who were with us started to sing. I had never heard anything so hauntingly beautiful. They were singing our Anzac songs and theirs. On Anzac Day at 5am, they sang their anthem and some Anzac songs – it was amazing. I think Anzac Day is the time to do it (tracking).”
Along the journey, the treacherous track proved itself when their Australian guide had to walk back for five hours from Isurava and spent days in a hospital in Port Moresby after cutting his shin to the bone while he was helping trackers cross a river.
“Two days after I got home, I realised I was tired and slept for 12 hours straight,” Mrs Bath said.
Mr Bath said he was proud of what his wife had done, saying:
“It is a great achievement and we are humbled by the generosity of those who donated,”
Raising nearly $17,000, Mrs Bath said the track was her way of living up to her ‘end of the bargain.’
Apart from the Kokoda Track, Mrs Bath also visited the Bomana War Cemetery.
“There are about 4,000 graves with 700-odd unknown soldiers. You can’t believe the size of it and it’s kept in pristine condition,” commented Mrs Bath.
Speaking of her experience of the Kokoda Track, Mrs Bath says she would highly recommend it to anyone considering it.