Nic completed the walk with Bishop Denny to raise funds for Anglicare, the Church’s social development agency. You can still donate online through our Virgin Giving page.
Between 17th and 22nd September 2018 I walked the Kokoda Trail in PNG with Bishop Denny Guka and a party from the Diocese of Port Moresby. The walk was branded the ‘Bishop’s Walk 2018’, and was organised in part as a repeat performance of fundraising initiatives done by late Archbishop David Hand in the 1970s, and all the bishops of ACPNG in 2007, which my father Bishop Peter Ramsden and I participated in. This time round, Bishop Denny organised it as principally a fundraiser for the Diocese of Port Moresby-initiated Anglican social development NGO, Anglicare, which is based in Port Moresby, and which Bishop Denny chairs. The walk raised funds for the Anglicare Foundation, the Diocese of Port Moresby itself, and the PNG Council of Churches. It was a special honour for me to be joining as the only foreign visitor, and representing PNGCP and UK supporters, who I know have given very generously.
The Kokoda Trail is an infamous path over the jungle-covered 2000+m high Owen Stanley mountain range which runs down the spine of southern PNG from Kokoda in Oro Province in the north to Owers Corner outside Port Moresby in the south. Carved out by the British New Guinea administration in the early Twentieth Century to service the new government station at Kokoda, the Trail became the scene of one of the turning points of the Second World War when an attempted Japanese overland attack on Port Moresby was thwarted by Australian and native forces between July and November 1942. The Trail saw heavy hand-to-hand combat in some of the worst tropical fighting conditions known, and it has iconic battlefield status in Australian military lore – the reversal of the Axis in PNG being as significant as those at Stalingrad, El Alamein, and Midway. On Day 1 of our walk Bishop Denny asked me whether I knew of other walks in the world similar to Kokoda – and for sheer combination of climate, physical endurance, landscape, views, and war history I have to admit I can’t think of any.
The walk took me six days, with the group starting at Owers Corner in the south on the morning of Monday 17th September – the walking party was easily around 50 people, with Bishop Denny, his son David, myself, and some core diocesan clergy and supporters in the lead, plus a sizable group of diocesan youth, and troops of the PNG Defence Force joining us to assist with logistics. We passed the turning point of the war on Day 1 at Imita Ridge, and the furthest advance of the Japanese on Day 2 at Ioribaiwa. Day 3 was a long slog in the rain from Ofi Creek up the seven false summits of Maguli Ridge, down through Naoro across the swampy Brown River, and up to Menari. Day 4 took us through the mid-way point at Efogi and up to Naduri, with its stunning views of Mt Victoria and the belt of the Owen Stanleys. Day 5 proved longer than we thought, and after the climb up and over the summit of the Trail on Mt Bellamy and the descent to Templeton’s Crossing, we only reached Eora Creek late that evening in the wet and the dark. As I had a flight to catch back to Port Moresby from Popondetta on Sunday 23rd, I and a small advance party of troops made it down to Kokoda on Day 6, walking for 11 hours and passing the major battlefield and Australian War Memorial at Isurava on our descent. We were welcomed by the Anglican community at Saga mission station, and that evening of Saturday 22nd I was able to have 30 seconds on the phone with you all at the PNGCP Annual Conference in London before the line cut out…!
Thank you again for all your generous donations which will support some of the ACPNG’s most impactful work in healthcare, education, and social development.