THEY set off as mates and came back as brothers, this was the trip of a lifetime for five Bathurst men.
Steve Ellery was the man behind the idea, he has tackled some of the world’s best known treks, think Mount Kilimanjaro or Machu Picchu, and now he had set his sights on the Kokoda Track.
So, along with four of his mates Ben O'Connor, brothers Marcus and Adam Schembri, and Dean Mobbs, they set off.
They were keen to not only overcome the mental and physical challenges of completing the 96-kilometre journey through rough jungle terrain, but also to raise funds and awareness for mental health charity Beyond Blue.
The track’s reputation is well known to many people, and in 1942 it was the location where 625 Australians were killed and more than 1600 wounded during battle.
The group of five from Bathurst, along with eight others, trekked with a group called Project Happiness.
Mr Ellery is no stranger to trekking, but said this trek was different.
“Kokoda was just endurance and heat and I got blisters on my feet and I couldn’t walk properly from the first day,” he said.
He said the trek was so difficult that at times the men could not see more than three metres in front of them in the jungle.
“You get a vague realisation of what people went through in the war,” Mr Ellery said.
“Going through something like that was very tough, but you’re doing it with your mates. It’s a life-changer.
“One of the things we’re really proud of is that we raised $25,000 for Beyond Blue. We had an aim of $3000.”
You get a vague realisation of what people went through in the war.Steve Ellery
Mr Mobbs said the track challenged all of them. It was full of tree roots, rocks and mud, and the combination of all three put them to the test.
“You couldn’t walk and look around at the scenery,” he said.
“I had a fair idea it was going to be tricky and I lost nine kilos in nine days.
“It’s a marathon of sweat and heat and up and down.”
Mr Mobbs said while everyone in his group made it to the end, people in other groups did not.
“There were lots of groups we passed where everyone didn’t make it. There were plaques of people who didn’t make it,” he said.
Mr Mobbs said there were a number of moments along the track where the group was struck by the enormity of what had occurred there during the war.
“There’s really a powerful unspokenness, between the two countries, the people and everyone who goes there,” he said.
We went away as mates, good mates, and we came back as brothers.Dean Mobbs
The journey changed Mr Mobbs’ approach to life and his focus on what is important.
“We went away as mates, good mates, and we came back as brothers,” he said.
“It was incomprehensibly amazing.”
Adam Schembri took part in the trek with his brother Marcus Schembri, and said the group had “an absolute ball”.
“It was as hard as I pictured, but the steepness of it, I really struggled going down,” he said.
“The hard bit I didn’t expect was the humidity … it rained every night.”
Adam said his group of five took the time to get to know their porters.
“We learnt some of their language and their history and we ate from the trail. We emersed ourselves in their culture,” he said.
Adam said he also had moments of being stopped in his tracks during the trek.
“Before the porters told you, you could feel death, there was just something there,” he said.
“The feats [of the soldiers who fought on both sides along the track] they performed were just unbelievable.”
And, while there were some tough times during the trek, Adam said “light hearted banter” got them through.