To Kokoda and back – again


To Kokoda and back – again

Back again: having hiked the Kokoda Trail 20 times, Tony Quinlan has come to know some of the locals.

WHILE some people may train to hike the Kokoda trail for months beforehand, conquering the challenge has become quite the norm for one Wonthaggi man.

Tony Quinlan recently completed his 20th trek of the iconic trail, and has no plans to stop anytime soon.

Hiking turned from hobby to passion for Tony, who began taking on mountainous endeavours and wilderness rambles around 11 years ago.

After first attempting Kokoda with a couple of friends when it “wasn’t all the flavour of the month”, he decided to start accompanying others who were willing to take on the trek themselves, including many of his fellow South Gippslanders.

Kokoda is notorious for being both a physical and emotional challenge and Tony said it’s interesting to watch everybody’s individual journey.

“I love watching the people and how they cope with it all. It’s very emotional and you just don’t know when that emotion might come out either,” he said.

“You might find it’s on day one, it might be half way through or it might be at the end when we go to the Bomana War Cemetery at Port Moresby where you’re faced with 3800 tombstones, and it’s pretty humbling actually.”

Despite making the journey himself so many times, Tony said he still finds the trek difficult every time.

“You still do wonder how they fought across that kind of terrain because it’s really inhospitable; for instance, on one of our recent trips, on our last night just after we set up camp we had close to three inches of rain in 20 minutes,” he said.

“It hurts! You get that, and just wonder how the soldiers did it when they were carrying packs and getting shot at.”

Kokoda isn’t the only trek Tony has attempted either.

Around 12 months ago he found himself on top of the world when he hiked Mt Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Africa last year.

The word Tony used to describe the hike was simply “spectacular”.

“You’re sitting on the rooftop of Africa and it’s nearly 20,000 feet, or just under 6000 metres, and you can actually see the curvature of the world,” he said.

“All around it is the Serengeti and the great open plains of Africa, and there’s just this huge mountain with glaciers on top.”

It took seven days to complete the trek; however it was a very slow journey up the mountain and a rather quick one back down, according to Tony.

Starting at 11.30 on the sixth night of the journey, the group hiked to the summit, reaching it around 6.30am before walking down the entire mountain that day, finishing at around 4pm.

Tony said in all his hiking experiences, that day was the toughest he had ever done.

“You’re just absolutely buggered,” he said.

“It’s not because of the physicality of it; it’s because of the altitude. That is what really gets you. As soon as you climb above 8000 feet you start to feel the effect.

“At the top, you only have 50 per cent of the oxygen levels you’ve got at sea level. There were 17 of us on the trip and 15 suffered some form of altitude sickness; breathing is just so hard.”

And between trails and mountains, Tony has also had a crack at live volcanoes, including Krakatoa in Indonesia during a surfing trip this year.

It is the world’s biggest and most famous, however the experienced hiker isn’t at all interested in conquering it.

“Everest doesn’t interest me because it’s too cold,” Tony said.

“I don’t mind the snow but I prefer the warmer conditions. At Kilimanjaro, it was minus 20 on the top and I was freezing, even though there wasn’t a cloud in the sky above us.”

On his to-do list are still a few mountains in New Guinea including Mt Willem and Mt Victoria, which is just to the west of Kokoda, and it’s obvious the country is a favourite of his.

“The country itself is beautiful; it’s pristine rainforest and the only logging that’s ever occurred there has been for sustainability,” he said.

“You do see the odd snake, and the spiders up there are all bigger; you get the world’s biggest butterfly too, which is the size of a dinner plate. Everything is big up there!”

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Posted by on Nov 6 2012. Filed under Community, Featured. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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