By Melissa Meehan
RETRACING the steps of a grandfather he never knew, Catani’s James Canty says it was an experience he will remember for the rest of his life.
A recipient of the George Collins Award, James, along with nine others, followed the exact route of the 39th Battalion from Port Moresby up the Kokoda Track with touring company Kokoda Adventures, the same journey his grandfather James Canty made many years ago.
“It was always something I wanted to do,” James said.
“It was challenging in some aspects, but worthwhile.”
James said walking the Kokoda Track was something he had wanted to do since 2002, when his family realised a picture of his grandfather, taken by war photographer Damien Parer, was used as the face of Anzac Day.
Back in Australia after his trek, James said getting use to the climate was one of the toughest challenges, as well as the first three days.
“We were all pretty fit, so the guide realised this and we walked 26 kilometres over nine hours on the second day – by the third day we were already halfway through the trek,” he said.
“It’s supposed to take eight days, but it took us seven.”
A highlight for James was meeting locals and playing soccer with them as they set up camp.
“The people there are so good-natured,” he said.
But the most memorable was walking along the area where the photo of his grandfather was taken.
“We got to a point, at Surgeons Rocks, where I was told the photo was probably taken,” he said.
“It was just amazing to be able to see where my grandfather would have been waiting for the enemy.”
He said it only rained on night out of the eight, and it only drizzled.
“But I could imagine how hard it was for the Diggers who were cold, wet, dehydrated and sick.”
Now back to his daily life, James said he often found himself thinking about the trek.
“I catch myself thinking about it, wishing I was back there, I would rather be playing soccer with the local kids than at school,” he said.
Would he go back?
“Definitely,” James said.
“But I think I’d like to have the challenge of carrying my own bags (porters carried his things) and maybe in different weather conditions.”
By Melissa Meehan