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Kokoda Trail epic just a glimpse of what the Diggers endured

NEW TOOLS: Rockhampton man Cliff Caton learns new skills in the jungle, as he treks the Kokoda Trail in Papua New Guinea earlier this month. Inset: Rockhampton’s Cliff Caton, Jenny Harrison and Chris Baartz, take in the stunning scenery. Inset: Cliff and his group.
NEW TOOLS: Rockhampton man Cliff Caton learns new skills in the jungle, as he treks the Kokoda Trail in Papua New Guinea earlier this month. Inset: Rockhampton’s Cliff Caton, Jenny Harrison and Chris Baartz, take in the stunning scenery. Inset: Cliff and his group. CONTRIBUTED

CLIFF Caton spent months in training, but nothing could have prepared him for what he'd experience on the Kokoda Trail.

Not only did the Rockhampton man spend days trekking through the jungle in Papua New Guinea, he stumbled on some family history.

While visiting a cemetery before going on the trail, he discovered a soldier's headstone with his exact initials and family name.

"That blew me away," Cliff said.

Cliff's now looking to find out if the headstone belongs to his great uncle, or a distant cousin.

The headstone wasn't the only surprise during Cliff's trip, with the terrain on the trail more than he had imagined.

Cliff and 15 others trained physically for months to take on the harsh conditions of the jungle, that saw Australian soldiers fight the Japanese in 1942.

After two hard days of uphill climbing, Cliff said he had to use his mental strength to get through.

"At the end of day five you get to a point where if you hadn't been training you would've struggled," Cliff said.

"We kept our spirits up by trading jokes, singing and keeping our momentum up."

The nine-day trek saw them hike for eight hours a day, carrying packs weighing 8kgs.

But Cliff knew that was nothing compared to what our soldiers went through.

"You have to keep reminding yourself of the soldiers; what we were going through was minimal," Cliff said. "Soldiers were carrying around 45kg of gear.

"You don't realise the solemness of the place until you're there," the 53-year-old said.

FUNDS FOR A GOOD CAUSE

A fundraiser promoting Cliff Caton's Kokoda Trail experience in May raised $1000 for the Soldier On foundation

The foundation helps to rebuild the lives of returned servicemen and women within the Australian Defence Force

Topics:  kokoda trail, papua new guinea




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