Kokoda Trail is 'something she can't put into words' for 21-year-old Meaghan Kempson

MEETING THE PAST: Meaghan Kempson at the Isuvara Shrine in Papua New Guinea, which was one of her most special experiences on the trip. Photo: SUPPLIED.
MEETING THE PAST: Meaghan Kempson at the Isuvara Shrine in Papua New Guinea, which was one of her most special experiences on the trip. Photo: SUPPLIED.

Meaghan Kempson just got back from her first camping trip. 

For most, their first camping trip will be somewhere local, somewhere nice and easy to access. 

Miss Kempson is not like most people. 

Her first camping trip was a trek deep into the Papuan jungle, doing the Kokoda Trail. 

Despite very little hiking experience, she spent 10 days trekking through torrential rain, incredible humidity and thick mud.

The 21-year-old was born in Orange but is currently studying PE teaching at Charles Sturt University in Bathurst. 

Her trip was organised through the Kokoda Youth Leadership Challenge, a challenge funded by RSL Australia, and she got involved through the Orange Ex-Services Club. 

“It was most life changing experience I’ve ever had, it gives you a whole new perspective on life,” she said. 

She said she wasn’t too fussed by the shock to the system and “just dealt with it” – however, some didn’t. Two hikers had to be evacuated after the second day.  

Swapping near-zero temperatures around Orange for the sweltering humidity of Papua New Guinea was also a shock, but she said the “team mentality” made it a lot easier.

“There were some who weren’t as fit as the other but got through due to the help we gave each other,” she said.

Miss Kempson gave as good as she got on the morale front, winning an award for boosting team morale. 

“The company we did it through [Adventure Kokoda], were also fantastic.”

She also made a video of her trek, using a go-pro and photos taken by her and by guides.

The remoteness of the trek was one of Miss Kempson’s highlights.

“The way I look at it is with most shrines, anyone can jump in and visit, but only a privileged group of people get to go to Kokoda.”

One of the most special moments was was visiting Isurava Shrine, where one of the largest battles of the campaign was fought. 

A massive memorial hewn into the side of the cliff, Isurava is marked with four stones, carved with the words endurance, mateship, sacrifice, courage.

“Sitting there at midnight looking out into the ridgeline… it’s something you can’t put into words,” she said. 

She said while her family “were a bit nervous” they were supportive of the trek. 

“I can’t thank them enough, mum would walk and hike with me for training,” she said.