Centacare’s K17 Challenge team are putting their feet up after walking the Kokoda Track earlier this month.

The Track offered up the usual mix of heat, humidity, rain and mud, snakes, spiders and, of course, relentless hills.

The K17s met the challenges with quiet determination and a good natured acceptance of hardship.

Assistant Director Bernie Victory says the group was one of the most efficient and disciplined in his 13 years of leading teams on the Track.

“The Track hasn’t got any easier but the K17s were well organised, had put in the required training, and looked out for each other.

“Every day was still hard but there was a remarkable absence of injury, illness, meltdowns and falls.

“All the tears were reserved for the emotional memorial services held at Isurava and Brigade Hill .’’

The team featured a diversity of ages with someone born in every decade from the 50s to the 2000s, and an equally diverse geographic and employment spread.

These differences became largely irrelevant as everyone trudged together up the endless bulk of Maguli ridge or cooled off together in the cool waters of Ofi Creek.

From Nik leading impromptu Yoga sessions on the banks of the Agu River, to KC breaking speed records, Paige making friends with local children, Jarden getting up close and personal to World War II ordinance, Gordon introducing a whole new music repertoire to the jungle, Jeff negotiating the intricacies of local currency and politics, Jacqui’s morning dance/exercise sessions or Paddy cheerfully accepting whatever tasks and challenges his youth invited, all contributed to a memorable journey across the Owen Stanley Ranges.

The group raised over  $50,000 for Centacare’s Kolbe Cottage and Limestone Coast Domestic Violence Service, and donations have continued as the team have returned to normal life.

The K17s realised that you don’t ‘conquer’ Kokoda but that the Track offers a fleeting glimpse of its heroic and tragic history, its stunning beauty and rich culture and its relentless testing of body and mind.

They embraced that opportunity and can feel justly proud of their achievement.