The Kings School, Parramatta

Dear Charlie,

Thank you for making my experience walking the Kokoda Trail so memorable. I believe it will be 10 days that stay with me for the rest of my life.

For me it had it all, emotionally moving, physically challenging, historically interesting, breathtakingly beautiful, and really good fun. To have the opportunity to experience all this with George made it all the more special. In saying this it just would not have been the same without you inspirational leadership. Your detailed knowledge, relaxed positive attitude, moving recitals made it a pilgrimage (as you promised) rather than a tough walk in the jungle. But what impressed me most was the life changing education you gave the boys (and fathers) and your interest, concern and positive programmes you have implemented under trying circumstances for the local people.

The motivational leadership addresses you gave to the boys will have a big impact on those 17 soon to be young men who were privileged to have the opportunity to hear and spend time with you at such an impressionable age.  I believe the young men who’s ‘Endurance-Courage- Mateship-Sacrifice’ we remember as we walk the Trail would be pleased the high example they set would be used to help educated our young leaders of today. I was very proud of the way the boys (particularly George) handled the tough conditions with enthusiasm, good spirit and the without complaint.

A few times stand out for me. The talk you gave us over looking Eora Creek was one. I found it particularly moving. We where fortunate to witness this beautiful location on a stunning day. Its hard to imagine so many young men died in appalling conditions on that very spot, and as you rightly pointed out our Governments have done nothing to recognise their sacrifice.

That memorable second day is another. I think it was 12 hours with incredible steep descents, equally tough climbs, and it top it off torrential  rain with the last couple of hours in the dark. Looking back I would have felt cheated not to experience such conditions. But the most memorable moment of that day was the sight of Dick carrying two packs running past me in the pouring rain as I struggled across a swollen creek wondering why he was in such a hurry.

Hearing later that after dropping the packs he then ran back to help Bruce and Ben into camp. I think that action sums up the spirit of your porters and the loyalty and dedication you instil in them. They are indeed great ambassador’s for their people.

Thank you again for a wonderful, wonderful experience. Next time your down in Cootamundra be sure to give me a call (0428 432611) I’d love to have the opportunity to share another wee dram with you.

Kind regards

Charlie Baldry (father and son group)

Dean Papandreas, Teacher:

I just wanted to email you all to say a big thank you for the great trip away, and a great experience on the Kokoda Trail. Thank you to Charlie for sharing his wonderful insights and experiences, making each day unique, ‘enjoyable’ and memorable. His lessons of history, leadership, and character development are of benefit to us all.

Thank you to the parents – your support and company was great. It was inspiring to see the fantastic relationships and care you have for your boys, and I hope the boys appreciate how special that experience was, and the sacrifice you made in taking time out from your very busy professional lives to share a unique experience with them.

Of course, thank you to the boys. You all showed great resilience, discipline, organisation, and character throughout the trek. I remind you now of what Charlie said to you at the Bomana War Cemetery. That there will be many times in life where you are tempted to take short cuts, to quit, or to take the easy way out. When you are feeling tempted, think back to the sacrifice made by Australians before you, and your responsibility to make the most of the many opportunities that are afforded to you at school and beyond.’

The RSL Kokoda Youth Leadership Challenge

Jessica Thy:

‘I learnt a lot about myself which gave me more confidence as a person as well as a leader. Being in PNG gave me more flexibility as a leader as you are in a foreign country and shows that circumstances are always different and you will need to be able to adjust. I also felt like I had more responsibility to look after all the trekkers in my team and had a higher duty of care. This is especially the case as there were some minors with us on our trek and it was always the goal to get everyone to our destination safely. I also felt stronger as a leader and felt that I gained respect from all the trekkers in my team as some gave me feedback that I was supportive and not harsh and unapproachable.

‘ I also got to learn more about the diversity of cultures amongst our team as well as the locals from PNG. It showed the importance of team work and that each person has an input which makes a difference regardless of how big or small. Communication was also another important factor that was learnt, not everyone had the same view so we had to make a decision that was beneficial to everyone and that everyone would be happy with. Also, it was great not having any technology and being able to connect and talk to people with a genuine interest.’

Laura Dick:

‘I just want to thank Charlie Lynn for the effort that he has put into creating such a fantastic trekking company. The company is certainly a tribute to the dedication he has put into it and all of the projects he has started too.

‘As for my experience, I cannot speak highly enough of it! The people I have met have made such a positive impact in my life, they were all inspiring in their own individual way. The mateship made along the trek was not surprising because in such an intense experience you needed friends to rely on.

‘The boys were the nicest people I have met. I am a proud person and to ask for help is hard, but the boys were there even when I didn’t ask for it! I understand that it is their job, but it felt as though they did it out of the kindness of their heart.

Grace McPherson:

'It was such a great experience, I learnt so much from Kokoda, both historically and personally. I especially liked how we were encouraged to set personal goals to change something about our life when we returned. I have come back to Australia and applied for a volunteer internship with UNICEF through my summer holidays and I would never have had the motivation if it were not for Kokoda and the experiences which I had over there. I have also volunteered with Red Cross – it was great how we were encouraged to go back and do something special, as it has made it so much more meaningful to go out and complete volunteer work, hoping that I am helping someone in some small way.'

Simone Norrie:

'Put simply, the Kokoda Youth Leadership Program has changed my life. I have tried to explain it to friends and family at home and the way that I described it was – “like stepping into another world, and stepping back out.” Having only returned 10 days ago, I feel that the trip still seems quite surreal, although I have already noticed the changes that I as a person have undertaken in such a short amount of time. I have no doubt that I will grow even more as time goes on. What I also found amazing about this type of trip, was the development and changes that I saw others in my group undertake over the 12 day trip. To see fellow trekkers who were two years younger than me walking the Kokoda trail made me ask myself – would I have been able to do this at 17? I found the trek overwhelming – it was mentally and emotionally draining, as well as physically demanding. But, I stand true to my belief that Kokoda is the best thing that I have done in my life thus far – and it will be hard to top it. John Nalder, my trek leader, was described in my Kokoda diary as “the wisest man I have ever met.” I’m not sure what it was about John, but he has a way of reading people, and I felt that he was watching over me the entire trek. He has a way of being able to tell you how you’re feeling, when you’re not even sure how you’re feeling! Honestly, I would not take back any aspect of the Adventure Kokoda trek. It was an amazing experience, with amazing people, and I can’t wait to raise awareness of the Kokoda campaign and programs such as KYLC that are available to young people – and, not only do they develop your leadership skills, they develop your understanding of different cultures. John’s level of military knowledge made the trek a surreal and overwhelming experience. Adventure Kokoda should be commended on all aspects of the trip that I was fortunate enough to be a part of. I am truly grateful for the opportunity that I was given, and will forever be indebted to those who helped me get there.'

Felicity Martin:

'I definitely learned more about leadership from Simon than in our leadership program that preceded the trek. I learned a lot about myself and had a chance to reflect on the way I got through the tough bits of the trek, as well as some insights into my own personality in a broader sense. It was also great to get to know my friends better and observe how we all dealt in different ways with the difficulties, and adjusted our own behaviours to fit in with the group. I really enjoyed the chance to get to know locals, play with kids and observe life in the villages, and was really inspired to return when I’m a qualified doctor to work in some of the hospitals in PNG. The sing-sing in Agulogo was a real highlight. I was stunned by the beauty of the country, and it was quite a shock to return to Port Moresby afterwards! Coming from QLD it wasn’t a new to me as some of the others, but I was really touched by the beauty of the forest and the mountains. I learned a lot more about the wartime history than from my own reading before the trek – absorbing it in the right context was fabulous, and it was all well told by Simon. I was really touched and moved by the memorial service at Isurava memorial, and also the poem Simon read at Brigade Hill. These were both real highlights of the trip for me. I have never been so affected by poetry and war stories, and I think it has given me a new interest and sense of connection to that part of our history. I just wish my grandfather was still alive so I could talk to him about it!'

The University of Western Sydney (Macarthur)

Sharni Chan: Student:

‘Kokoda, on the whole, is a very humbling experience. We are humbled because we have begun to come to an understanding of the sacrifices that were made by those diggers who fought against all odds in the most nightmarish conditions. We are humbled because we would return home as heroes yet these men, these boys, have died for a country that will not remember. And lastly each and every one of us is humbled by the people of the Kokoda Trail.

‘I can now say that I have walked the Kokoda Trail but it is not the track that I have conquered but the track that has conquered me. Kokoda does not provide some great revelation about who you are. There are no great self-discoveries along the way, for each of us has encountered personal hardship before and each of us has overcome great obstacles in our lives. Once you have experienced 'The Spirit of Kokoda' it is that you can no longer deny who it is you are. It strips away the layers of excuses, the fantasies we build around us to both protect and comfort us, these same layers that we subconsciously use to prevent ourselves from moving forward into the unknown. It is not what you learn about yourself on the trail, it is what you can no longer hide from yourself. ‘

Sarah Bassiuoni: Student

‘I thought the historical emotion was going to be the toughest emotional battle this curly haired second generation Aussie was going to have to face on the Kokoda Trail. The history was though on the heart and soul. The sight of those neat white grave stones is etched into my heart and head, my disbelief in war was reaffirmed and the haunting sadness of the senseless slaughter which occurred on the trek, all these memories and sensations caused the tears to flow and my heart the break many a time. However the historical emotion was a small personal battle I had to inhale in order to learn, conquer and grow.

‘How do you correlate an experience of a lifetime? How do you explain heaven and hell on earth? I can’t profess to being a writer and unlike Adam, Kokoda did not inspire me to write, it inspired me to live. Sounds a bit flaky I know, but whilst I was walking that bloody track I realised life is a gift, especially in the package that has been delivered to me. And while I’ve been ripping off the wrapping paper as fast a I possibly can, I haven’t stopped to enjoy the colours and pictures on that paper, and I definitely haven’t been paying enough attention to the details of it.