John plans jungle trek in aid of Help the Heroes Foundation

John Hughes
John Hughes

wHILE many people will be dreaming of lying on a beach somewhere exotic or at least topping up their tans in their back garden, one Duns man will be spending some of his summer taking part in a 90km jungle trek.

Along with his cousin from Perth and 14 other Aussies, John, who works for Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce, is journeying to Papua New Guinea in August to walk the famous Kokoda Trail. to raise money for the Help The Heroes Foundation.

The route has particular significance for Australians as it marked a turning point in the country’s history during the Second World War.

In 1942 the Japanese Imperial Army set out with the intention of invading Australia by securing a beachhead in Papua New Guinea. All of Australia’s seasoned troops had been deployed to Europe and North Africa, and as a consequence of this the Australian Government gathered a force made up of mostly 17 to 18 year old boys to meet the Japanese on the Kokoda Trail.

They resisted the invasion and held up the Japanese advance in a heroic stand until troops could be brought back from the front lines of Europe and North Africa.

And John said he was looking forward to making his way along a path that was steeped in history and meant to so much to the people he’d be walking alongside.

He told ‘The Berwickshire News’ this week: “I’ve had a strong connection with Australia for the past 40 years in that my cousin Paul McCallum emigrated over there in 1968 and has been working in the Australian construction industry ever since.

“I’ve been Down Under four times myself and I’ve heard more and more about the Kokoda Trail and the courage of the young Australian soldiers each time I’ve been.

“Most people know that Australia wasn’t invaded during the Second World War but they don’t realise that the campaign wasn’t hanging on a knife edge and it was down to the soldiers, most of them aged just 17 and 18, to protect their country from the Japanese.”

John described his cousin Paul as an “outdoorsy kind of guy,” and when asked in February if he’d join him on the ambitious trek, John said it didn’t require too much thought.

“I said yes in a heartbeat,” John said.

“My wife also thought it was a brilliant idea; the only thing that’s slightly daunting is the humidity and the fact I’ve never been in a jungle in my life!

“I’ve tried to do as much training as I can but there’s only so much preparation you can do for something like this- you can’t simulate the humidity; that’s just something I’ll have to quickly get used to.

“I’ve not in the first flush of youth anymore but I’ve been doing a lot of gym work; mainly walking on the treadmill and going on the step machine with a weighted pack on my back.

“We’ll be carrying 17 kilos each every day on the walk so I needed to get used to that!

“We’ll also be reaching heights of 7000 feet, so I’ve tried to get a lot of hill walking in; I’ve already been up at Glencoe and have been walking the Southern Upland Way.”

John and the band of Aussies will set off on the Kokoda Trail on August 21 and aim to finish by August 28.

If anyone would like to support him on his fundraising mission, visit http://www.justgiving.com/John-Hughes60.