The story of my English Channel crossing begins in the mountains of Papa New Guinea.

There, in the spring of 2007, I walked the Kokoda Trail. The trail runs 97 km straight up and straight down the Owen Stanley Ranges and is the path of the great battle between Japanese and Australia soldiers that saw the Japanese defeated for the first time in World War 2 and Australia protected from invasion.

It is at once a sad and cruel place immersed in great natural beauty and populated by a kind and gentle people. However, for all of that, my abiding memory is the harshness of the unforgiving terrain and the wet muddy conditions, which we traversed over 8 long days and nights.

To commemorate a war was not my purpose, although once there it’s hard not to be affected by the story. Rather I was there to conquer one of the hardest walking treks in the world. Fat and forty something, I needed a challenge and frankly, some new friends.

Every day the trail challenged each of us differently. For some it was surrendering to the elements rather than always controlling our journey. For others it was at times frustratingly slow and monotonous. For me it was the heat and the physical limitations of my size and knees. After 8 days of taking small steps, literally no more than half a foot each, we arrived at our destination. That was reward enough but getting there this way was the great lesson.

Kokoda calls me periodically to climb new mountains but I’m better in water than on land so the English Channel it will be.