Camp Quality

Thoughts on the Sandakan Track Trek

Ali – the adventure is drawing to a close as we head home to reality. Awesome experience that we shared together and one that I would love to see others experience.

Sharkie – sad the trip is over but happy to be able to unpack the bag full of pressies for others!

Rhi – adventure of a lifetime with amazing people. Sad it’s over but happy to be home.

Carol – fantastic time with wonderful group of people and can’t wait to see Sharkie’s documentary.

Lou – life changing experience. Found it tough but had great bunch of friends to help me through it. So glad I took on the challenge.

Holly – great historic adventure and challenge and amazing mateship.

Kevin Smith

Dear Wayne,
Your call this morning was most interesting and I thank you for it. I have two maps obtained from a Government office in the early 2000s, although I cannot now recall exactly from whom. They are dated in the mid-70s.
You might find the following comments useful.

It is pleasing to see Wayne Wetherall’s trek route taking in the very toughest section of the track that was walked by prisoners of war all those years ago between Sandakan and Ranau. That is the section that followed the Liwagu River north from near Taviu to Mankadai and then onto Miru. From Miru the track climbed precipitously to the very high razor-backed ridge, and on through Maringan before it again descended to the Liwagu at Tampias. Prewar, of course, the route from Ranau to Sandakan came down to Tampias as a pony trail, from where the travel was down the Liwagu River by boat into Labuk Bay and around to Sandakan or by boat to Beluran where a foot trail to Sandakan was picked up.

On that Taviu to Tampias section alone, approximately fifty of our Australian prisoners of war perished,mostly on the first March in February 1945. Their names documented in an Appendix to Lynette Silver’s own book. There were British deaths as well.

Your clients who walk that authentic Miru track must be proudly yet sadly conscious that they walk in the faltering steps of heroes, men already tragically weakened by their ordeals.. A Japanese officer described the ordeals of that track to Miru: ” . . . before Milulu we met a heavy rain and the path along the cliff was washed away everywhere. We fell down and crawled up the cliffs several times.”

Nelson Short, one of the four survivors from Ranau, described in interview his own experience of the steep vally sides that they had to traverse. ” I went over the top of a cliff. I fell and rolled down and down. I thought I was never going to stop. I had a – - was carrying a little mat with me and I come to rest on this rock and it saved my life. I crawled back up again and got back onto the march with them, but there were some terrible – - the precipices you know, little paths you had to go around, and everything were shocking – - shocking country through there.”

Just a day or so later, climbing up the mountain beyond Miru called for unbelievable reserves of strength. In my book I have described that climb in the following terms:
” Clinging to the stems of shrubby bushes and liana vines, getting a good foot grip before hauling themselves up one more step, avoiding the spiny rattans and the evil barbs of one or two other bushes, resting whenever they could against the uphill side of an occasional huge tree trunk, panting and gulping for air, each man fought his own way slowly upwards to the top of the razor-back ridge.”

Be proud of your venture, Wayne. In enabling young Australians and others to experience that track you greatly honour the memory of all who passed that way in 1945.

My kind regards to you.
Kevin Smith – Author
Borneo- Australia’s Proud but Tragic Heritage
Escapes and Incursions

Casey Hatch

Hi Wayne and Jerome
Just a note to say thanks to Sandakan Spirit for making our trek memorable.
Being able to walk the Sandakan Death March and particularly visit the Sandakan Memorial and Labuan War Cemetery is something that I have long to be able to do and I know now it was well worth the wait.
Jerome, Kazz and Loddie made the experience that bit more special with the passionate and knowledge, not only on the history of the war but also the local culture shared along the way.
The food was great and we had many opportunities to try traditional cultural food including Indian and the most delicious satay kebabs.
I haven’t stopped talking about the trip since arriving home and I’m already asking everyone who wants to come again with me!
I recommend anyone that is considering this trek that it is well worth it. The history that you learn along the way, the amount of pride and respect for the POWs I can’t explain in words, it’s something that needs to be experienced.
I can’t wait to hear more about the head hunters trek.

Casey Hatch

David Franks

Hi Serrin

Thank you for organising so efficiently my Sandakan Spirit walk and Mt Kinabalu Climb in Late April early May.
Your man in Sabah, Jerome looked after me and the group magnificently.
He is an excellent Ambassador for your Company.
I truly enjoyed the walk which was so eye opening and humbling.

Kindest Regards
David Franks

Highlights of the Trek

Camp Quality
Highlights of the Trek

Following our decent off the mountain into Ranau in the pitch black dark over a very slippery gravel track we walked another 7 kms to the monument that has been erected by the Australian Government.

Following the elation of US ALL making it to the end of the 100km journey we held a very emotional and touching remembrance service where we spoke of the courage and love we have for our loved ones; those that were up above watching over us every step of the way and the amazing kids of Camp Quality that continue their flight and challenge every day.

My beautiful nephew in heaven, Harry, inspired me every step of the way and it is because of him that I embark on these challenges.
It is way too difficult to deliver on this blog the feeling we all have tonight.
Our bodies are tired beyond belief, our personal satisfaction for making it is high and our hearts are full of love for you all back home who have supported us to be able to come here to Borneo and walk in the footsteps of the men who sacrificed their lives for our freedom.

And at this point we have raised over 110K to be able to continue putting laughter into the lives of our Camp Quality kids who inspire us.
All 13 of us cannot thank you enough for your support and are looking forward to seeing you all very soon.
So for now I will finish my Tiger beer and my great friend Donna will be back with you tomorrow.
So our amazing adventure has come to an end. We have all come back safe and sound, created new friendships and cemented old ones.

An amazing bunch of people from all different walks of life who came together to do something incredible for Camp Quality. CQ is so lucky to have such courageous and passionate people as part of its family.

We have all come back with such knowledge of what actually went on during the POW’s captivity and with a real desire to pass this knowledge on.

What happened to these soldiers is described as Australia’s holocaust and one of its worst war time atrocities and yet barely any Aussies even know about it.

Having walked in their footsteps we get some idea of where these death marches took them but we will never fully understand how they just kept going without food, water, boots, and clothes and riddled with sickness such as malaria, ulcers or battered and bruised bodies from beatings from the Japanese.

They continued to drag their poor bodies along the track as they knew that if they stopped then they would be shot or stabbed.

Their story needs to be told – they need to be recognised for their bravery. Do yourself a favour and contact Wayne from Sandakan Spirit and book a trip over to Sandakan to walk the Track. You will get to meet the amazing Jerome – a guide who goes way beyond what is expected to ensure all your needs are catered for. He is a wealth of information regarding the Death March and is so passionate about ensuring that these courageous POW’s story is told.
What a great bunch we have doing this Trek. We are all looking after each other and getting on so well. Today turned out to be a lot harder than a lot expected but everyone came through it with a big smile on their face.
It is so hard to believe the conditions that the POW’s had to trek through this jungle in – it definitely puts things into perspective.
After leaving here we made our way to the Sandakan Memorial park which incorporates the original Sandakan POW Camp. Here we got to see where the Australian and British compounds were, sites where lots of POWs were buried as they died from malaria, starvation, beatings, etc.

We all formed a horseshoe around the Sandakan memorial and spent some quiet time paying our respects to the POW’s who went through such atrocities at the hands of the Japanese. It was very real and very moving.

We left this memorial really well armed with lots of knowledge about the Trek we are about to embark on
Once again today everyone was helping each other. Jerome our guide is amazed at how our group is so gelled and all get on so well.

It is the thing that keeps you going – the people around you, checking on you. Helping you, sharing a laugh or a tear. I am sure a lot of this sort of mateship was what kept these courageous POW’s going in such horrendous conditions.

Mateship is an amazing thing and when you are out in these elements and conditions, it is often all you have.

When we finally came out of the jungle and Jerome once again took us all to the river to cool off, there was a huge sense of relief and pride at what we had all accomplished.

Lots said they had never experienced a day like it and Rhi made the comment it was the second hardest day of her entire life.
Keep going and never, never, never give up. You’ll be so deservedly proud of yourselves by the end.

Seriously, though, you are doing a fantastic job & I know you will all be an amazing support for each other. I know it is unimaginably hard work at the moment, but as many of you have experienced in the past, the bonds you are forming out there will, for many of you last a lifetime!!!
We visited the Kundasang War Memorial. Here we watched a 20 minute DVD about the March we had just completed and some interesting footage of interviews of a couple of the POW’s who had escaped.

The Memorial also had lots of things that were later found on the track like money, bullets, buckles, hats and a pocket watch which one of the little boys from a Village along the Track was given by a man he said was extremely thin and very hungry.
He gave it to the little boy for some food – the watch is still working some 70 years later.

There were letters that had been written by the POW’s to their loved ones, all of them saying they are fine and not to worry about them!

From there we visited the various Memorial Gardens – Australian, British, Borneo and the Garden of Remembrance where all the POW’s names are listed. It is a beautiful solemn place and a great way to top off our Trek.

When we left here we made our way back to Kota Kinabula to Le Meridien Hotel – hard to believe we left this place 7 days ago to start the Trek.
We really had no idea what was in front of us and so much has happened to all of us emotionally and physically since then.
Michelle Y said…
I am speechless at the selfless act you have all just completed for our families at Camp Quality. Your generosity of spirit, motivation and resilience to just keep going and your ability to laugh in the face of the adversity you all experienced over the last few days of that trek is nothing short of amazing.
You are all such wonderful ambassadors for our organisation and we are so lucky to have you. We are even more lucky to have you all as friends! Love to you all and look forward to all the stories when you get back. The enormity of what we have accomplished is starting to hit us and we are looking forward to the night together.