1000 steps and I’m at the bottom of them, along with women clad in fluorescent active wear, hikers hauling weighted training packs and dads carrying kids. The Kokoda Track Memorial Walk, popularly called the 1000 Steps, is a short but steep walk in the Dandenong Ranges, Melbourne.
The walk is a memorial to the arduous experience of Australian soldiers during World War II, who had to hike and fight through extremely tough conditions on the Kokoda Trail in Papua New Guinea. A memorial statue marks the start of the hike, just past the entrance arch in the carpark.
I get to the base of the steps, where a sign marks 1.4 kilometres, 50 minutes. Can’t be that hard? I can walk a kilometre quicker than that.
Or so I thought.
I take the first couple of stairs with a jaunty enthusiasm, which soon turns to a sweaty plod up the stairs, past ferns unfurling in the morning sun. I’m in training for the Overland Track, but at the moment I’m feeling as unfit as ever. Heart pounding, chest heaving, I walk up step by step. As I walk, people pull over to the side to catch their breath. We play a leapfrog game of stop start – I’ll stop, then overtake them as they stop a few steps higher. The smell of the iron railings lingers on my hands. It’s not a long hike, but it sure is good for training.
It takes me 40 minutes to walk up the steps in the end, with breaks. Gradually I reach the top clearing where people celebrate the success of getting this far. If my heart is pounding, at least I’m still alive.
It’s worth continuing further up to One Tree Hill, although you might not feel like it after the stairs. Thankfully it’s only a short walk, and there aren’t any steps involved. At the top, a huge grove of gum trees shedding bark. Cockatoos screech overhead, while kookaburras laugh.
The walk down is easier than the walk up. I go back along the fitness trail, a wide concrete path with steps on the left. Fitness fanatics careen down the hill, music blasting from white earbuds. Toes jamming in the front of my boots, I reach the entrance, where tall signs read: courage, endurance, mateship, sacrifice.
I don’t know about my courage, but at least there is a cafe.
How to get to the 1000 Steps – Kokoda Track Memorial Walk
The trail is located in the Upper Ferntree Gully about 30 minutes from the Melbourne CBD. The hike is a short walk from the Upper Ferntree Gully Train Station. Alternatively, you can drive, but be warned: car parking is limited and on a Saturday it’s very crowded.