Melburnians from across the city make the trek out, and the breathless march up, the stony memorial that was named for a bloody killing field. But worn-out soldiers and wearing out sneakers aren't the only reason to take on the steps – there are twitchers, travellers, picnickers and bucket list-ers! Here’s a handy field guide to folks you might see in the forest.
WITNESS THE FITNESS
Actually attempting to count the 1000 steps as you trudge up is near-impossible as blood, sweat and adrenalin do battle over your brain. (They reckon there are only 770, anyway.) Easier, but more depressing, is counting how many times some hot young thing in Lycra laps you on your 1.5 km ascent. The less athletic gamely make it part of their new year’s resolution – expect a January 1 rush.
LEST WE FORGET
The 1000 Steps were created in the early 1900s, before Kokoda veterans adopted the area in 1998, as a memorial to 625 Australian soldiers killed on the Papua New Guinean track in World War II. Plaques line the walkway – recently, concerns that joggers were jostling out veterans prompted the Victorian Government to build an alternative fitnesstrack. It’s part of a $1 million upgrade, and includes a Kokoda history project. Due later this month, it will mark the 70th anniversary of the campaign.
LIFE’S A PICNIC
Surrounded by skyscraping gums, there’s no shortage of lush picnic spots away from the puffing and panting of track climbers. Set up your picnic blanket, then send the kids up the Steps, to secure a slice of tranquility.
BIRD IS THE WORD
The Sherbrooke Lyrebird Survey Group has been counting these impressive natives since 1958. With fancy tails and distinctive calls, they’re tricky to spot amidst the ferns, but the group reports population numbers doubled in the past decade. Early-rising volunteers are welcome to join next year’s count – which kicks off at dawn.