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Trek Date: 16 – 28 September 2012
Leading treks on the Kokoda Track is always challenging, no matter how many times a guide has been lucky enough to participate in this unique activity.
Apart from the terrain and ever changing weather, guides have the task of leading trekkers that attend with varying levels of fitness and expectations on an adventure of a lifetime. The majority of these trekkers are adults. This is unfortunate as I consider Kokoda offers so much that would be of great value to the development of teenagers.
I recently had the pleasure of leading a group of students from Fountain Gate Secondary College. These students were close to the age of many of the Diggers whose muddy footsteps we followed.
In October 2011 I gave a Kokoda presentation at the school. Over the following months a group of year 10, 11 and 12 students expressed interest and were supported by an enthusiastic group of teachers (and one father) who all had the same unifying goal of walking Kokoda in September 2012. The adventure also included a two day stay in Kagi Village mid trek.
The challenge of walking the muddy track could only go ahead if the group could raise substantial funds and also obtain a fitness level that would equip them for the massive task. And fund raise they did and train they did, with a passion!! The group’s training was conducted on a regular basis, including weekend bush walking at various locations. During a Wilsons Promontory walk they carried packs weighing 20kg! Train hard, trek easy.... is exactly what they did. With a common goal all members of the group bonded, which resulted in a fit and motivated group that a year later the group arrived in Port Moresby ready to take on anything Kokoda could present.
This is an unusual guide’s trek summary as I am not going to detail the group’s activities while actually walking Kokoda. I’m more interested in how this experience affected the group. I can honestly say that of all the disparate groups I have led, this one was the most cohesive, motivated and inspiring. It was obvious that they had all done the training and that they were both physically and mentally prepared to be pushed to near breaking point. They were supportive of each other, good humoured in positions of adversity and respectful during the commemorative services. There were regular well-thought-out and challenging questions relating to the Kokoda campaign, the local culture and the environment. The latter were superbly addressed by the Local Guide, Simon Euki. The group also bonded with the porter team and the villagers at Kagi. The nights’ singing with the Kagi children will long live in all our memories.
On a number of occasions around the evening campfire, members of the group acknowledged how lucky they were and how much unnecessary “stuff” they had at home!! Meeting Kokoda’s physical challenges is one thing; however the trek places all trekkers in an environment where they can reflect on their life, if they choose.
The members of the Fountain Gate Secondary College Kokoda Team of 2012 took full advantage of the opportunity that the trek offers. They were a fantastic group of students and supporting adults. They accepted the challenges that Kokoda presented and epitomised the four pillars of the “Kokoda Spirit”, endurance, mateship, sacrifice and courage. There was one memorable act of courage during the trek that all present will never forget - Zoe, you are an inspiration.
I look forward to again walking the muddy Kokoda Track with future Fountain Gate groups.
No Roads Expeditions
Kokoda Operations Manager/Guide