The Kokoda Challenge is a test of mental and physical endurance, trailing across 48 kilometres of the Gold Coast Hinterland bush and taking fifteen hours to complete. This year, four brave students and one old teacher took on the Challenge!
“A ship in harbor is safe — but that is not what ships are built for.” — John A. Shedd
Not only did the Somerset team complete the course in great time, but they also raised $350 to donate to the Kokoda Foundation, which sends teenagers to experience the real Kokoda Trail in Papua New Guinea.
The purpose of the Kokoda Challenge is to honour the fallen soldiers that faced the Imperial Japanese armed forces in Papua New Guinea during World War II. The 48 kilometre trail flows around the Advancetown Lake and includes a section called “Army Land” – this is the exact location where our World War II troops trained for deployment.
2018 was the sixth time that I have been involved in the Kokoda Challenge, and it was an undeniable pleasure to work with this team consisting of Kydra Walden, Jason Zhang, Erin Crough-Heaton, and Ella Crough-Heaton. Our training included numerous six to eight hour hikes through the Gold Coast Hinterland, and the students excelled at pushing themselves through technical and difficult sections of the bush. Beyond all the physical aspects of the Challenge, what stood out most for me was the ability for Kydra, Jason, Erin, and Ella to constantly adapt to and find growth in difficult scenarios and the resulting challenges.
Our adventure started on 14 July 2018 when the students met at Numinbah Valley Hall, where over 200 teams that had entered the competition along with teams from schools throughout South East Queensland. Before the race we were fortunate to have Doug Henderson, one of the original diggers that was involved in the expedition to PNG in World War II, present on his experience in Kokoda. Finally, The Last Post played, we held a minute of silence, then we set out for our adventure at 11.00am.
Fortunately this year, there was no rain, however we did face record low temperatures and a changes course route. Throughout our journey we had the goal of at least walking wherever there was an incline, while running down hills and along flat sections of the track. This is a method which ultimately paid off when we arrived at the top of Hellfire Pass before sunset, more than two hours earlier I have previously seen our teams reach this stage.
We ultimately finished our journey at 2.00am, after trekking through the Nerang State Forest. This final stage was a change to the course – instead of a two-hour journey along reasonably flat ground that we had trained for, we were faced with hills, darkness, and of course lots of rocks.
The final stage took four hours to complete, and I was impressed by our team’s fortitude and resilience. When facing the small challenges that we faced there were no complaints, just a feeling of getting on with the business at hand.
For a group to truly finish the Kokoda Challenge, each and every member of the team must cross the finish line, and Somerset was fortunate to be one of the teams to accomplish this. We completed our adventure at 2.00am in the Nerang Velodrome, walking in to the warm reception of friends and family.
I would like to thank Mickell and Tammy Walden for being our support crew throughout the 15-hour journey. They made sure that we were well fed and stocked up on supplies at all the checkpoints and it was greatly appreciated by myself and the squad.
Finally, I would like to thank Kydra Walden, Jason Zhang, Erin Crough-Heaton, and Ella Crough-Heaton – you created one of the most memorable Kokoda experiences to date.
If you are interested in being involved in the Kokoda Challenge in 2019, please feel free to get in touch with me.
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