Kokoda Challenge Youth Program

Over the recent Spring Holidays, QAHS Year 11 students Song Jin Loh and Xocel Rampino-Gallo proceeded to Papua New Guinea (PNG) with the Kokoda Youth Foundation to walk in the footsteps of the brave Australian diggers on the original Kokoda Trail. In preparation for this event, Song Jin and Xocel completed a relentless 20 week training program which included participating in the Gold Coast 96km Kokoda Challenge. Both students successfully traversed the entire 96km despite the arduous terrain and punishing climate. Song Jin and Xocel have demonstrated grit and resilience which accords with the qualities of an IB Learner. The whole of QAHS congratulates both of these students for their extraordinary achievement.

See below for Song Jin’s reflection:

 “Over the past school holidays, as part of our involvement in the Kokoda Challenge Youth Program, Xocel and I hiked the 96km Kokoda Track over ten days in Papua New Guinea. We began our trek from Ower’s Corner on the 21st of September and finished at Kokoda Arches on the 30th of September. It took us a couple of days to adjust to the lifestyle – the prevalent factors being 8-10 hours of hiking up and down steep mountains every day and living out of a backpack containing only the bare necessities for this trip. Leading up to our PNG experience, we endured strenuous 15-20kg weighted backpack training as well as regular fitness training.

There are countless components of this trip that have broadened our global perspective, as well as building strong mateship within our team. Upon arrival at Port Moresby, we first visited the Bomana War Cemetery and paid our respects to the fallen soldiers during the 1942 Kokoda Campaign. Thousands of men, as young as 16 years of age, had died in battle. It was inspiring to see the diggers were courageous in the face of almost certain defeat against the strong and well-trained opposition. The cemetery visit gave us strength to draw on, in the tough days to come. On the track, as we passed historical landmarks, such as Dump 66 (an area used during wartime as a medical post and for supplies), “The Wall”, Surgeon’s Rock, the four pillars at Isurava and many more, it felt surreal to be walking in the footsteps of the brave Australian men who provided their services in 1942.

As part of our Kokoda experience, we also had the opportunity to interact with many of the Papuan people, such as our carriers/porters and village communities. The villagers showed kindness and love as we were welcomed into their culture, especially at Tauhe Bende where we learned about their traditional dances and songs. Experiencing a glimpse of the lifestyle in a developing country has made me appreciate the luxuries back at home – a mattress, clean drinking water, and even the food portions we take for granted. Furthermore, our porters were extremely helpful, similarly to the Papuan “Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels” as nicknamed by the Australian soldiers for their mateship and assistance during the war. On day seven and eight, I came down with heatstroke – to the extent where I could not sit or stand upright.  These Papuan porters carried me on their backs, shoulders and constructed a makeshift stretcher out of the natural resources on the track. Despite being on the brink of absolute exhaustion, the encouragement and support from the members of our own Kokoda Youth team had given me the strength to continue walking on the last day and we crossed the Kokoda Arches on the 30th September, successfully completing our 96km trek.

All the highlights and challenges have made this track experience so memorable and I would encourage anyone who is looking for a challenge to take up this program next year.”

Mr Dean Ryschka
Sport Coordinator