Pat Moses won the trip of a lifetime, the opportunity to experience The Kokoda Track first hand. Now it’s time for the competition to reopen for another year! We hear Pat’s story and find out from Paul at Club Taree how the next winner will be decided.
What was your training schedule leading into the event?
With a weighted backpack, 3 litres of water, wearing my hiking boots and using trekking poles, I hiked up and down North Brother Mountain near Laurieton. The terrain was hilly and in places kind of steep.
I also had my brothers involved and we hiked, finding a few new areas not too far away. We did river crossings, rock hopping and hiked through dense bushland.
To prepare and continue with different techniques, I went to a gym and did a lot of leg work, along with weights to build strength in my legs and arms, chest and shoulders.
What were your personal expectations of Kokoda?
I thought it would be muddy, wet and uncomfortably hot. I expected it to be very difficult, having spoken to a few people I knew who had done the Kokoda Trek, but not the Youth Leadership Challenge. With the trek you were able to hire a carrier, but not with the challenge. We carried our own packs, weighing approximately 14 – 16 kg. Admittedly, our tents and food items were taken to the different camping areas, but it was still a challenge.
In the lead up to the event, what did you believe could be the greatest challenges you would need to overcome? Did these challenges present themselves, and how did you overcome them?
I thought that it would be lack of sleep and exhaustion from the heat. I also didn’t expect how emotional the trek would be for me.
Our Trek 2, Group 2 were all young and like-minded, so we had all physically prepared ourselves. I knew that it would be hot, so I took advantage of the fresh water creeks that were near our campsites – although incredibly cold, they were a refreshing and welcome relief.
Even though I had read and watched videos and as I haven’t any close relatives who could relate their life stories about any wars, I wasn’t prepared for the emotions I felt at all the prominent memorials along the trek.
Reflection and imagining this trek as it would have been during the Kokoda Campaign, wet, muddy, heavy rains and pools of blood filling the soil, I realised that nothing could prepare anyone for what lay ahead of the soldiers – they walked into the unknown, the unwelcome, the frightening reality of war. When I sat in front of a headstone of a “Boy” who was younger than I am now, it really hit me hard!
Tell us a little about your trek group; how did you get along, and how did you overcome challenges together?
Trek 2, Group 2 were a great bunch of people, aged from 17 to 25, fit and physically prepared. There were 14 of us – eight guys and six girls with one senior leader, Reg Yates and second in charge Fiona Foster.
We all got to know each other vaguely through a Facebook group prior to the trek, but face to face was so much better. If we lived closer, I am sure we could have achieved this prior to the trek. Maybe future trek groups could organise a get together with each other. It would make the meet at the airport a lot less confronting.
Along the trek if someone was struggling with the weight of their packs or just finding things difficult, we supported each other, taking things from their packs to lighten the load, and we encouraged each other – as did the guides and our leaders. We sang, laughed, cried and listened. We learnt a lot about each other and ourselves.
No doubt the trek gave you opportunities to learn. Tell us a little about what you learned.
- The Kokoda Campaign built many friendships. Soldiers relied on each other for support physically and mentally.
- It wasn’t only the soldiers who had mateship. Soldiers grew very fond of the Papuans, who assisted in many ways. They helped to give the soldiers the will to keep going, to push through the pain, the dense bush land and their emotions too.
- Mateship means equality, loyalty and friendship.
- To not give up.
- Fitness, strength, stamina and perseverance were all needed during and after the Kokoda Campaign.
- Ability to withstand hardship and adversity in incredibly trying conditions during the Kokoda Campaign.
- Endurance to do your best, not to give up or give in during hard times. This was true then and now.
- Boldness, to be brave in battle
- To be brave when facing the unknown.
- To push through the fear, the noise, the terrain, the conditions, the weather, the danger.
- Something you give up – soldiers gave up the comforts of home to fight for their countries, for future generations’ freedom.
- Means to lose something you hold dear. In the case of the Kokoda Campaign, soldiers lost their mates, and families lost their loved ones.
- To do without – to be without fresh food, water, warmth, clean clothes and love from family.
- That I am able to lead and be led, depending on who is stronger on the day.
- You don’t have to be a leader to lead.
- It takes a good leader to delegate.
- Leadership is about initiative.
- Leadership is about showing compassion.
- Leadership is about give and take.
- Leadership isn’t a rite of passage; it is earnt, and you must be worthy of it.
How were your interactions with the people of Papua New Guinea? Any highlights?
The Papuan people struggle in many ways. They don’t have healthcare, schooling/education or wealth that we experience in Australia, but the Papuan people are happier than the everyday Australian, even though they have little in comparison.
Papua New Guinea is proud of its cultural diversity. There are many little villages along the trek, and they all have their own form of language as well as understanding and speaking English.
Papuans are genuine and are a giving people, who welcome visitors to their country. They are happy to share their piece of paradise.
Many people describe Kokoda as “life changing”. In what respects do you think this is so for yourself?
I am stronger than I thought physically and mentally.
I learnt that I can express my sorrow; I am able to express my feelings easier. My fellow trekkers, guides and porters all encouraged each other. We all led at some point and were followed, and we all listened to one another. We heard what each other had to say.
Any messages for people thinking of applying in 2019?
Do it! I have new mates. My knowledge of our history during the Kokoda Campaign is stronger, and I understand more about what the soldiers did for me, for our nation, for our future.
I surprisingly learnt a lot about myself.
I understand the true meaning of mateship, endurance, courage and sacrifice.
Trekking Kokoda has been a life changing experience for me. I have come back mentally and physically stronger.
You need to prepare, don’t kid yourself – it won’t be easy, but if I had the chance I would do it again and I really recommend it.
Thank you to Club Taree, the RSL Sub Branch, Kokoda Youth Leadership Challenge Group, family and friends for your support.
The next step for me is joining the Australian Navy in 2019.
Paul from Club Taree talks to us about the Kokoda Competition.
How did the Kokoda Track competition come about?
Courage. Endurance. Mateship. Sacrifice.
Club Taree has long had a commitment to ensuring the sacrifices of our diggers are long remembered.
This scholarship is our way of inspiring young people through opportunity. Over the years, dating back to well before Club Taree, Taree RSL Club has been sending young people to experience Kokoda first-hand. They have all returned with stories, lessons and achievements that will last a lifetime.
What does this competition actually mean to those involved?
The scholarship is valued at $6,500. This experience has been described as both the opportunity of a lifetime, and a once in a life opportunity.
The Kokoda Youth Leadership Program aims to create a greater awareness of the sacrifices of the diggers on the Kokoda campaign among our young people, to ensure that the traditions live on.
At the same time, it instils in participants a commitment to community service, enhances their personal development by providing an opportunity for them to experience the same conditions under which our diggers fought, and hopefully transform them for future leadership roles back in the community.
It is important to know that there are some out of pocket expenses for the successful applicant.
Who can enter, and what is it judged upon?
The scholarship is open to young people aged between 17 and 25. We would encourage all interested people within this age group to contact us and at least have a conversation.
There is a nomination form to complete in which nominees can tell us their story. There is a strong selection focus on those who have had family connections to either Kokoda or a family history of service. There is also a focus on community service, achievements to date and life aspirations. Due to the nature of the challenge, there must be a personal commitment from the successful applicant to undertaking a rigorous fitness training program.
Second to the nomination process there will be interviews with representatives from Club Taree, where applicants can further highlight their suitability for the challenge and the potential scholarship.
The trek itself is physically demanding. You will be required to be in adequate physical and medical shape and free from any medical conditions that may prevent you from completing such an arduous personal challenge.
The most important qualities for the successful applicant are a sense of adventure, a positive attitude, a healthy body, an inquiring mind, an abundance of common sense and a good sense of hunour.
When are entries due, and how are they submitted?
Entries are now open. Information packages are available from Paul Allan at Club Taree. Phone on 6539 4000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Applications must close on Friday 12th April 2019, with the second round interviews being conducted in the week following.
Thanks Pat and Paul.