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Kokoda Trail challenge no match for teen and youth co-ordinator from Kalgoorlie-Boulder with The Y WA

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Madeleine ClarkKalgoorlie Miner
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Heather Momo and Zaquise Polak, 15, on the Kokoda Trail.
Camera IconHeather Momo and Zaquise Polak, 15, on the Kokoda Trail. Credit: The Y WA/supplied/supplied

After months of physical and mental preparation, 14 WA youth have just conquered one of the most gruelling treks in the world, the Kokoda Trail.

Kalgoorlie-Boulder’s Zaquise Polak, 15, and The Y Kalgoorlie’s youth co-ordinator Heather Momo have returned home from the trip which they both described as amazing and challenging.

The once-in-a-lifetime opportunity was made possible through The Y WA’s Kokoda Leadership and Development program which saw the youth and co-ordinators trek through the Papua New Guinean rainforest for nine days.

Zaquise said the biggest challenge for him was the slippery tracks, saying he had to rely heavily on his porter.

“There was a heavy rainstorm and the paths were slippery and narrow,” he said.

“The preparation and training really helped and we saw the results on the Kokoda Trail.

“I feel like I learned a lot on the trip — people died for their country and sacrificed their lives.

“It was very special and something more people should learn about.”

Ms Momo said despite having worked so hard to prepare for the expedition, it was still difficult.

“I’m petrified of heights and I didn’t realise how steep some of the some of the climbs were or even the slopes were, and learning to completely trust another human being — the guide who knows the track better than you — and to listen and follow through it was something that was definitely new,” she said.

“When you take a group of 14 young people (away) ... you are put in a situation where you have no choice but to be vulnerable as much as they were, too — it was a good learning experience for that.”

Ms Momo, who is from Papua New Guinea, said she learned a lot about her heritage from the local porters who assisted the group.

“We were reminded of the kindness of the fuzzy wuzzy angels and what they did for people who were complete strangers fighting for freedom that was not particularly for us, but for another country on our land,” she said.

“It goes to show as a reminder that the world that we live, even though the world can be a dark place, kindness is what people remember at the end of the day.

“That’s something that definitely we took away from our trip, every one of us.

“The locals taught us about kindness, hospitality and taking care of each other and those are things that we want to bring back to our community and each and every one of our lives.”

The arduous 96km trek took place from November 25 to December 3 through dense jungle over the Owen Stanley Ranges.

Despite being the wet season and the trek being wet and muddy at times, there were only patches of rain for the group.

The group persevered through nine days of hiking distances ranging from 12-19km per day over steep terrain, and through diverse rain forest.

Four Y WA staff members and chief executive Tim McDonald escorted the group.

Dr McDonald said the group of young people, many of whom had not been on a plane or left the country before, were incredible.

“I can’t begin to tell you about the shift in them all, in their lives, their outlook, their attitudes, the way they speak, look and connect,” he said.

“It was just amazing over those nine days walking through the Papua New Guinea jungle.

“The Y has made a difference in their lives, and it was a privilege to share that journey with those young people and the dedicated Y staff who supported them through it.”

The group received expert and pertinent advice on their mental and physical preparation from Kokoda Courage in the lead-up to the trip.

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