NDY Brisbane team embarks on local Kokoda challenge

Norman Disney & Young (NDY) Brisbane had four teams participate in the 2011 Kokoda Challenge on Saturday 16th & Sunday 17th of July, 2011.

The Kokoda challenge is an annual charity event that raises money to identify young Australians who are at a crossroad and support them through a 14 month community counsel – The Kokoda Challenge Youth Program. The Kokoda Challenge Youth Program culminates in the participants using the skills and training gained, to undertake the challenge of walking the Kokoda Track in Papua New Guinea.

The 2011 Kokoda challenge included a 96km course in the Brisbane D’Aguilar National Park – the same length as the Kokoda track in New Guinea – which leads along fire trails, crosses 12 creeks and summits 5,000m of vertical elevation. The goal was to finish in less than 39 hours as a complete team of four to honour the spirit forged on the Kokoda Track in 1942: mateship, endurance, courage and sacrifice.

The four NDY teams were made up of:

Team Medic

Jamie Hayes, Gavin Bartley, Ranui Phillips, Peter Madden

Bear Grylls Would Eat It

Barbara Lydon, Andrew Whittington, Daniel Fletcher, Tim Trewin

Calluses & Curses

Shauna Waite, Peter Billingham, David Steinfeld, Michael Greenwood

Blistering Speed

Peter Parnell, Patrick Fogarty, John McIntosh, Callum McIntosh.

The Kokoda challenge has been described as one of the toughest endurance events currently held in Australia requiring serious training and preparation to complete the course. Accordingly, most of our NDY teams put in countless hours of training completing walks of up to 50km in a day to prepare themselves for the challenge. The exception however to this rigorous training regime was “Team Blistering Speed”, the oldest team out of all groups, who had a basic motto summed up in the words of NDY Director Patrick Fogarty: ”Boys we may only have one decent walk in us so let’s not use it up in training”.

Day one for all teams started after an extremely early wakeup call, a long queue to complete registration and wet, soggy conditions due to heavy rain the previous afternoon set the scene for an arduous challenge ahead. Initially the pace was quite slow as everybody was in a large group but gradually the teams started to separate.

12.3km in at the first checkpoint of the trek felt like the teams had warmed up but at this stage “Calluses and Curses” were the first team to lose a team member. This checkpoint also led the teams to the first of the big hills. Unfortunately conditions had worsened due to the rain and heavy traffic turning the track into sludge. With the organisers kindly arranging a couple of surprise additional sections to the track to keep it interesting, all support crews waiting for their teams at the 35km mark were greeted as ‘angels’ bearing gifts of hot food, warm drinks and plenty of encouragement for what lay ahead.

By this point “Team Blistering Speed” had lost two members and “Calluses & Curses” were down by two also. With the requirement that teams had to finish the trek with a maximum of three members they joined together with varying training regimes and continued the next leg – Peter Parnell even took the time to have a quick dip in the creek two minutes walk out of checkpoint thanks to a slippery log crossing.

Within the next 20kms “Bear Grylls would eat that” lost a team member. Fortuitously, with only three members remaining, a lady approached the team soon after who has lost her entire team but was determined to continue the trek. At this stage of the challenge all teams were courageously forging their way by focusing on reaching the next check point ahead.

By checkpoint 7 darkness set in and after a brief respite at different times and excellent motivational speaking amongst the “Bear Grylls” camp by the team captain: “Can somebody please remind me why the &%$# we signed up for this?” Teams bravely left their support crew to tackle the infamous “Hells Pass” – the longest steepest descent of the whole challenge.

Checkpoint 12 signified 14kms to go and all participants knew at this point they had gone through enough not to finish. All teams were greeted at various finishing times by ecstatic cheering of family and friends. This inspiring and rousing reception helped to elevate the participants beyond the exhaustion and pain threshold, albeit temporarily. The teams crossed the finishing line in the following order:

1. Team Medic

2. Bear Grylls would eat it

3. Joint team – Calluses & Curses / Blistering Speed

The NDY teams never would have achieved such a tremendous walk without the teamwork and support showed to one another, and without amazing support crews.

Aside from all varying levels of pain, sweat and mud one thing was constant for all teams – the memories of conquering such an amazing challenge will remain with the individuals for the rest of their lives.

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