A year of thrills and spills training on the steepest slopes in Adelaide will come down to a gruelling eight days in Papua New Guinea for the K16 Team this month.
Led by Assistant Director Bernie Victory, the 15-person team will start trekking the Kokoda Track next Saturday to raise money for Centacare’s Bilby Bus.
It will be Bernie’s 13th crossing of the Owen Stanley Range – and his 12th trip to Kokoda. In 2012 he did the trek back-to-back but says the 96km walk overland doesn’t get any easier.
Bernie has left nothing to chance preparing the team for the challenges ahead: humidity, mud, water, steep ascents, torrential rain, swamps and narrow, slippery downhill paths.
Recently the team tackled “Extended Misery’’, a 27km, 8 ½ hour trek around Mt Misery, Montacute, to test their resolve.
“We look for every running creek and steep slope we can find to test technique and stability,’’ Bernie says.
“We measure our endurance and ability to walk for eight or nine hours and still maintain concentration. We train for mental toughness and the ability to be sore and tired and still keep walking without grizzling or losing concentration.’’
Bernie first trekked Kokoda in 2004. That year he was joined on the trip by Peter Hart, a retired naval commander and Wandana Community Centre volunteer. Last week, Peter addressed the team about the importance of working together to achieve their common goal.
Fellow former trekker Anne McEwen also spoke of the Track’s rich history. Anne’s father Doug McEwen was a member of the 2/27th AIF Battalion which fought at Kokoda.
“We always say a Hail Mary in Doug’s honour at the place where he fought because he talked about saying it over and over again as he bunkered down with a mate in a fox hole being shelled by the Japanese,’’ Bernie says.
Doug’s story remains one of Bernie’s strongest motivations to keep returning to Kokoda year after year, each time with a different group.
“New bits of history are still being dug up along the track,’’ he says. “A genuine respect for the Kokoda story and its people and villages is as important as being fit and being able to pack your gear.’’
This year, the K16 team includes a father and son, mother and daughter, a rocket scientist, two social workers, a retired builder and a couple of mates. Together they have walked for three to nine hours each week carrying up to 10kg, and raised $65,000 in the lead up to the challenge.
“The unofficial slogan of Papua New Guinea is ‘expect the unexpected’,” Bernie says. “The K16s will fully appreciate this before the end of the first day on the Track.”
*The Bilby Bus provides weekly outdoor playgroups and other assistance to families who are homeless, or at risk of homelessness, across metropolitan Adelaide. To donate to the K16 challenge and support this great service, visit https://give.everydayhero.com/au/k16