CATHEDRAL College student Liam Hescock is about to embark on the experience of a lifetime, as he tackles the treacherous terrain of Kokoda as part of a 10-day hiking challenge this month.
Liam, and his father Rob, will join year 12 students from Tumbarumba High School on the expedition, which requires considerable training to enable participants to cope with the long and steep trek in the humidity of a late wet season.
The trip, which coincides with Anzac Day, caught the interest of the 16-year-old self-described “country kid” while at school last year, where Kokoda was chosen as one of three “in depth” studies for year 10 history.
Teacher Ali Garnett, who has lived in the highlands of Papua New Guinea and teaches the curriculum, has done her best to prepare Liam for what’s ahead.
“You can’t imagine how extremely steep and tough the terrain is until you see it for yourself,” said Ms Garnett.
“It’s so incredibly steep and slippery with tree roots sticking out, going up and down from one side of the hill to the next, and what few plains of open land there are, are filled with cutting grass.
“You have to remember our troops came straight off the beach into that.”
Ms Garnett said the intensive study of Australian soldiers’ wartime experiences in Kokoda during World War II had been both confronting and inspiring for many students, and she has been delighted with the enthusiasm and unique approach many had taken with their project work.
Also supporting Liam is Cathedral College principal Adrian Farrer, who not only went to Kokoda himself for the first time while in year 11, but has walked the track 10 times.
“Kokoda is a powerful place, but it is your own experience of it, that keeps giving back,” he said.
Mr Farrer said a lot has changed since he first embarked on the trek many years ago, and while it was still incredibly challenging, it could be life-changing for a teenager.
He said he’d seen how the experience had changed people, and he “admired parents who backed their kids to follow their dreams”.
“I can almost guarantee that what Liam will be talking about will not be how hard it was, but about visiting villages and his relationships with the local people; his stories will be about the people and not the place,” Mr Farrer said.