Life lessons on Kokoda
Monday, 8th August, 2011
Most people can barely manage to trudge their way along the Kokoda Track, but Simeon Kloczko is a young man in a hurry.
The local school teacher joined friends last month and conquered the track in under 30 hours in an effort to raise funds for the children of Papua New Guinea.
The challenge was organised after a friend who had completed the track in 41 hours last year decided he wanted to improve on that time.
He joined Mr Kloczko and two other like-minded trekkers to undertake the journey, and they worked with ICON adventures and the Kokoda Track Foundation to raise money to build a school in the small remote PNG village of Effogi Two.
“It was a personal challenge at first. My motto was “run for respect and remembrance” for all the men who sacrificed their lives so that we can live in what I consider the most beautiful country in the world,” said Kloczko.
“But when I found out there was also the added benefit of building a school, being an educator, I was even more motivated and excited to be involved.”
The 32-year-old said he was shocked when he arrived in PNG and saw the size of the task ahead.
“It was very daunting at first, it was like nothing I’d seen before,” he said.
“I grew up in the Blue Mountains so I thought I knew what steep terrain was, but the heat, the humidity, the terrain - it was just breathtaking.
“I couldn’t help but appreciate the horrible conditions our boys must have gone through.”
The group started their 96km trek at 5.20am, running and walking all day and night and completing the track in 29 hours and 50 minutes.
“I’d had all the best preparation, all the best food, equipment, health care, all the stuff they didn’t have, and it was still such a challenge,” he said.
“(Our soldiers) had to do it without all that. What they endured must have been unbelievable.”
Mr Kloczko trained for a full year leading up to the challenge, and said his wife had been a great inspiration throughout his preparation.
“There’s been 12 months of hard work and sacrifice go into it, and my wife has been extremely understanding.
“I was training up to 15 hours per week and up to 80km of running and walking... I lost 20 kgs. I couldn’t have done it without her support.”
With the journey completed, Mr Kloczko said he would now focus on raising funds and gathering materials for the school in Effogi Two.
“It was unreal, the whole cultural experience. It’s made me more passionate to get involved in helping our next door neighbours.
“It’s a country of such contrast. You see the unrest and the turmoil, and then you see the happy, relaxed lifestyle in the villages. It’s just two extremes.”
Donations of story books or picture books would be welcomed, along with donations of summer children’s and baby’s clothing.
Financial donations are also particularly helpful due to the cost of freight.
“With the exchange rates, a small amount from us goes such a long way over there,” he said.
Goods or financial donations can be left at the Willyama High School’s front office or done directly online via the Kokoda Track Foundations website kokodatrackfoundation.org.
Those making online donations are asked to specify “Effogi Two” on the website to ensure the funds reach the community.
“Hopefully we can get in and give back to the community that supported us in our time of need in World War Two,” said Mr Kloczko.
“It would be great to help educate these kids. Ultimately I would some day love to trek with a group of Broken Hill kids to share the experience with them.”