VINCENTIA High student Andrew Taylor is a great story of determination and persistence.
The 17-year-old, year 11 student, has just returned from trekking the Kokoda Track as part in the RSL and Services Club’s Kokoda Trek Youth Leadership Challenge.
He was a recipient of the Kane’s Kokoda Challenge Foundation, established by the Nowra RSL Sub Branch in the memory of Chief Petty Officer Kane Vandenberg, who was killed in 2013.
Describing it as a “life changing experience” the youngster trained for six months in preparation, dropping an incredible 24 kilograms.
He lost a further seven kilos during the nine-day, 96km trek.
“It was everything I thought it would be and more,” he said.
“It was very hard but really good.
“I think the hardest thing was the hills - sometimes they never seemed to stop.
“You’d go up one hill and get to the top and think that was it and look ahead and there would be two or more still to go.
“You just have to push yourself to keep going and keep going when your brain wants to stop.
“Our longest day saw us walk 25kms. We started at 7am and got into camp at 6pm that night.
“There was one hill during that day it took us five hours to conquer.
“You just have to take one step after another and keep pushing to get through it.”
Despite the heat and humidity and the effects of a badly infected toe, Andrew gamely battled on and completed the trek.
“My toe was pretty bad, it didn’t look too nice for a couple of days, but it has cleared up now.”
He said it was a great personal learning experience.
“It was a personal challenge but also a great learning experience to see what our young diggers, many of them younger than me, went through in World War II,” he said.
“The conditions were awful.”
He dropped another seven kilos during the trek making a grand total of 31kgs since he started his journey and is determined to lose more.
“I want to keep it off and even lose a bit more,” he said.
“I’m still going to the gym and doing a lot of the same training I was before I left.
“I have always taken an interest in trekking and would like to get into more, I’m just not sure where.”
He said he made some lifelong friends during the experience, including two students from Ulladulla who also took part in the trek.
“I would definitely recommend the experience to anyone. It was a great opportunity and one I was lucky to get,” he said.
“Anyone interested should keep an eye out when applications open again and just go for it.”