A group of Cooktown students tackled the rugged 220km Wakooka Trail on mountain bikes for the annual Father and Sons ride in the last week of August, taking their first steps into manhood.
Organiser and school chaplain Dave ‘Chappy’ Kamholtz said this was the eighth or ninth annual ride, and every time students and their fathers returned transformed.
“We took 10 boys, all Year 8 students from Cooktown State School, as well as volunteers and fathers,” Chappy said.
“It’s very very challenging for the boys, it really pushes them to the point they don’t think they can go any further and that’s when the community of men step in and go ‘no mate, you’ve got what it takes’ and they push on and get through the day.”
Chappy said there was blood, sweat, tears and tantrums as the group tackled the gruelling terrain, including long stretches of boggy soft sand, steep rocky hillsides and deep bulldust.
“They say ‘the better the storm, the better they perform’ and now these boys have gone through that storm and they come out with a wider concept of what they can do,” he said.
“They are supported emotionally and mentally by the team around them, and now they’ve got lifelong connections to a group of local men and boys that they can talk to and that will continue after the ride.”
The five-day ride was a chance for fathers and other male role models to share life lessons with the young men, Chappy said.
“Each night the dad’s share their stories of life, failures and triumphs, and the boys share the highs and lows of their day,” he said.
“The dad’s sort of get to usher the boys out of boyhood and into becoming a man, which is really about not being a victim, not blaming others and taking responsibility.”
Chappy said the boys and men were able to discuss serious topics such as domestic violence in a very open way.
“We have some pretty heavy chats about a whole lot of stuff, including how men treat women, which is so important and something we would not be able to do so openly in a mixed-sex group,” he said.
The group will share the ride experience with their fellow students at a presentation at school this week.