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The Kokoda Track
File:OwenStanleyRangeOwensCornerView.jpg
View of the Owen Stanley Ranges from Owers Corner
Length 96 kilometres (60 mi)
Location Papua New Guinea
Trailheads Kokoda / Owers Corner
Use Walking
Highest Point Mount Bellamy 2,190 m (7,185 ft)
Lowest Point Ua'Ule Creek 300 m (984 ft)
Trail Difficulty Hard
Season All
Sights WWII History, Jungle, Mountains

The Kokoda Track or Trail is a single-file foot thoroughfare that runs 96 kilometres (60 mi) overland — 60 kilometres (37 mi) in a straight line — through the Owen Stanley Range in Papua New Guinea. The track is the most famous in Papua New Guinea and is renowned as the location of the World War II battle between Japanese and Australian forces in 1942.

The track starts, or ends, at Owers Corner in Central Province, 50 kilometres (31 mi) east of Port Moresby, and then crosses rugged and isolated terrain, which is only passable on foot, to the village of Kokoda in Oro Province. It reaches a height of 2,190 metres (7,185 ft) as it passes around the peak of Mount Bellamy.[1]

Hot, humid days with intensely cold nights, torrential rainfall and the risk of endemic tropical diseases such as malaria make it a challenge to walk. Despite the challenge posed it is a popular hike that takes between four and twelve days (depending on fitness). Locals have been known to hike the route in three days.

Contents

History

Number of walkers[2]
Year Walkers
2001 76
2002 365
2003 1074
2004 1584
2005 2374
2006 3747
2007 5146
2008 > 5600

The track was first used by European miners in the 1890s that were travelling to the Yodda Kokoda goldfields. The Diggers also used the track during the time period of July 1942 to January 1943.

During the Pacific War of World War II a series of battles, afterwards called the Kokoda Track Campaign, were fought from July 1942 to January 1943 between Japanese and Australian forces. This action was memorialised in the newsreel documentary Kokoda Front Line!, filmed by cameraman Damien Parer, which won Australia's first Academy Award for its director Ken G. Hall in 1942.

Crossing Eora Creek on the Kokoda Track

After the war the track fell into disuse and disappeared in many places. John Landy, the long-distance runner, set a record of four days for the crossing using carriers and guides during the 1950s, and in 1964 Angus Henry, the art teacher at Sogeri High School with two of his students, John Kadiba and Misty Baloiloi, set a new record which was to stand until after the millennium by completing the journey in three and a quarter days without guides, carriers or any signposts or bridges.

In recent years walking the track has become a pilgrimage for Australians of all ages. The Kokoda Track Foundation was established by Charlie Lynn, a member of the New South Wales Legislative Council, in 2003. The aims of the foundation are to promote education, health and sporting initiatives designed to enhance the well-being, future and enjoyment of the local communities living along the Kokoda Track.[3]

There is a proposal to turn the track into an Australian heritage destination on a par with ANZAC Cove at Gallipoli.[4] Creation of the heritage area, is in part response to the issue of an Australian gold mining company wanting to mine on or near the track. Currently the idea is backed by the Australian government and Papua New Guinea's foreign minister.[4]

In November 2007 Australian mining firm Frontier Resources announced plans to divert a section of the track to make way for a copper mine.[5] The plan has the support of the local landowners and the Papua New Guinean government but has been criticized by trekking operators.[5] Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has said he will lobby the Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare to stop the proposed move.[6]

The track has been closed numerous times by villagers along the route in response to various grievances. In May 2009 villagers at Kovelo - near Kokoda village - blocked the track after complaints that money collected by trekking fees was not being distributed fairly.[7]

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Popularity and deaths

Since 2001 there has been a rapid increase in the number of people walking the track (see table right). Six Australian trekkers have died from natural causes while attempting to walk the track. Four of those deaths have occurred in 2009, with two in the same week in April and another two 8 days apart in September and October.[8][9][10][11] The deaths have sparked calls for mandatory fitness tests for all walkers before starting.[12]

As popularity for walking the track has increased there have been calls for more regulation of trek operators with some operators taking as many as 150 walkers in a group.[10][13] In response the Kokoda Track Authority has announced that from the beginning of 2010 tour operators must have a commercial licence which will "address things such as training requirements, first aid details, insurance and conditions for the porters".[14]

In August 2009 the Kokoda Track was the destination for a group of trekkers that were killed when their light plane, Airlines PNG Flight CG4684, crashed en route to Kokoda village.[15] All 13 people on board, including 9 Australian trekkers, were killed in the crash.[15] As a result, the Australian Government committed $1.8 million to improve safety along the track. Funds would be used to improve the safety of airstrips at Kokoda, Menari, Kagi, Melei, Efogi, and Naduri, all towns located along the track. A second radio channel would also be installed to deal with emergencies and maintenance work.[16]

In October 2009 Mr. Don Vale became the oldest Australian to successfully complete the Kokoda Track.[17]

In November 2009, Australian paralympian Kurt Fearnley (born without the lower section of his spine [18]) completed the track ,crawling north to south, in 11 days. A multiple paralympic gold medalist (T54 Marathon in Athens and Beijing),he used customised shin pads and wrist guards. His journey was to raise awareness of men's health issues and was inspired by the story of Corporal John Metson, who crawled the track for three weeks, refusing the assistance of a stretcher on the grounds it would burden his comrades. [19].

Kokoda Track or Trail?

Location of the Kokoda Track within Papua New Guinea

There has been much debate in Australia about whether it should be called the "Kokoda Trail" or the "Kokoda Track". The monument at Owers Corner uses both terms: "Track" on one side and "Trail" on the other.

"Kokoda Trail" was gazetted as the official name of the route by the Australian administration of Papua New Guinea in 1972.[20]

The earliest mention of the route in an Australian newspaper may be in The Argus on Wednesday 29 July 1942 in a map when it refers to "the Buna Kokoda-Moresby track".

According to historian Stuart Hawthorne, before World War II, the route was referred to as "the overland mail route" or "the Buna road". He states that "Kokoda Trail" became common because of its use in Australian newspapers during the war, the first known instance being in Sydney's Daily Mirror on 27 October 1942.[20]

However all three terms Kokoda Track, Kokoda Trail and Buna-Kokoda road were commonly used during WW2 in Australian newspapers from September 1942. [21] [22] [23]

The diary of the Australian Army's 2/33rd Battalion records the route being officially designated as the "Kokoda Trail" in September 1942.[24] The Australian Army has used "Kokoda Trail" as a battle honour since 1957. The Australian War Memorial (AWM) says that "trail" is probably of United States origin but has been used in many Australian history books and "appears to be used more widely".[25]

Despite the historical use of "Trail", "Track" gained dominance in the 1990s, with the Australian Macquarie Dictionary stating that while both versions were in use, Kokoda Track "appears to be the more popular of the two".[26]

Trekking

The monument at Owers Corner

The track can be walked from either direction. Some say that from Kokoda to Owers Corner is easier, even though in that direction you actually have to climb an extra 550 metres in height.

The track can take anything from 4 days to 12 days to complete, depending on fitness and rest time involved. Locals are renowned for being able to regularly complete it in 3 days. The best time to trek Kokoda is from April to September, during the 'dry' season.

There are a number of guesthouses located along the way, some at villages and others at traditional rest spots. The main villages passed through (from Owers Corner) are Naoro, Menari, Efogi Creek 1 & 2, Kagi or Naduli (if shortcut is taken), Alolo, Isurava, Hoi, Kovolo. Villagers are increasingly taking part in the commercial opportunities created by the growing number of tourists; in October 2006, some were known to be selling cans of soft drink and beer at double the price payable in Port Moresby.

Guides and porters can be found more easily at the Kokoda end of the track by asking the local police station for a reputable person.

Kokoda Challenge Race

The Kokoda Challenge Race is an endurance running race that was revived on 27 August 2005. The race originally ran in 1975 but stopped before becoming an annual event.[27] Renewed interest in running the track was created when Australian Brian Freeman, the CEO of a Brisbane based Kokoda trekking company, broke the track record in August 2004 with a time just under 25 hours.

Papua New Guinean locals wanted the record reclaimed for themselves, and this was achieved in the inaugural race of 2005 and then broken in subsequent races. The current race record holder in both directions is Brendan Buka, with a best time of 16:34.05 in 2008 from Owers Corner to Kokoda.

The race runners are required to complete the full 96 km and pass through seven check-points at Isurava, Templeton Crossing One, Myola, Efogi One, Old Nauro, Va’ule Creek and Goldie River.

Kokoda Challenge Race Records
Direction Record holder Record time Year
Kokoda to Owers Corner Brendan Buka 17:20 2007
Owers Corner to Kokoda Brendan Buka 16:34.05 2008

2005

The inaugural race of 27 August 2005 was won by John Hunt Hiviki, who completed it in 22 hours, one minute and 14 seconds.[28]

2006

On 27 August 2006, Brendan Buka, a 22-year-old Papua New Guinean trekking porter from Kokoda, conquered the trail from Owers Corner to Kokoda in a winning time of 17 hours, 49 minutes and 17 seconds.[29] A Sydney engineer, Damon Goerke, 32 became the first Australian to run the track in under 24 hours, coming third in the 2006 challenge with a time of just under 19.5 hours.

2007

The race record was again broken by Buka in the 2007 event when he completed the track in 17 hours 20 minutes on 26 August 2007, running in the reverse direction from Kokoda to Owers Corner.[30] The 2007 event also featured runners running from Owers Corner to Kokoda and a winning time of 19 hours 9 minutes was set in this direction by Tom Hango.[30]

2008

On the 31 August 2008 Buka once again rewrote the record books by winning the 2008 race in a time of 16:34:05.[31] Conditions were the worst in the three years that Buka has won this event. This year, Buka trained, which is why he claims he broke his own record. Second place getter was Wayne Urina the current 2nd fastest man ever to complete a crossing of the Kokoda Trail with a time of 18:34:06. Cyprian Aire came in third with 19:11:40.

References

  1. ^ Pérusse, Yvon (July 1993). Bushwalking in Papua New Guinea (2 ed.). Lonely Planet. pp. 98. ISBN 0-86442-052-8. 
  2. ^ Ellie Harvey (2009-04-21). "Kokoda death highlights safety concerns". hardcopy (The Sydney Morning Herald): p. 1. 
  3. ^ "About Us". Kokoda Track Foundation. http://www.kokodatrackfoundation.org/foundation.html. Retrieved 2009-04-22. 
  4. ^ a b "Kokoda 'heritage' a step closer". Brisbanetimes.com.au. 2007-05-18. http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/news/travel/kokoda-heritage-a-step-closer/2007/05/17/1178995367876.html. Retrieved 2007-05-18. 
  5. ^ a b "Mining firm urged to leave Kokoda Track alone". News Online (Australian Broadcasting Corporation). 2007-11-01. http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2007/11/01/2078150.htm. 
  6. ^ "Rudd to lobby against Kokoda mine plan". News Online (Australian Broadcasting Corporation). 2007-11-01. http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2007/11/01/2078924.htm. 
  7. ^ Fox, Liam (2009-05-08). "Disgruntled villagers block Kokoda Track". Online News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation). http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2009/05/08/2565088.htm. Retrieved 2009-05-12. 
  8. ^ Ellie Harvey (2009-04-21). "Kokoda death highlights safety concerns". The Sydney Morning Herald. http://www.smh.com.au/world/kokoda-death-highlights-safety-concerns-20090420-acpq.html. Retrieved 2009-04-21. 
  9. ^ "Kokoda Trail tour operators fear 'cowboys' walk among them". The Age. 2009-04-22. http://www.theage.com.au/travel/kokoda-trail-tour-operators-fear-cowboys-walk-among-them-20090421-ae4x.html. Retrieved 2009-04-22. 
  10. ^ a b "Deaths spark calls for Kokoda conduct code". Online News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation). 2009-04-24. http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2009/04/24/2551568.htm. Retrieved 2009-04-25. 
  11. ^ "Another Australian dies on Kokoda Track". Online News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation). 2009-10-05. http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2009/10/05/2704507.htm. Retrieved 2009-10-06. 
  12. ^ "Kokoda trekkers 'should pass fitness tests'". Online News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation). 2009-10-05. http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2009/10/05/2705350.htm. Retrieved 2009-10-06. 
  13. ^ Mark, David (2009-04-24). "Kokoda 'cowboys' endangering lives, operator says". The World Today (Australian Broadcasting Corporation). http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2009/04/24/2551864.htm. Retrieved 2009-04-25. 
  14. ^ Fox, Liam (2009-10-03). "Kokoda operators given code of conduct". Online News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation). http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2009/10/03/2704007.htm. Retrieved 2009-10-06. 
  15. ^ a b "No survivors in PNG plane crash". News Online (Australian Broadcasting Corporation). 2009-08-12. http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2009/08/12/2653214.htm. Retrieved 2009-08-12. 
  16. ^ Sunday Telegraph, 6th September, 2009, p.13
  17. ^ The Daily Telegraph, Oct 6, 2009, p9 / www.dailytelegraph.com.au
  18. ^ http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/sport/more-sports/australias-most-inspirational-athlete-confronts-the-toughest-challenge-of-his-amazing-life/story-e6frey6i-1225738549918
  19. ^ http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2009/11/18/2746156.htm
  20. ^ a b "Kokoda Track or Kokoda Trail?". Kokoda Trekking. http://www.kokodatrail.com.au/track_or_trail.html. Retrieved 2007-01-16. 
  21. ^ The Canberra Times Tuesday 22 September 1942
  22. ^ The Argus Monday 21 September 1942
  23. ^ The Sydney Morning Saturday 26 September 1942
  24. ^ Bill James, Field Guide to the Kokoda Track, Kokoda Press, 2006, pp. 40-41.
  25. ^ "Encyclopedia: Kokoda Trail". Australian War memorial. http://www.awm.gov.au/Encyclopedia/kokoda/index.htm. Retrieved 2007-01-16. 
  26. ^ Macquarie Dictionary (4 ed.). 2005. pp. 791. 
  27. ^ AAP (2007-08-24). "Three Aussie women in Kokoda Track race". The Sydney Morning Herald. http://www.smh.com.au/news/World/Three-Aussie-women-in-Kokoda-Track-race/2007/08/24/1187462496831.html. 
  28. ^ "Kokoda Trekkers Hall of Fame". kokodatrail.com.pg. http://www.kokodatrail.com.au/halloffame.html. Retrieved 2007-03-05. 
  29. ^ "PNG local sets new Kokoda track record". ABC News Online. 2006-08-27. http://www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/200608/s1725250.htm. Retrieved 2007-03-05. 
  30. ^ a b Jones, Lloyd (2007-08-27). "PNG trekking porter sets Kokoda record". news.com.au. http://www.news.com.au/story/0,23599,22313985-23109,00.html. 
  31. ^ "Kokoda Challenge 2008 Race - Completed, 30th - 31st August 2008". kokodatrekking.com.au. 2008-08-31. http://www.kokodatrail.com.au/forums/index.php?showtopic=1240&view=findpost&p=8259. Retrieved 2009-04-21. 

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

Contents

This article is an itinerary.

The Kokoda Track is in Papua New Guinea.

Understand

What is now known as the Kokoda Track was a collection of trails and trading routes used by villagers to cross the Owen Stanley Range and travel from the south to north coast of Papua New Guinea [1] for hundreds of years, and in the 19th Century by Europeans keen to reach the goldfields on the northern half of the island.

Even today, with up to a thousand trekkers camped along the track each night in peak season, there is not a single route from what is now known as Owers Corner in the south to the Kokoda Valley in the north, but alternative tracks that go through different valleys and different villages for about 98 kilometres.

The track became famous during the Second World War when troops of the 39th Australian Infantry Battalion [2] and Japanese Imperial Forces fought a long and arduous battle along its route to prevent the Japanese forces from reaching Port Moresby in the south.

Since then, and particularly in the past two decades, walking the Kokoda Track has become a rite of passage for Australians of all ages, on a par with visiting Gallipoli on Anzac Day. However, trek parties of more than 100 trekkers and guides mean the track is no longer the isolated place it once was.

Certainly it is difficult for Australians and Japanese to not shed a few tears when they reach the war memorial site at Isurava.

Prepare

The most important thing for a prospective Kokoda trekker to think about is footwear. Get good shoes and really good socks are a must. Without those you will get terrible blisters on your feet and might get junglerot, which will put you in crutches for a long while and might cost you your feet. Every morning you should rub your feet with petroleum jelly and every night with talcum powder to keep them in shape for the walk.

The second thing is the importance of a decent water purifying system; iodine pills work great but they taste awful so think about complementing that with water purification tablets to take away the taste. Sometimes it might be far between the streams to refill your bottles so be sure to carry a few (or one of those snazzy camel packs.) A flashlight or even better, a headlamp is almost a must as it gets very dark in the jungle at night. It's also important to bring warmer clothes to wear at camp since the weather up in the mountains is quite cold at night and sometimes even during the day.

Before walking the Kokoda it is also important to carefully assess how fit you are. There are incidents of people dying of heart attacks (most recently the summer of 2006) from over-exertion. There are several speeds at which one can walk the Kokoda, taking from a leisurely 10 days to a gruesome 16 hours, 34 minutes and 5 seconds, the world record held by local porter Brendan Buka. Basically the most important thing is that you have fun doing it. Going too fast isn't fun, but taking it too slow can be boring also if you have to wait for the others all the time.

This article is an outline and needs more content. It has a template, but there is not enough information present. Please plunge forward and help it grow!

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