Makeshift bridge along the Kokoda Track | Ken Harris
Have you ever considered tackling the 96-kilometre Kokoda Trail? The Kokoda Track has become a pilgrimage for many Australians and taking on the trail could be one of your most memorable trekking experiences.
The trail takes you through dense jungle following the path in which Australian and Japanese armies engaged in bitter warfare during the early days of World War II. It also offers an incredible physical and mental challenge that will teach you to take “one step at a time” as World Expeditions staff member Hilary Delbridge recounts:
On completion of Kokoda I was on such a high, even though I was so physically exhausted. It felt like a real accomplishment in my life. Even now when life gets tough, I know I can get through “one step at a time” – that is what the Kokoda challenge is all about.
If you are looking for a personal challenge; want to follow the footsteps of our ANZAC soldiers; and experience the unique jungle environment and welcoming nature of the Papua New Guinea people, these are our top four reasons why the Kokoda Trail should be on your bucket list!
1. The history
Kokoda was described as the harshest and worst conditions any soldier could ever be ordered to fight in. This fight against the Japanese invasion force was the most significant battle fought by Australians in World War II. With both sides sick and casualty rates soaring, if Gallipoli was Australia’s baptism of fire in WWI, Kokoda could be described as the WWII equivalent. The Australians stopped the Japanese wave on Kokoda and finally defeated the Japanese on the northern beaches at Sanananda in 1943.
Each year a significant number of Australians embark on this pilgrimage to learn about and reflect upon this battle, with much of the track region appearing as it did in 1942 where the Australian soldiers fought. You can also travel to the North Coast battlegrounds of Buna and Sanananda, where the final stages of the campaign played out.
“You begin to get a real insight into what the ANZAC diggers went through, except they trekked with the inadequate gear of the time, heavy packs and ammunition, and little food or medical care – not to mention being shot at by the enemy,” says Hilary. “You will see plane wrecks, ammunition and bomb shells, and the sites where the diggers had to dig deep to hide.”
Our highly experienced Australian guides assist your journey over the Kokoda trail as you discover not only Australia’s history but also that of the Japanese and most importantly the local Papuan’s.
2. Physical and mental challenge
There is no doubt the Kokoda Trail is a challenging trek, however if you are well prepared and have done the required amount of training you will be ready to take on this challenge. Kokoda is not the demon it is portrayed and everyday people complete Kokoda – young and old. With Mt Everest Base Camp being a 10/10 difficulty level and walking around the block a 1/10, Kokoda rates as a 7/10, with moderate cardio fitness required.
Hilary recounts that the Kokoda Trail was challenging yet life-changing:
The Kokoda Track was the hardest walk I have ever done, but also the most life-changing. It taught me to live in the moment.
Hilary continues to explain what made her choose to take on the challenge of Kokoda, “I wanted to know what The Kokoda Track was all about, how hard it was, and what the diggers went through. I was also going through a period in my life where I was searching for deeper meaning, something I found in the amazing vistas and the mountains that seemed to go on and on, and up and up."
"Did I train to climb those mountain passes? Most certainly, bush bashing up a hill with a heavy pack three times a week! I would not describe myself as a particularly sporty or fit person, but with the training I was able to cope with the Kokoda challenge.”
3. Friendly culture
Whilst Papua New Guinea (PNG) is relatively poor by world standards with a large reliance on subsistence farming, it is one of the most culturally rich with 800+ indigenous languages and Papuans being some of the friendliest people you will ever meet. They may appear intimidating initially but as you cross paths their genuine smile beams to light.
On our Kokoda treks you will share experiences with our interactive porter team made up of village locals and stay in secluded jungle camps in some of the most remote regions of PNG.
The local traditional villagers here will also share some of their culture, which is an ideal accompaniment to an incredible journey across this extraordinary island. Hilary explains:
The smells and sounds of the thick jungle really need to be experienced first-hand as well as the beautiful nature of the Papua New Guinean people: the guides, the villagers and the children.
Our itineraries have been crafted to allow opportunities to embrace the local culture and history, as well as meeting the track’s physical demands. We also promote Leave No Trace camping, ethical treatment of porters and reinvest in the village’s education system.
4. Spectacular scenery
The Kokoda Trail is an amazing thrill-seekers challenge in the midst of beautiful jungles, spectacular butterflies and pristine rivers and creeks with a never-ending supply of crisp clean water. Adventurers revel in the amazing wildlife and still discover each year new relics from the wars in 1942.
The track wanders along narrow crests offering awe-inspiring views, and falls into deep dark gorges where the thick green vegetation blocks out the daylight. The scenery is spectacular and the views change from day to day, and even hour by hour.
At the higher elevations up around 2000 metres, you step into a Lord of the Rings type environment, and much of the foliage mimics New Zealand’s high Alps.
The scenery, challenge, culture and history make this a 10/10 journey and why we think the Kokoda Trail should be on your adventure bucket list.