This year, 2012 marks the 70th anniversary of the Kokoda Campaign, where the allied troops fought in Papua New Guinea during World War 2.
By way of background, the Kokoda campaign includes a series of battles between Japanese and Australian troops which took place from July to November 1942 in the Owen Stanley Ranges on Papua New Guinea’s main island. The Japanese had landed on the North Coast of and were planning to advance south to Port Moresby (the capital of Papua New Guinea) and eventually go across the seas further south to take Australia.
At the time, PNG had been an Australian protectorate for several years (since the end of World War I) and as a result Australian soldiers were sent to protect Port Moresby from Japanese invasion. The main intention of course was to keep Japanese troops as far away from the Australian mainland as possible.
Modern Day Kokoda
These days, the area is a popular destination for adventure seekers and fundraising trekkers from around the world. The track is called the Kokoda Track, or the Kokoda Trail and consists of rugged terrain throughout the Owen Stanley Ranges. It is covered in dense jungle, so dense that it was never possible to build road or even use animals for transport.
In addition, there is the searing heat of the tropical sun, intense humidty and rain season downpours. As you can imagine, the climate poses a challenge in itself.
The Kokoda Track goes for 96 kilometres and takes most travel groups 10 days to complete, although there are some elite competitors who complete the track in as little as 4 days. The local record of getting from one end of the Kokoda Track to the other is a mere 18 hours.
Of course there is a Kokoda memorial to remember the battles and the soldiers who fought there. The memorial centres around the themes of mateship, courage, endurance and sacrifice.
Trekking the Kokoda Trail
There are many tour operators along the Kokoda Track who provide the necessary comfort for every day people to experience this adventure. They carry your tents, make food, give you the historical background and even carry your luggage if you would like. However, you still need to be physically fit and well prepared for the arduous journey.
Although it is possible to trek the track without an operator, it is recommended that people only travel with an accredited tour company or trustworthy guide for safety.
Tour operators offer different types of tracks, such as charity tracks (where the trekkers raise money for a chosen charity), women-only tracks, extended tours visiting the North Coast of PNG and anniversary tours, such as for the Kokoda Campaign 70th anniversary.
To ensure you choose the right touring operator and the right type of track for you, make sure you do your research. Otherwise a carefully planned adventure could turn into an outright disaster.
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