The Kokoda Trail in Papua New Guinea (PNG) has been getting quite a bit of news as of late. Last month, two trekkers died while trying to complete it. Last week, Kovelo villagers, who felt they hadn’t seen the materialization of financial benefits promised by the Australian and PNG governments, blocked the trail. They were demanding $100 from each trekking group to pass.
As reported in this story from the Herald Sun, an agreement was reached which satisfied the villagers, and they have since ended their protest.
Some history about the trail
The Kokoda Trail was made famous during World War II, when the Australian army (the Diggers), eventually aided by the Americans, held off an invading Japanese army. Although the Japanese had the man and weaponry advantage, they weren’t prepared for the harsh conditions along this trail, the only route of escape for them.
In the end, the Japanese lost 13,000 out of 20,000 soldiers (contrast that with 6000 casualties on the Australian side).
An account of the trail as it was during WWII can be found at the Digger History website.
The trail today
These days a number of companies operate trekking excursions on the trail. Local guides and porters can also be hired.
It’s possible to do the trek independently, but parts of the trail are unmarked and with the extreme temperatures that can be experienced there it’s not advisable to go on your own. Depending on your condition, it can take anywhere between five and 12 days.
If you’re a glutton for punishment, there’s the Kokoda Challenge, where teams of four compete to complete the 96 km course within the unbelievable time limit of 39 hours. All I can say is, good luck with that.