One has to know and learn why Kokoda trail is widely popular for trekking enthusiasts. Trekking the terrain is short of following the footsteps of the brave Australian soldiers defending the terrain against the advancing troops of the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II. The Australian troops primarily defending the territory that belongs to them won the battle that lasted for 5 months.
Since then, Kokoda trail has become a popular destination for Australian trekkers of all ages who wants to recapture the essence of the Australian soldier’s bravery in defending their territorial rights. As the popularity increases, choosing the right trek leaders for Kokoda became vital in leading a pilgrimage across the trail. This is in response to its increasing mortality rate of trekkers since 2001.
Kokoda trail is known for its rugged terrain where some parts reaches 7,380 feet above sea level. Torrential rainfall with combined hot humid air in daytime and severe cold winds at night can be experienced while trekking the terrain. The trail is a single-file foot track which runs for about 60 to 100 kilometers. The trail starts from Port Moresby through the Owen Stanley Ranges up to Kokoda and down to the coastal lowlands of the Solomon Sea. Considering that it is known to be a historical trek, it covers all the major battle sites in which trek leaders should be well equipped in giving detailed historical presentation.
In choosing the right trek leaders for Kokoda one should be an experienced trained ex-servicemen or leaders who have passed extensive training for this particular endeavour. Expertise in the wartime history particularly on the Kokoda campaign and an advance training on First Aid including a perfect execution in conducting emergency circumstances is vital as a trek leader. The ability in understanding and conforming with the culture and norms of the Koiari and Orokaiva tribe is very essential too. They are the people that dwells along the path through Kokoda trail.
The birth of the Kokoda Track Foundation in 2003 aids in protecting and helping the existing villages along the Kokoda Track through education and health care programs. In return, the villagers helped in protecting their environment while nurturing the growth of eco-tourism industry where they themselves are largely benefited by its progress and growth.
As the pilgrimage of trekkers increased, regulation and policy for the pilgrims was established in 2003 for the trek operators to comply. Commercial license is an official requirement for tour operators while certificate on training and extensive first aid training to those who want to become an official trek leader is essential. The task in leading the group across the Kokoda trail is a very serious matter as it involves the lives and welfare of those who joined the journey.
“Walk in the footsteps of the brave”, is the famous line of the trekkers who joins the pilgrimage. Keeping the story of Kokoda alive ensures a lifetime achievement on the Papua New Guinea leaders and its future generation. Recently, a proposal to qualify the trail as an Australian heritage destination is currently in progress.