Fact: The torturous path over the Owen Stanley Ranges that was the setting for a major part of the kokoda Campaign is officially gazetted by the Government of PNG as the Kokoda Trail. That is the correct ‘legal’ and “official” name – Kokoda Trail.
Trail or Track A personal note by Jim Drapes, a director and a trek leader with Back Track Adventures.
“In 2002, I attended a reunion of the 39th and 2/14th Battalions. By good fortune I was seated next to a gentleman by the name of Bill Guest (39th Battalion) who unfortunately has since passed away. Over lunch I mentioned to Bill that I was taking small teams over the Kokoda Track with my Adventure Travel Company, Back Track Adventures. Bill showed great interest and during the ensuing conversation commented that Back Track was a great name as it rhymed with Kokoda Track. He then half jokingly made a remark, along the lines of, “don’t change it to Trail, mate, that’s an American term.’I replied in similar spirit that I wouldn’t and ” it was always going to be Back Track on the Kokoda Track for me.”Bill and I went on and had a great conversation that day. Bill had been in the thick of the action in the early days of the Kokoda campaign and his story is well documented in the history books.
If you want to understand the history of the Trail or Track story, I recommend that you spend time and research the subject. It is truly a wonderful research project and my tip is don’t jump to any conclusions quickly. There is a mountain of fascinating and intriguing information available on the internet and in book form that addresses this matter. If you want to bypass the research stage and go straight to the summary, go to Learn More at the bottom of this web page.
Why do Back Track and so many people use the term Kokoda Track?
When Back Track went with the name, Kokoda Track, the knock about remark from a 39th Battalion hero was a good enough reason for us to use the term, Track, then and still a good enough reason today. I had also done the research and new even before I had met Bill, that using either term was totally respectful and not an issue.Over the years I have spoken with many veterans from the 39th and 2/14 Battalions on this matter.Some have referred to the Track as Trail but most were passionate that it be referred to only as Track.Others didn’t think it mattered either way.For us at Back Track, we have always used both terms, but predominately we call it “the Track” and will continue to use the term Kokoda Track, always with a capital T. We do so sincerely with deep respect, in honour of and in reverent memory of the heroes who fought and died over that bloody Trail or Track. If anyone is upset by that, please dont tell me, tell Bill when your turn comes to pass through those Pearly Gates. (I think he would laugh about it anyway.)I know your trek over the Kokoda Track or Kokoda Trail will be a wonderful and moving experience. I hope Back Track has the opportunity of sharing that experience with you.”
Cheers for now JIM
If you would like to reference a wonderful source of information regarding trekking the Kokoda Track, we recommend a recent publication by Kokoda Press in 2006, author, Bill James and entitled “Field Guide to the Kokoda Track”. As well as having been specifically designed as a rucksack companion for all Kokoda trekkers, pages 35 to 43 deal with the pre war history of the Kokoda Track, Kokoda Trail, the mail trail to Kokoda and even the Buna road, it has had many names.
Pages 39 to 45 detail most of the history of the Trail versus Track discussion.
Help those who helped us
If you care to assist, in even a small way, to improve the quality of life for the people living the entire length and breadth of the Kokoda Track, from the beach heads at Buna and Gona to Owers Corner, you can do so in a worth while manner, by supporting the work of the Kokoda Track Foundation.