The Kokoda Trail Provides A Fascinating Look At History And Native Life

The Kokoda trail is a rugged path of sixty miles that takes you across the Owen Stanley Mountain Range. The trail is the only point at which this range is passable. It marks the bisecting point between the north and south coasts of Papua New Guinea. It is an historically important area because it was valiantly defended by Australian soldiers (fondly known as the “Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels” or those “ragged bloody heroes”) during the second world war. During this time, the area belonged to Australia, and the soldiers were defending it against a very large and extremely organized Japanese force. Even though they were greatly outnumbered and outgunned, the Australian band was able to hold back the Japanese and prevent the invasion of the capital city of Port Moresby.

Because of its historical significance, many patriotic Australians make it a point to visit the Kokoda trail and remember this stunning event. The number of hikers braving the trail has grown steadily in the past few years, in no small part due to improvements made by the Australian government. While only a hundred people hiked the trail in 2001, more recent figures are closer to six thousand hikers annually. Today, hikers of varying ability, age and fitness levels can enjoy some aspect of the Kokoda Trail. This has not always been the case.

Before the Australian government undertook improvements, the trail was challenging in the extreme. In fact, as recently as 2009 several hikers suffered heart attacks during attempts to navigate the trail. Furthermore, simply arriving at the trail was fraught with danger due to poor landing conditions for incoming airplanes. A plane crashed in 2009 while attempting to land at the trail head. Thirteen visitors were killed in this tragedy. It became clear that improvements had to be made, and so the governments of Australia and Papua New Guinea teamed up to make improvements to the trail so that it would be safer. All told, over $5,000,000 worth of improvements were made.

This project helped provide jobs for many local natives. Following the improvements, jobs continued to be generated in the tourism industry. As Australians flock to the trail for fun, adventure and patriotic pilgrimage, locals are hard at work providing a positive tourism experience.

While one might think that this situation would be uncomfortable for the natives because their ancestors were forced to assist and guide Australian soldiers during WWII, most younger native people are pragmatic about the situation. They appreciate the opportunity to work and are glad that people want to visit their area.