What is the Kokoda Track?

The Kokoda Track, or, Trail is popularly known and regarded as the 96 kilometre (60 mile) single file Track with a straight line distance of 60 kilometres (37 miles). The Track traverses the beautiful and rugged Owen Stanley Mountain Range commencing at Kokoda Village on the North side of the range and terminating at Owers Corner on the southern side of the range. The Kokoda Track/Trail has important significance for all Australians in the history of WWII. Walking the Track is gaining more and more international recognition in recent years, with increasing interest from trekkers coming from New Zealand and the USA.

Although it has a long history, for Australians the Kokoda Track holds a special significance – this is the location of a historic WWII battle between Australian and Japanese forces. In defeating the Japanese forces,  624 Australians were killed and 1023 were wounded fighting on the Kokoda Track and an additional 1261 Australians were killed with a staggering 2210 wounded in the final battles on the beaches at Buna and Gona, the very same beaches the Japanese forces landed on in July 1942 to commence their attack on Port Moresby.

Though history now disputes that the Japanese forces were intent at the time of the Kokoda campaign to immediately push on from Port Moresby, once captured and invade Australia, it must be noted that all the brave, young Australian men, to a man, who fought and died on that jungle path believed if they did not stop the enemy on the Track, those Japanese soldiers would end up in the homes of their mums and dads, wives and girlfriends back in Australia. They fought to protect Australia.

Today, Australians acknowledge the significance of the Kokoda Campaign, and most importantly, that the Kokoda Campaign is as significant to our history as Gallipoli. The virtues of our 1915 Galipoli heroes of  Mateship, Sacrifice, Courage and Endurance were replicated and enhanced by our fighting men on the Kokoda Track in 1942. These are values recognisable in our current armed forces today and virtues all Australians should aspire to in the conduct of their lives.

For seven months from July 1942, our troops fought hard and long battles, in appalling conditions with limited supplies and plagued by disease. Finally, on 2 November, our troops reoccupied Kokoda Village and by the end of January 1943,  the Japanese forces that had invaded in July were finally destroyed on the beaches at Buna, Gona and Sanananda. and the battle was over.

After the war, the trail reverted to its prewar use as a communication and trade route to Port Moresby for the local people. Since 2003, it has become an increasingly popular location where Australians walk in the footsteps of heroes. For many Australians, completing the trek over the Track has become a rite of passage.

The Track finishes around 48 kilometres (30 miles) to the east of Port Moresby, crossing the isolated, rugged terrain of the mountains (only accessible by foot) from its start at the remote village destination of Kokoda located within the Ora Province. The most popular direction of travel is to commence in Kokoda Village and finish at Owers Corner. At its highest point close to the peak of  Mount Bellamy the Track reaches a maximum height of 7,185 feet/ 2,190 meters above sea level.

The Track provides many challenges to even the most experienced adventurer, hot and intensely humid during the daytime and on occasions very cold at night with frequent torrential rainfall – this is certainly not for the faint-hearted. But, it is breathtakingly beautiful in parts, with enriching cultural interaction with predominantly the Koiari people and including the Orokaiva people living closer to the coast at Buna and Gona. The Trek is also an endurance test for trekkers who want to challenge themselves.

It can take anywhere between four and twelve days to complete the Track which just goes to show how tough and rugged the terrain can be.

The duration of the trek really depends upon the motivation as well as the fitness of the trekkers. Some local and experienced trekkers have been known to complete the distance in around one or up to three days. To complete the Track safely and sensibly and experience all it has to offer and still provide a true physical and mental challenge, a trek of 9 days is recommended.

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