Kokoda Track 2017
Papua New Guinea has endured a colourful and, at times, bloody history. The Kokoda Track is one of many walking tracks that existed long before Europeans came into this part of the world. During World War II, the Japanese decided to use this trail as a means of launching a ground attack against the Australians in Port Moresby. On this trek, we set out to explore the complete route of the campaign starting from Kokoda Station to Owers’ Corner (Japanese Advance). In completing this track, we would have trekked across the central spine of Papua New Guinea, having seen all the main battle sites and gained an appreciation of the rugged beauty of the region, as exemplified by the Owen Stanley Ranges.
South Sea Horizons
Over the mid-year break, Director of Sport and Activities, Nigel Grieve and current parents, Greg Wallace, Adam Whiteside, with Old Boys James Moroney (Class of 2013), Patrick Moroney (Class of 2015), and past parents Mark Moroney and David and Pam Berlin, took on the challenge of the Kokoda Track with Alan Manning, who has two nephews at IGS.
Below is the diary of Nigel Greive of the day by day experiences the group had whilst on the track.
Day 1 Owers’ Corner to Good Water
The day began with a visit to Bomana War Cemetery during a three-hour bus ride to Owers’ Corner. We travelled to Macdonald’s Corner through cattle farms and rubber plantations and passed local villages. We met our porters who were direct descendants of the original Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels and our lifelines for the next week. From Owers’ Corner we trekked down to Goldie River and our first river crossing by foot. Our trek took us past the site of the pre-war village of Uberi which became the site for an Australian supply base providing food rations and a medical dressing station. At Sogeri, we were treated to some of the more spectacular views of Port Moresby’s hinterlands. During our trek, we passed by some of the Australian battlefield sites.
Day 2 Good Water to Offi Creek
Unfortunately, dehydration took its toll and Pam was forced to leave our group. Paul suffered from a similar problem and was saved from a serious fall by his ever-watchful porter. These men were proving to be incredibly important to our trek. Our second day found us climbing the Golden Staircase, which is a steep wide track to Imita Ridge. The Golden Staircase is a stairway built by the Australian Diggers to climb to Imita Ridge (850m ascent), bringing with them 25 pound guns to positions on the top of Imita Ridge, surprising and stopping Japanese advancement at Loribaiwa village. We passed Camp 66 – the site of a war time supply dump. We also saw Digger’s defensive trenches, supply trenches and routes to different mountainsides along with an assortment of war relics. After scaling the ridge to the top of Loribaiwa we followed a steep slope down to our next campsite. A swim in the river was a pleasant relief for tired legs.
DAY 3: Offi Creek to Menari
This was to be a tough and long day of 10 hours and so an early start was a must. We said our good-byes to Offi Creek and commenced a steep ascent up “Japanese ladder.” This was a stairway built by the Japanese troops, cutting steps into the clay soil to climb down a very steep slope from Maguli Range. We trekked past Japanese camp sites and trenches as we climbed the Japanese ladder until we reached Station 88 – about 1050 metres above sea level – This was a site for the advancing Australian wartime carriers camp. We continued to climb a steep slope to the top of Maguli Range, about 1320 metres above sea level. As we descended again, we trekked down the infamous 9 False Peaks with an open view to the beautiful mountain ranges overlooking the Nauro Valley. We followed the trek along the spectacular Blue Mountains of Menari and Efogi. We took a short trek to Amuduri camp site and continued to the mighty Brown River, where we crossed this fast-flowing river by foot. From here, we followed a swampy flat land to Avulogo campsite. After a well-deserved lunch, we climbed a steep slope to the top of Menari Gap, about 1130 metres, with spectacular views to Menari Village, Mt. Tamata and Mt. Victoria. Later that day, we climbed down Menari Ridge through many slopes to Menari, a famous wartime village. The wonderful locals met us with an amazing greeting ceremony. Menari could be best described as paradise on earth with the locals proving that less is more. Our porters were very happy to be home. We were all humbled by the level of generosity and genuine happiness displayed by the people of Menari.
DAY 4: Menari To Naduri
Today we trekked past Menari airstrip, a wartime Australian Camp site and trek down to Vabiavu River. We had to carefully navigate log bridges to cross this river. The trek turned upward once more towards Brigade Hill Memorial and the original Australian war grave site from the fierce battle that occurred between October 6 to 8, 1942. Many Australians died in this battle and many remain missing in action – meaning most died in the bushes within the vicinity of the battlefield site including many Japanese soldiers. From Brigade Hill, we trekked down to Mission Ridge through a very narrow and steep pathway and stony track down to Batari and Elome Rivers. We crossed both rivers and climbed up to Efogi airstrip to have lunch at a local guesthouse. After a quick rest, we walked down a small slope to the rapidly flowing, Kavae River. The crossing here was made easier by log bridges but nonetheless, foot placement was paramount. One of the last remaining "Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels, Ovuru Ndiki, is buried at Naduri village, the location of our next campsite. Unfortunately, Greg and Alan remained behind to recover from illness.
DAY 5: Naduri to Templeton’s Crossing II
A very tough day at the office!
A quick breakfast this morning and a cup of hot coffee before we started our climb into, what the porters call, the “air con” region of the track. We would climb toward the highest point of the Kokoda Track today. Our first point was Diggers Camp. “Diggers” was a supply base for the Australian advance – for food, ammunition and back-up battalions from Port Moresby. Most supplies came from the nearby Myola airfield. At this location, Japanese were vigorously outnumbered and pulled back towards to Kokoda, during the Australian advance. During our trekking, we came across many “Stay Behind” lines or pits scattered along the track indicating the close contacts and positions of the machine gun battles from both enemy front lines. This is a haven for the famous Regina bird of Paradise and many other bird species. Mark shared his wealth of knowledge of the local wildlife.
We continued our trek to 1900 Crossing and climbed past moss forests through some of the thick jungles of the ranges to the highest peak of the ranges at Mt. Bellamy, about 2637 metres; and up to the Kokoda Gap, about 2190 metres. As the clouds rolled in it became very cold but they gave a surreal view of the mountain ranges.
The descent was a steep climb down slopes through some of the muddy rugged tracks to Templeton’s Crossing No.1, (it was while crossing a handmade bridge that Patrick slipped and was saved by his ever-present porter/ human mud crab) 1850 metres above sea level. The crossing consisted of log bridges about 20 metres wide. The journey to the next crossing involved terrain that was swampy, slippery and boggy with many creeks. Our next campsite was at Templeton Crossing No.2, where we saw the wartime Mail route used by the Australians along with a visit to a local campsite museum housing Australian war relics and graves. Our lodgings for the night was a community guesthouse.
DAY 6: Templeton’s Crossing 2 to Isurava Memorial
Greg and Alan re-joined the crew.
We started very early today to take advantage of the cool morning, as our walk was going to be a long one. The first climb was an ascent through swampy and slippery tracks to the peak 1910 metres above sea level. The subsequent descent took us down very steep tracks by Australian ambush positions and Japanese foxholes. We continued to trek to Eora Creek about 1425 metres above sea level, which was a major Australian Field Hospital and supply base. Many war relics, empty mortar shells, Japanese tunnels and trenches remain from the Australian advance at the Battle of Isurava. Another series of log bridges made progress slow. Our local porters provided valuable support as we crossed log bridges suspended over fast running waters and peppered with large treacherous rocks awaiting a careless slip. Upon reaching Alola, a beautiful mountain top village with many fresh local organically grown fruits, we lunched and chatted with the locals. While descents are the norm, today was particularly trying. We endured with two major steep descents, one at 45 metres down and the other about 75 metres down. We trekked up to the highest peak of this track, standing at 1420 metres above sea level and then followed the mountain ranges to Isurava Battlefield campsite.
DAY 7: Isurava Memorial to Kokoda
We started the day with a respectful service to honour those that fought and died on the track.
Today we trekked past wartime Isurava village and onto present day Isurava, down very steep terrain passed several creeks and fast flowing river crossings. Along the way, we passed local choko gardens, the vines of which make excellent traps for your foot holds and climb up to Deniki, which is 831metres above sea level. From Deniki we get our first clear view of Kokoda Station and the end of our journey. The final leg of our trek took us through quite flat land walking in between oil palm, cocoa and rubber plantations until we reached Kokoda Station. We picked up Lisa Carrison, an injured police woman who had been left to fend for herself. Dr Mark Maroney wove his magic to assist her throughout the long-haul home.
DAY 8: Trying to go home
We were stuck for an extra night in Kokoda because of rain. Kokoda still had us. We took a bumpy and muddy early morning drive to a nearby airstrip. The flight to Port Moresby highlighted the rugged beauty of the region. It also reinforced the amazing sense of achievement having completed this tough trek. We had survived Kokoda.
This adventure will be run annually through South Sea Horizons, as initiated by the Red and White Foundation this year.
If you would like to experience the Kokoda Track yourself or hear more about this group's adventures contact Nigel Greive at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 0408 198 370 or Alan Manning from South Sea Horizons at email@example.com or on 0432 744 490.