Today, Kokoda is a war-time pilgrimage site for generations of Australians, Japanese and Papua New Guineans.
- By Pauline Riman
Kokoda is a 96 kilometre trekking route in Papua New Guinea made famous by a World War Two campaign that took place as a series of battles across the Owen Stanley Ranges from Owers Corner in the Central Province to Kokoda Station in the Northern Province.
Today, Kokoda is a war-time pilgrimage site for generations of Australians, Japanese and Papua New Guineans. Matching the extraordinary history is the Track’s incredible natural and cultural appeal – from stunning landscapes, rich tropical vegetation to the fiercely proud yet remarkable Koiari people whose land the Kokoda Track cuts through.
Below are five of many incredible places on the Kokoda Track that you are bound to encounter should you decide to trek this legendary trail.
1. Brigade Hill
Located in the middle of the Track, this grassy sloping hill seems strangely out of place after hours of upward trekking through towering tree jungle.This is the site of the WWII Kokoda Campaign’s Battle for Brigade Hill – 6th-9th September, 1942, which led to victory for the Japanese and loss for the Australians who, outnumbered and outflanked, failed to keep the Japan Imperial Army from advancing. The memorial plaque at Brigade Hill affirms the huge loss of lives. Beside this commemorative plaque, the rolling eastern landscape of the Koiari mountains offer perfect repose to reflect on the history of Brigade Hill that sits bare and solitary like natures alter to the fallen.
2. Efogi Village
When you reach the big Koiari village of Efogi, beautiful garden beds greet you teeming with corn, pitpit, pumpkin-squash, choko, bananas, kaukau, yam and in-between colourful flowers of wild orchids, chrysanthemums, sunflowers, lantanas and more.As you pass through, curious children follow and stare offering you their quick shy smiles, while passing men and women carrying bilums bulging with garden food or gardening implements exchange polite banter with the porters and guides.Connected to the rest of the world by the Track and an airstrip, Efogi – much like the other villages on the Track, reminds you of the incredible resilience of the local people.Connecting with them even through a simple and friendly greeting or handshake is a wonderful and satisfying experience.
3. Mount Bellamy
At an elevation of 2,250 meters the trek over Mount Bellamy is incredibly difficult.One of the many great pieces of advice our heroic porters and guides told us when trekking up a mountain was ‘never look up’ and ‘keep putting one foot in front of the other’.Even with you fighting the urge to look up, the scenery behind you and on your sides offer pause for admiration.One such magical place on this challenging ascent is a lichen forest with moss-covered floors, boulders and buttress roots.It’s like something out of a fairytale – a mile of moss-cover where perhaps some local forest-god slumbered, any moment longer in this place and it felt the moss would grow on you. Best to keep moving one foot in front of the other until you reach the very top where the spectacular view will surely stun the exhaustion out of you.
4. Alola village
If you’re fortunate enough to camp at Alola village, you’ll experience something beautiful floating down from the thatched church building on the hill above your campsite. A chorus of delightful singing, but what will surprise you most is the innocence of the voices because they belong to the local children – obviously practicing due to several starts and stops mingled with occasional giggling and shushing. Nevertheless the voices of children singing in harmony during the dying light of the day proves quite therapeutic particularly after a hard days trek.
5. Isurava Memorial
The beautiful Isurava Memorial was first unveiled in 2002 by the Governments of Australia and Papua New Guinea. This noteworthy site marks the first time the Australian and Japanese armies clashed during the Kokoda Campaign.Overlooking the spectacular Kokoda valley, the memorial is composed of a pathway leading down to a commemorative circle surrounded by four sentinel granite blocks each etched with the words: courage, endurance, mateship and sacrifice.These words capture the ideals and character of those who served during the war.A stair leads down to the lower platform showcasing panels describing the battle that took place there and pays homage to those involved in the war.The place is immaculately kept and the memorial is a visual reminder of the historical significance of Kokoda, while the stunning wild landscape that forms the backdrop of the memorial complements the incredible value and timelessness of the place.
The Kokoda Track features on TripAdvisor as Papua New Guinea’s number one tourist attraction. Therefore, for those who seek adventure and life-changing encounters, Kokoda is definitely well worth exploring.