Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Taphophile Tragics: Kokoda


With a group of 17 people mainly form Perth, I trekked the Kokoda Track in 2007. The track links the Northern and Southern coast of Papua New Guinea and covers some 96 kilometres of amazing terrain - jungle, mountain streams, traditional villages and the opportunity to see many natural wonders. Many Australians walk the track in memory of loved family members ones who died defending Port Moresby and Australia from and the advancing Japanese armies.  Even though I do not have family who fought in New Guinea, this journey was an emotional one for me. In preparation for the trip I had read books such as A Bastard of a Place by Peter Brune, Kokoda by Paul Ham and Kokoda by Peter Fitzsimons. And to get me through the trek, there was lots of training. Jacobs Ladder and the Kokoda Track in King's Park became well worn pathways for me. 

Our trek started at Port Moresby - many start at the reverse end, that is from Kokoda. The first day of our  trek started out with a visit to the Australian War Cemetery at Port Moresby which is shown here. 

While in another blog post, I will further share some of my experiences the following is a short excerpt from a few words written for a Perth magazine. 

We had chosen to walk the track over ten days, staying each evening in a tent or in the village guest house. Clothes were washed at the end of each day. Nothing dried completely but with such high humidity, it was not long before I was saturated after starting out each morning. Wisely, I had decided to have a porter who would carry my main pack, leaving me to walk with a day pack. The climbing is relentless and knee bandages helped stop the steep descents making my knees feel like jelly. In contrast our porters were able to move nimbly over the track sometimes with bare feet while we moved slowly with the protection of our expensive trekking boots.


The views in the highlands are amazingly beautiful and I was grateful that inaccessibility had kept development at bay. While there were still many relics of the war along the track it was easy to miss these if I was only focusing on where I would take my next step. 


For me walking the Kokoda Track had a sense of pilgrimage as I followed in the footsteps of the Australian soldiers who fought in the difficult terrain. From July 1942 to January 1943 over 2,000 Australians were killed in action and thousands more were either wounded to racked with disease or illness. The memorial at Isurava with four marble pillars inscribed with words dedicated to the Australian soldiers - sacrifice, endurance, courage, mateship - pays homage to these brave young men and gave me the opportunity for reflection and remembrance as I struggled to come to terms with a war fought under such difficult conditions. 


Lest we forget. 

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14 comments:

  1. Such a beautiful location, as you say, Rae. Both my father and my uncle fought in New Guinea during the period 1942-1943, my uncle for longer. My father contracted malaria, the effects of which stayed with him for life. Neither of them ever went back.

    I figure that these cemeteries and memorials are maintained financially by the Australian government. They certainly are a treat for the eyes, as would be those in Turkey and on the Western Front.

    The Kokoda Track trek is well beyond me, and I admire those who commit to it. Well done. I suspect it would always have been beyond me, not matter the age I may have considered it.

    Thank you for this contribution to Taphophile Tragics. I am keen to read more of your thoughts during this trek when you are ready to share.

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  2. Having lived in PNG for a year I admire anyone who walks the track ... both the terrain and climate are an enormous challenge. Bomana War Cemetery is a truly peaceful and beautiful place.

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  3. Great post Rae. Beautiful images.

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  4. Wonderful post Rae. It's quite a sight, even though it's so beautifully maintained it's such a tragic sight, so many! I admire you so much for walking the track, like Julie I'm not sure I could do it, my husband yes definitely and he might still do it. I am also looking very much forward to hearing more.

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  5. Kudos to you for completing this arduous walk of the Kokoda Track. Amazing how pristine the cemetery has been kept. Beautiful photos.

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  6. Very interesting travelogue text on history. Sad is the view of the cemetery. Many victims of war. I hope that mankind has learned. I regret every life. The fighting in these areas have seen a lot of documents. The war here was particularly cruel. Regards Peter.

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  7. I'm impressed. That would be an incredible, and incredibly hard, journey. Beautiful memorial in Port Moresby.

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  8. I too lived in PNG for a year, but never walked the trail Tthe tragic loss of life on the Kokoda trail is only somewhat offset by the magnificence of the scenery - the heroism of the 'Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels' is inspirational.

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  9. I have friend who is embarking on this trek to raise funds for cerebral Pasley victims. Your photos and narrative are terrific. I will provide my friend with this link.

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  10. What a fantastic achievement Rae - and good on you for undertaking this incredible journey. A great post!

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  11. Great post, Rae, with some amazing history and wonderful images. It is so sad to see all those graves of so many soldiers who gave up their lives defending their country.

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  12. Well done Rae for doing the Kokoda track. I too lived in Papua/New Guinea for 7 years. I visited the Beginning and ending of the track but never wished to tackle the challenge of the whole track. Too steep, too hot and too wet. It is unimaginable how the soldiers did it fighting there way through. A great post and memories of Bomana Cemetery, so many young lives lost.

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  13. It's a great place to learn more about the Kokoda Track especially for the kids. My kids also enjoyed the little playground while we had a cuppa at the cafe. Adventure Kokoda is a trekking company specialising in organising and leading treks across the Kokoda Trail in PNG. The company conducts battlefield treks and expeditions along the Kokoda track and is dedicated to the Kokoda spirit.Kokoda Track

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