Kokoda Track or
Trail is a single-file foot thoroughfare that runs
96 kilometres (60 mi) overland – 60 kilometres (37 mi) in
a straight line – through the
Owen Stanley Range
Owen Stanley Range in Papua New
Guinea. The track was the location of the 1942 World War II battle
between Japanese and Allied – primarily Australian – forces in
what was then the Australian territory of Papua.
The track runs from Owers Corner in Central Province, 50 kilometres
(31 mi) east of Port Moresby, across rugged and isolated terrain
which is only passable on foot, to the village of
Kokoda in Oro
Province. It reaches a height of 2,190 metres (7,185 ft) as it
passes around the peak of Mount Bellamy. The track travels
primarily through the land of the Mountain Koiari people.
Hot, humid days with intensely cold nights, torrential rainfall and
the risk of endemic tropical diseases such as malaria make it a
challenging trek. Hiking the trail normally takes between four and
twelve days; the fastest recorded time is 16 hours 34 minutes.
1.1 Popularity and deaths
Kokoda Challenge Race
5 See also
7 Further reading
8 External links
The track was first surveyed in 1899 by Henry Hamilton Stuart-Russell
in order to create a path from
Port Moresby to the north coast of New
Guinea. Stuart-Russell's group shot numerous local people as he
encountered their opposition along his journey. In particular, as they
were approaching the Yodda Valley, indigenous resistance was met with
rifle-fire with Stuart-Russell noting that the tribesmen,
"not being familiar with the effect of a bullet from a Martini-Henry
or Snider rifle, they imagined their shields sufficient
protection..the rifle practice, however, was too good and though they
came on again and again..they were repulsed every time with loss"
The colonial government, having received messages of the surveyor's
obstacles, sent Capt. Charles Monckton to resupply the group with
food, ammunition and troopers of the Native Constabulary. Monckton
reached the surveyor's camp finding that they were barricaded in a log
hut surrounded by local tribesmen. Monckton's force "swept away the
surrounding natives" and as soon as "the rifle fire died away" they
were able to unite with Stuart-Russell's group.
Stuart-Russell also discovered gold in the area which encouraged
British and Anglo-Australian prospectors to enter the region that was
to become known as the Yodda
Kokoda goldfields. Due to conflict
between these miners and the local tribes, the colonial paramilitary
force, the Armed Native Constabulary, was ordered to enforce British
rule in the region. From 1900, officers such as William Armit,
Alexander Elliot and Archibald Walker led their troopers to crush any
opposition, killing many villagers. Armit, who was previously a
sub-inspector in the notorious
Native Police force in Queensland,
alone led a patrol that shot dead seventeen people in one village in
the upper reaches of the Mambare River. In 1904, the colonial
management decided to establish a government settlement to act as a
base for the troopers and consolidate British rule. This station
became known as
Kokoda and from this base the Armed Native
Constabulary was able to subdue the local population. Paths from
Kokoda were made with forced labour from local and distant tribes.
Government officer, Henry Griffin ordered that those who refused to
labour were to be punished with the shooting of their pigs and
stealing of their taro plants.
Between July 1942 and November 1942, a series of battles, afterwards
Kokoda Track Campaign, were fought between the Japanese and
Australian forces. This action was memorialised in the newsreel
Kokoda Front Line!, filmed by cameraman Damien Parer,
which won Australia's first Academy Award for its director Ken G. Hall
Crossing Eora Creek on the
After the war, the track fell into disuse and disappeared in many
places. John Landy, the long-distance runner, set a record of four
days for the crossing using carriers and guides during the 1950s, and
in 1964 Angus Henry, the art teacher at Sogeri High School, along with
two of his students, John Kadiba and Misty Baloiloi, set a new record
which was to stand until after the millennium by completing the
journey in three and a quarter days without guides, carriers or any
signposts or bridges.
In 2006, the Owen Stanley Ranges and
Kokoda Track was included on the
Tentative List for World Heritage along with three other sites from
PNG. The 1.5 million hectare property is a mixed cultural and natural
site covering a significant proportion of the Owen Stanley Ranges and
Kokoda Track, Managalas Plateau and Mount Victoria and
Mount Albert Edward region. The World War II battle sites were a key
reason for cultural listing along with the unique cultures of the
Koiari peoples. The Owen Stanley Ranges, through which the Kokoda
Track passes, is one of the most biologically important areas in the
Asia Pacific with over 4000 plant species and many endemic bird and
Kokoda Track Foundation, established in 2003, helps villages along
the track with education and healthcare. There is a proposal to turn
the track into an Australian heritage destination on a par with ANZAC
Cove at Gallipoli. Creation of the heritage area, is in part a
response to the issue of an Australian gold mining company wanting to
mine on or near the track. As of 2007[update], the idea was backed by
the Australian government and Papua New Guinea's foreign minister.
In November 2007, Australian mining firm Frontier Resources announced
plans to divert a section of the track to make way for a copper
mine. The plan has the support of the local landowners and the
Papua New Guinean government but has been criticized by trekking
The track has been closed numerous times by villagers along the route
in response to various grievances. In May 2009, villagers at Kovelo
Kokoda village – blocked the track after complaints that
money collected from trekking fees was not being distributed
Popularity and deaths
Number of walkers
1686 up to 31/07/2014
Since 2001, there has been a rapid increase in the number of people
walking the track (see table at right). Six Australian trekkers have
died from natural causes while attempting to walk the track. Four of
those deaths occurred in 2009, with two in the same week in April and
another two 8 days apart in September and October. The
deaths have sparked calls for mandatory fitness tests for all walkers
As popularity for walking the track has increased, there have been
calls for more regulation of trek operators with some operators taking
as many as 150 walkers in a group. In response the Kokoda
Track Authority has announced that from the beginning of 2010, tour
operators must have a commercial licence which will "address things
such as training requirements and first aid details".
In August 2009, the
Kokoda Track was the destination for a group of
trekkers that were killed when their light plane, Airlines PNG Flight
4684, crashed en route to
Kokoda Station. All 13 people on board,
including 9 Australian trekkers, were killed in the crash. As a
result, the Australian Government committed $1.8 million to improve
safety along the track. Funds would be used to improve the safety of
airstrips at Kokoda, Menari, Kagi, Melei, Efogi, and Naduri, villages
located along the track. A second radio channel would also be
installed to deal with emergencies and maintenance work.
In October 2009, Don Vale became the oldest Australian (at 83) to
successfully complete the
In November 2009, Australian paralympian
Kurt Fearnley (born without
the lower section of his spine ) completed the track, crawling
north to south, in 11 days. A multiple paralympic gold medalist (T54
Marathon in Athens and Beijing), he used customized shin pads and
wrist guards. His journey was to raise awareness of men's health
issues and was inspired by the story of Corporal John Metson, who
crawled the track for three weeks, refusing the assistance of a
stretcher on the grounds it would burden his comrades.
The monument at Owers Corner
There has been much debate in
Australia about whether it should be
called the "
Kokoda Trail" or the "
Kokoda Track". The monument at Owers
Corner uses both terms: "Track" on one side and "Trail" on the other.
Kokoda Trail" was gazetted as the official name of the route by the
Australian administration of
Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea in 1972.
The earliest mention of the route in an Australian newspaper may be in
The Argus on Wednesday 29 July 1942 in a map when it refers to "the
Buna Kokoda-Moresby track".
According to historian Stuart Hawthorne, before World War II, the
route was referred to as "the overland mail route" or "the Buna road".
He states that "
Kokoda Trail" became common because of its use in
Australian newspapers during the war, the first known instance being
Daily Mirror on 27 October 1942.
However, all three terms
Trail and Buna-Kokoda
road were commonly used during World War II in Australian newspapers
from September 1942.
The diary of the Australian Army's 2/33rd Battalion records the route
being officially designated as the "
Kokoda Trail" in September
Australian Army has used "
Kokoda Trail" as a battle
honour since 1957. The
Australian War Memorial
Australian War Memorial (AWM) says that "trail"
is probably of United States origin but has been used in many
Australian history books and "appears to be used more widely".
Despite the historical use of "Trail", "Track" gained dominance in the
1990s, with the Australian
Macquarie Dictionary stating that while
both versions were in use,
Kokoda Track "appears to be the more
popular of the two".
Naduri Village along the track
The track can be walked from either direction. Some say that from
Kokoda to Owers Corner is easier, even though in that direction one
must actually climb an extra 550 metres in height.
The track can take anything from 4 days to 12 days to complete,
depending on fitness and rest time involved. Locals are renowned for
being able to regularly complete it in 3 days. The best time to trek
Kokoda is from April to September, during the 'dry' season.
There are a number of guesthouses located along the way, some at
villages and others at traditional rest spots. The main villages
passed through (from Owers Corner) are Naoro, Menari, Efogi Creek 1
& 2, Kagi or Naduri (if shortcut is taken), Alolo, Isurava, Hoi,
Kovolo. Villagers are increasingly taking part in the commercial
opportunities created by the growing number of tourists; in October
2006, some were known to be selling cans of soft drink and beer at
double the price payable in Port Moresby.
Guides and porters can be found more easily at the
Kokoda end of the
track by asking the local police station for a reputable person.
Kokoda Track Authority (the PNG
Special Purpose Authority with
responsibility for managing the Track) requires tour operators to hold
a Commercial Operators Licence to lead treks along the
and purchase a trek permit. Licensed operators carry first aid kits,
undertake first aid training, carry radios and/or satellite phones,
respect the people who live along the Track and ensure their porters
and guides are treated in a professional manner. A list of licensed
operators is available on its website. Trekkers walking with
unlicensed operators will be stopped by the KTA Rangers and the local
Kokoda Challenge Race
Kokoda Challenge Race is an endurance running race that was
revived on 27 August 2005. The race originally ran in 1975 but stopped
before becoming an annual event.
Kokoda Challenge inaugural race commenced in 2005. The current
race record holder in both directions is Brendan Buka, with a best
time of 16:34.05 in 2008 from Owers Corner to
Kokoda and a time of
17:20 in the direction of
Kokoda to Owers' Corner via Naduri.
Kokoda Challenge Race Records
Kokoda to Owers Corner via Naduri
Owers Corner to Kokoda
Kokoda to Owers' Corner via Kagi
The inaugural race of 27 August 2005 was won by John Hunt Hiviki, who
completed it in 22 hours, one minute and 14 seconds.
On 27 August 2006, Brendan Buka, a 22-year-old Papua New Guinean
trekking porter from Kokoda, conquered the trail from Owers Corner to
Kokoda in a winning time of 17 hours, 49 minutes and
17 seconds. A Sydney engineer, Damon Goerke, 32 became the
first Australian to run the track in under 24 hours, coming third in
the 2006 challenge with a time of just under 19.5 hours.
The race record was again broken by Buka in the 2007 event when he
completed the track in 17 hours 20 minutes on 26 August 2007,
running in the reverse direction from
Kokoda to Owers Corner. The
2007 event also featured runners running from Owers Corner to Kokoda
and a wnning time of 19 hours 9 minutes was set in this direction
by Tom Hango. First Australian over the line was
Rohan George in what was recorded as the toughest race conditions to
On 31 August 2008, Buka once again rewrote the record books by winning
the 2008 race with a time of 16:34:05. The conditions were the
worst that they had been in the three years that Buka had competed in
the event. That year, Buka trained, which is why he claims he broke
his own record. Wayne Urina, claiming second place, is currently the
2nd fastest man to complete the crossing of the
Trail with a
time of 18:34:06. Cyprian Aire came third with 19:11:40.
In 2011, the
Kokoda Challenge Race was run on 27 August. The race
commenced from Ower's Corner and finished at the new
The race was organised and sponsored by
Kokoda Trekking. Brendan Buka
once again won the race in a time of 17:50:33 but did not break his
previous record set in 2008.
Kokoda Challenge Race in 2012 was run on 25 August. The race
commenced from the
Kokoda Archway and went for the first time via Kagi
Village and finished at Owers' Corner. The race once again was
Kokoda Trekking. This year saw a new champion emerge by
the name of Ramsy Idau of
Kokoda (who walks the
Trail as a
Kokoda Trekking), set a new record with a time of
18:28:00. Prize money was set at K10,000 PNG Kina. In the race there
were several top class competitors from Australia, Damon Goerke
(returning for a second time); Richard Mountstephens; Chris Wight
(nephew of Stan and Butch Bissett 2/14th); Jonathan O'Loughlin; Chris
Turnbull; Andrew Turner and Dave Jennings. William Bennett also
competed in his second
Kokoda Challenge Race and finished in a time of
The race was a successful event which also saw for the first time two
Japanese runners compete against the 8 Australians and 22 Papua New
Guineans in this the 70th Anniversary of the
Kokoda Campaign. The two
Japanese runners, Makoto Yoshimoto and Yukiya Higuchi finished in a
time of 42:56:36.
Winner: Ramsy Idau, Time 18:28:00
2nd: Horace Yauga, Time 18:51:31
3rd: Chris Wight, Time 19:26:31
4th: Cyprian Aire, Time 19:51:56
5th: Damon Goerke, Time 19:59:05
In August 2012 checkpoints were as follows: Isurava Village; Eora
Creek; 1900/Myola Junction; Kagi; Efogi; Menari; Maguli Range;
Ioribaiwa; finish at Owers' Corner
Kokoda Track Memorial Walkway
^ Pérusse, Yvon (July 1993). Bushwalking in
Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea (2 ed.).
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p. 98. ISBN 978-0-86442-052-7.
^ British New Guinea. Administrator. (1888), Annual report on British
New Guinea, Govt Printer, retrieved 19 March 2018
^ Monckton, C.A.W. (1921). Some experiences of a New Guinea resident
magistrate. London: John Lane. p. 160.
^ Nelson, Hank (1976). Black, White and Gold. Canberra: ANU
^ a b "
Kokoda 'heritage' a step closer". Brisbane Times. Fairfax. 18
May 2007. Retrieved 8 July 2011.
^ a b "Mining firm urged to leave
Kokoda Track alone". News Online.
Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 1 November 2007.
^ Fox, Liam (8 May 2009). "Disgruntled villagers block
Online News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved
^ a b Ellie Harvey (21 April 2009). "
Kokoda death highlights safety
concerns". The Sydney Morning Herald. p. 1.
Trail tour operators fear 'cowboys' walk among them". The
Sydney Morning Herald. Sydney. 22 April 2009. Retrieved 8 July
^ a b "Deaths spark calls for
Kokoda conduct code". Online News.
Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 24 April 2009. Retrieved
^ "Another Australian dies on
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Broadcasting Corporation. 5 October 2009. Retrieved 2009-10-06.
Kokoda trekkers 'should pass fitness tests'". Online News.
Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 5 October 2009. Retrieved
^ Mark, David (24 April 2009). "
Kokoda 'cowboys' endangering lives,
operator says". The World Today. Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
^ a b "No survivors in PNG plane crash". News Online. Australian
Broadcasting Corporation. 12 August 2009. Retrieved 2009-08-12.
^ Sunday Telegraph, 6 September 2009, p.13
^ The Daily Telegraph, 6 October 2009, p9 / www.dailytelegraph.com.au
^ Australia's most inspirational athlete confronts the toughest
challenge of his amazing life The Daily Telegraph
^ "Fearnley conquers
Kokoda Track". ABC News.
^ a b "
Kokoda Track or
Kokoda Trekking. Retrieved
^ The Canberra Times, Tuesday 22 September 1942
^ The Argus 21 September 1942
The Sydney Morning Herald
The Sydney Morning Herald Saturday 26 September 1942
^ James, William M. (2006). Field Guide to the
Kokoda Track: an
historical guide to the lost battlefields (R/P ed.). Lane Cove, N.S.W:
Kokoda Press. pp. 40–41. ISBN 0977570401.
Kokoda Trail". Australian War Memorial. Retrieved
Macquarie Dictionary (4 ed.). 2005. p. 791.
Kokoda Track Authority website
^ AAP (24 August 2007). "Three Aussie women in
Kokoda Track race". The
Sydney Morning Herald.
Kokoda Trekkers Hall of Fame". kokodatrail.com.pg. Retrieved
^ "PNG local sets new
Kokoda track record". ABC News Online. 27 August
2006. Retrieved 2007-03-05.
^ a b Jones, Lloyd (27 August 2007). "PNG trekking porter sets Kokoda
^ Fitzsimmons, Peter (19 October 2007). "Between a rock and a hard
place". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 19 October 2007.
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2008". kokodatrekking.com.au. 31 August 2008. Retrieved
Baker, Clive (2006).
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Trek. Loftus NSW: Australian Military History Publications.
James, William M. (2012). Field Guide to the
Kokoda Track: An
Historical Guide to the Lost Battlefields (3rd Edition). Lane Cove,
Wikivoyage has a travel guide for
An Eyemo camera used in 1942 by
Damien Parer filming
Line! in New Guinea is held at National Museum