Kokoda Trail Livelihood Study

(A study conducted by Adventure Kokoda and provided to the Australian Government at no cost to the taxpayer)

Scope

Our study was limited to the collective experience of eight trek leaders with more than 130 treks across the Kokoda Trail over an 18 year period, between them. Two of these trek leaders  have lived in PNG for extended periods and are fluent in Tok Pisin.

 

Limitations of Study

We did not engage highly paid consultants unfamiliar with Melanesian culture, the military aspects of the Kokoda campaign, or the Kokoda Trail itself.

The report is a compilation of views from trek leaders in constant contact with Koiari and Orokaiva villagers along the Kokoda Trail – it therefore a jargon and acronym free zone.

Cost

The report itself is the first of a series of complimentary reports provided by Kokoda Trek Operators to the Australian Government.

We would ask that the A$50,000 we have saved the Australian taxpayer be donated towards the cost of engaging an agricultural scientist experienced in Malanesian culture in general, and Koiari and Orokaiva customs in particular, and who is fluent in both Tok Pisin and Motu, for a period of six months beginning on 1 July 2009.

Purpose

The purpose of this study is to explore ways of assisting villagers who live along the Kokoda Trail to derive additional benefits from groups who trek between Owers Corner.

Academics refer to this type of activity as ‘capacity building’. Others refer to it as ‘value-adding’. Villagers call it ‘helpem mek moni’.

Immediate Short Term Opportunities

1. Campsites

At the moment trek operators pay K20 per night for each trekker and K5 for each guide and carrier.

Some simple suggestions to double Kokoda Trail campsite income include:

• Organise a group of young people from the village to meet the trek group when they arrive in the village and offer to wash and dry their clothes for them overnight for K10 per trekker (washing involves rinsing the sweat out of clothes, jocks and socks – no soap – and hanging them in their hut overnight to dry).

• Prepare afternoon tea for the trek group when they arrive at the village. Charge K10 for a cup of freshly brewed PNG coffee and two scones – baked in a drum oven – with jam.

• Offer a plate of fresh fruit with a couple of slices of cucumber and salt for K5 per trekker.
This basic service will effectively double their income and generate more than K1 million per year for villagers based on 2008 trekking numbers. It is not rocket science!

2. Village Rest Areas

Fresh fruit stalls can be established in each village. ‘Trekker plates’ containing fresh fruit salad and is prepared before the trekkers arrive and are offered for K5 each – or K7.50 with condensed milk. If only half the trekker purchased one bowl of fruit per day (a very conservative estimate) the annual income for villages would increase by K150,000.

3. Fresh Bread/Toast

Simple drum ovens can be used to bake bread for sandwiches or toast. Spread with long-life butter and have peanut butter, vegemite, cheese, etc available and trekkers will pay at least K10 per day – another half-a-million kina earned.

4. Other opportunities for additional income include:

• payments for traditional village dance groups and ‘sing-sings’;
• visits to village museums;
• photo’s with traditional dance groups;
• sale of carved ‘trekking poles’
• sale of billum bags containing the village name

Long Term OpportuniesEstablish a ‘Village Co-operative’ in each village. This co-op would own and operate a trade store that will provide food and supplies to campsites which are located nearby in discreet areas.

Accredited campsite owners could then be engaged to provide two meals per day for trekkers staying overnight.

This will require the introduction of English potatoes on the southern side of the Owen Stanley Ranges and storage facilities for canned food, cereals, spreads, etc.

A ‘Village Co-operative Trade Store’ is a bulk supply store for nearby campsites. This will require training in ordering, accounting, stock control, storage and distribution. The trade store and all nearby campsites to be equipped with radios/digicell mobile phones with a rear link to Port Moresby suppliers and airlines.

Campsite owners would be advised by the KTA of the trek itinerary of all trekkers on the Trail. The KTA will only issue trek permits to accredited trek operators who would agree to stick to their assigned itinerary and stay at the campsites that are pre-booked when they pay their trek fee and submit their preferred trek itinerary.

Campsite owners who do not provide the meals that are ordered by trek operators risk losing their accreditation. A reserve stock of dehydrated rations would be maintained at the village trade store for contingencies.

Experience warns us that tt is not unusual to arrive in a village and find that people are missing despite having an agreement to meet with them. They might be at a funeral in a neighbouring village off the track (a common occurrence) or ‘away in the gaden’!

To make this happen the Australian Government needs to declare each village a ‘consultant free zone’ and engage an agricultural scientist experienced in Malanesian culture in general , and Koiari and Orokaiva customs in particular, and who is fluent in both Tok Pisin and Motu, for a period of 12 months beginning in January 2010.

The A$100,000 saved in this longer term report should be directed towards training Village Co-operative Trade Store’ manager and staff training and development in all aspects of stock ordering, control, accounting and distribution. It should also provide for the training of campsite managers and cooks.

Comments

  1. Sam Turnbull says:

    Dear Charlie,
    Simple souvenirs such as carved poles and Bags and other craft items are always good momentos of the track and the experience of walking through the villages. When I walked the track back in 2007 I primarily went for the historic/military experience that our diggers forged, I was surprised at how much I learnt of the PNG culture and the remoteness that the villages face everyday especially when it comes to basic first aid and education. I would be happy to pay more (as part of the upfront costs) for the more advanced facilities that the villages put in place( i.e reward those villages that put more effort into their camping facilities). A few drinks and fruit (left in its skin) and scones were always welcomed when we entered some of the more enterprising villages. I would encourage the villagers to derive benefit from trekkers…its human nature.
    Regards
    Sam Turnbull

  2. Hi Charlie,
    This might be slightly biased coming from me.

    I think from a health and environmental point of view sanitation and water would be the highest priority for me.

    Clean toilets that are not polluting the environment and safe drinking water to ensure trekkers and villagers health is of the highest possible standard.

    I am sure everyone walking the trail would be happy to pay more per night knowing it was going back to the villages to clean and maintain the amenities.

    Regards,
    Simon Gough.

  3. Liz White says:

    Hello Charlie,

    Ron Beattie in the first response mentioned that some of the porters are master carvers. I was very fortunate to not only have Victor (mentioned by Ron) as my personal porter, but he also carved a pole for me which has great sentimental value and now has pride of place in my home. I believe the pole is worth far more than Victor asked for in payment, and I would have been very happy to double the asking price. He was inundated with requests which he could not meet, therefore the suggestion of a collection of poles at both ends of the trail would certainly assist in providing extra financial support for the villages and villagers.

    Another suggestion I have would be to arrange with the residents of a village somewhere along the track to provide the trekkers with a treat – roast pig! I feel that to add this to one evening meal would go over very well, with not a large contribution from each trekker. It would add a little variety to the menu and also give the local villagers the opportunity to not only cook up a storm for the trekkers, but also to raise further Kina for use within their village.

    I agree with many of the ideas which others have suggested, so there should be scope for lots of dialogue with the “authorities” should you have the opportunity for input. It is time for those who know best (tour operators and trekkers) to have their voices heard!! Go for it Charlie.

    Cheers,

    Liz

  4. Nicola Reardon says:

    Dear Charlie,
    I personally would not like to see too many more ‘cushy’ additions being offered on the track such as clothes washing and scones, although if someone had offered me that on day five perhaps I may have weakened!? In saying that, I do think MANY people would be happy to purchase different offerings at different villages such as the toast at …… (the village name escapes me). I think the key here is to have something different at each village as opposed to toast at three of them as it wouldn’t seem so special. Perhaps some of the villagers could fill the water containers for a small fee? Ok, maybe scones and dry socks really would be a great idea!

    With best wishes and many thanks for your dedication to this wonderful country and people.

    Nicola

  5. Dear Charlie upon reflection of my Trail, my suggestion would be that the village people are in dire need of Medical supplies,ie Panadol,Bandages and other supplies being foot powder,vaseline,etc that we take for granted we were constantly being asked to donate any medical supplies that we could spare to leave with the village people. I would preferr to donate a $100 Aust at the start of the Trek if I could be assured that the monies were going towards buying these supplies and leaving an amount of these supplies at each village that we stayed or trekked through.

    May I also suggest sporting educational equipment for the children. I took along some twenty small Sherring footballs , we left two at each village we stayed at and it was interesting to watch the children next morning kicking and enjoying having something to play with,perhaps some monies could be donated to purchasing some small toys,sporting and educational equipment for the village children.

    My suggestion would be that the local people would be more appreciative receiving something that could enhance there lives, rather than having them do things for us. May the Kokoda traill continue for the benefit of both cultures.Take care and have a great day.Iain

  6. John Kempton says:

    From my recollections;

    1. Getting into wet socks and jocks each morning was a good wakeup which I could do without, so the clothes drying idea I would pay for. No need for washing, but it would not hurt. My group discussed the benefits of a ‘drying hut’ at the time; to have one run by the villagers would make sure the fires burned all night.

    2. Any food, any time, eg fruit or scones.

    3. We got a short hot shower at Lake Myola courtesy of a 200 litre drum with a fire under it, bucketed into the shower head drum. A high point, about 4 litres each was enough. Definitely a K10 value.

    4. A bit of local history/village tour? K5 by a group of 20 would add up.

    When we see how little these people have, and how few their options for generating cash, most/all trekkers will contribute to such schemes. I think they are a better long term option than giving items, it allows villages to develop an economy.

  7. susan turner says:

    I am happy to pay for fresh fruit and the occasional drink-though people wanting coffee must be walking at a colder time of year than I did. Anything more would turn the villages into beggers. I can imagine all the little kids jumping at us wanting money as in India and I do not think this would destroy the tradional village culture.

    In my view it is far more appropriate to divert funds to provide educational and medical funds and equipment where the villages can have an annual credit budget in Morseby which they can utilize for buying educational or medical services.
    They might then be able to get together and afford to pay for a monthly doctor to visit a group of villages along the track and bring supplies for instance.

    There must be minimal effect on village culture. Washing my clothes every night is definitely not on my agenda. All the yreckers need to smell the same!!
    Any decision needs to be made by the village chiefs and not by well meaning outsiders.
    Suzie Turner

  8. Danielle says:

    Dear Charlie, fellow trekkers and Boffins,

    I wouldn’t like to see the experience become too commercialised or cushy as has previously been mentioned.

    I think traditional artwork is a great memento.

    Whilst trekking I encountered a lovely entrepreneurial young boy who charged 5k for me to have a photo with him in traditional headdress. It is one of my favourite photos. This may be an avenue worth pursuing.

    Cheers,
    Dani

  9. John Pilbeam says:

    Hi Charlie,

    Part of the attraction of the trail was that it did not have a lot of the “cushy” items along the way.
    Treat such as fruit etc which fits in with the local culture were truely appreicated when offered, and simple items like coffee etc would be welcome.
    I would hate to see western creature comforts and treats bought in with out proper understanding on the effect of the local tribes people and what the waste would have in the local environment.
    It is never easy to get the balance right here regarding what is value add, and your comment to have a “consultant free zone’ and engage an agricultural scientist experienced in Malanesian culture” would be of great value.

    The other difficult part here is to try and retain the heritage value of the area and the culture of the tribes people, and balance that with improving their lifestlye and bring (welcome) progress to the peoples of the trail.

    Smarter people than me need to work this out!

    Rgds

    John Pilbeam

  10. Hi Charlie,
    I fully concur with what Damian Griffin said in his post. Hot showers, washed clothes , scones and coffee !! Come on !! If you want that service ,you should be staying in the Sofitel. I have no problem with purchasing a Billum bag or a carved trekking pole but to want these extras . Spare me !

    Regards,

    Steve Rawson

  11. Robbie Whittle says:

    Hi Charlie my son Chase and i were so proud to receive a carved walking stick Norman carved mine and Vene carved Chases each night around the campfire they would take pride in there work we paid $50 kina each and at no time would i barter on the track i was to happy to pay the price to the lovely village people they made us so welcome and i can tell you those carved poles hold pride of place in our home. i brought a lovely bilum bag for my wife they had them hanging on a barb wire fence and i was happy to pay what ever they wanted they do such great work if a walker did not buy one then it would be an in justice. i just love the people and trecking the Kokoda trail i think of the time i had with great pride and long to go again one day i hope before i get to old .ROBBIE FROM TASSIE.

  12. I’m torn on the idea of luxuries. They’d be nice to have, but I expect it to be hard physically and emotionally – the challenge is a major reason I’m going. Having certain luxuries to make it easier seems to me to defeat the purpose (as much as I’d like fresh scones etc!). Hot showers would be great, but the thought of having one in the hotel at the end of the trek is more appealing to me. Making the trip more commercial by offering too many comforts would take away from the experience. There’s a fine line that shouldn’t be crossed.

    I think buying locally made items like trekking poles, clothes etc and food along the way is a great idea. I can live with smelly clothes for a week or so.

    I’d also like to know what I can take and leave that will be of benefit to the villagers.

    E

  13. Brett Collins says:

    Hi Charlie,

    Part of the reason for me walking the track was to experience a bit of hardship and not to do it 21st century easy. The showers and dry clothes would definitely be a plus (especially the dry clothes). A good cup of local coffee would be good but the walking sticks and bilum bags could start to look a bit touristy and I would rather have a traditional look as I would know where it came from. While I have spent years using bush toilets and straining sticks I would also pay for a clean well maintained thunder box and hand wash facilities to relax and ponder on the days walk. I would not like to see things get too commercial or too far from the natural beauty of the people and country as it is

    Cheers
    Brett

  14. Hi Charlie
    I have to agree with previous comments – it is the hardship that makes this trek so special. I did it over 10 years ago and it is still a powerful memory. I must admit my feet would have loved a dry pair of socks to get into each morning but I survived in wet socks for 10 days!

    I think paying for cultural events and items (walking sticks and bilum bags)and fruit is good but the last thing you want to do is make it touristy with people hassling you to buy things at each village.

  15. Wayne (Wayno) Hicks says:

    Charlie,

    This is about the people, they live simple lives that we in Australia are simply forgetting about,
    I was one of the blokes who brought a carved pole at Kovello Day 1 AK 908 and chucked the flash ones in my pack. $30k is what I paid and that bloody stick saved me more than once and yes it is the physical thing I treasure from my exprience. Others in my group tried my stick and didn’t want to give it back. Mine was pre made and the fella just carved my name into and brought it to Hoi that night.
    The boys in our group made sticks for us and I had one made for my sons and they are proud to have REAL things from the track. Watching them burn & carve the stick was a pleasure. Charlie encourage this to continue within AK Treks.
    Hot showers, Did the diggers have hot showers, come on people A creek cold can of ‘Cock’ opp’s ‘Coke’ was the suger rush required.

    Each Trekker in our group would pay each day AT each campsite for cleaner “Heads”

    As stated by me in the section about the villagers teaching them to cook (some of the chips I have ever had were made by them along the track) and sew as at Abuari, they had stuff they made for sale there(sorry Simon nothing would or could come close to your flower shorts)

    Real souvenirs made by them I would glady buy and carry. Pre inform trekkers about these types of things available during trek.

    School stuff, I have heaps of things at home that would benefit the real poeple of Kokoda is there a way to get stuff the people? we know would benefit from the left overs we certainly have here in Australia

    Go hard or Go Home

    Wayno

  16. If there were some way in the villages of being able to recharge batteries for cameras or video cameras for the trekkers. The villages would be able to charge for the service and have power for their needs also.

    Regards
    Steven

  17. Greg Nielsen says:

    Charlie Lynn

    Thanks for the E-mail. For me one of the challenges was to do it tough and I would be happy to have less of comforts of home, I engaged a personal porter for my trek even though I carried 90% of my gear myself however I thought it necessary to support the people that work there. I can understand why some people would like their gear washed and have a good cup of fresh coffee and support this idea however for myself I would rather go without. I would be more than happy to make a donation to each village that we pass through, if there could be some sort of donation box or some place in each village where a cash donation could be left I would be more than happy to give 20-30k to each village that we pass through and I am sure many others would do the same. Not sure if this helps but just my personal thoughts.

    Regards

    Greg Nielsen

  18. Neil PETERSEN says:

    Morning Charlie

    Thanks for your email. The notion of financially assisting the villagers will ultimately be a tough one to get exactly right. Having recently competed the track, I thought A.K. had a really great system in place with the villages that we visited. I think every one of our trekkers were delighted to pay for the wonderful fresh fruit and delightful singing groups. Personally though, I have some reservations about some of the suggestions in your email that were suggested by previous trekking groups. Basically, my concerns relate to the fact that the Kokoda Track is a muddy track through the middle of the jungle in PNG. Its neither a resort nor a hotel. I accept that people complete the track for different reasons, but ‘roughing it’ is an important part of the overall experience.

    For this reason, I find the laundry idea a superfluous and meaningless indulgence. Far more importantly however, I feel its is a quite condescending way to treat the villagers. As a trekker, I certainly would not use this service if it were on offer, and I doubt any of the other guys in our K9 group would have either.

    Coffee and scones? Again, it comes down to your own personal reasons for doing the track, but the food provided to us by Eddie and Dominic was so fantastic, traditional scones would have been entirely unnecessary. There may be scope however for the villagers to procure some of their traditional sweets or desserts for purchase by the trekkers. The difference here, for me at least, would be an opportunity to further enrich my Kokoda experience by enjoying some locally made treats that reflect traditional PNG village cuisine, rather than have the villagers try and produce or replicate a more typical western sweet.

    Bilum bags and Carved trekking poles I think are excellent ideas. These allow villagers to proudly showcase their excellent and traditional skills of sewing and carving and allow the trekker to purchase a meaningful and enduring memento of their trip. All of the blokes in our K9 group paid to have trekking poles carved and we loved the uniquely individual results. The fellows who carved the poles for us were justifiably proud of their craft and we all appreciated their marvelous skills.

    Whilst the toilets at several of the campsites challenged my balance, co-ordination, and olfactory senses, they were at least functional. I gather that some more developed regions throughout Southeast Asia rely on very similar facilities, so for me at least, given that we were in the middle of the PNG jungle, the toilet facilities were generally quite acceptable.

    These are just my ideas, and I thank you for asking me to provide them. I’d be interested to hear how the very worthwhile notion of increasing the villagers’ wealth develops. Please keep me in touch.

    Cheers

    Neil PETERSEN

  19. Rachel Wallace says:

    Hi Charlie,
    Well I’m truly torn between how much little treats would have been appreciated along the way and how wonderful the experince was without them.

    I did buy a bag along the way somewhere and would not have purchased it if it had said Kokoda on it (to commercial for me).

    However I would have paid through the nose for a hot scone or some fresh bread along the way. I would also have happily paid for fresh meat.

    Putting on wet clothes and washing them myself was never an issue and I don’t imagine that I would hand over my washing when I am more than capable of doing it myself. This is not an issue with the cost just my pride.

    A hot shower is something that I would have sold Susan to get, even just a bucket of hot water would have been a real treat.

    A carved walking stick is something unique to the track and yes I would happily pay for one of those.

    I would hate to see trekers paying for photo’s. In other parts of the world I’ve travelled where this is the norm the entire moment of the photo is lost while a price is negoitiated and money changes hands.

    All of the ideas are great and I understand that the locals need the money however one of the qualities of Kokoda is that the local villages never expected anything from us. This is a quality that I would hate to see disappear.

    Cheers Rachel

  20. Mel McEwen says:

    Hi Charlie
    I must admit that I would not be interested in having my clothes washed or the coffee or scones. I think the cold showers and drop toilets were really part of the experience. For me much of the appeal of the trek was the lack of Westernisation.
    I agree that we should do more for the villages rather than them doing more for us. Paying for the carved walking stocks is an excellent idea. I also like the idea of CD’s featuring the voices from each village – perhaps these could be sold at the end of the trek and the funds could then be apportioned.
    Good luck with your submissions.
    Bests
    Mel

  21. John Nalder says:

    When we walk the Kokoda Trail we are not travelling in Australia and I do not believe that we should be looking for Western luxuries as part of that experience. We should rather encourage the villagers to share, and market, their own culture, food and and lifestyle with trekkers and not expect them to produce western luxuries and food. If you can’t go the journey without hot showers, scones and laundered clothes- harden up! This is a journey entwined in the military history, the culture, a natural enviroment and our own reasons for being there- lets not attempt to change, modify or ‘upgrade’ the track to our standards, but appreciate it as it is, and consistently work towards assisting the villagers through a hand up and not a hand out.
    Lets get the right people with the right knowledge and the right intentions involved in the decision making process- they are already on the ground. We do not need consultants who have no experience to undertake fly in fly out studies or we have learnt nothing from history and risk making the same mistakes that that an out of touch HQ made in 1942.
    There is no such thing as “the Kokoda experience” but rather each person has their own unique experience relating to their own personal reasons for undertaking this journey.
    Lets leave this as genuine as possible while building a sustainable trekking industry which will benefit the communities along the track into the future- no consultants, anachronisms, jargon or bullshit required, just overdue action.
    Charlie, lets keep up the pressure!
    John Nalder

  22. John,
    In 1972, Neville Glare – the Executive Director of the Papua National Parks Board believed the Kokoda Trail could be promoted as an economic asset without denigrating its wartime history. He wrote:
    ‘No Australian soldier who fought on the track can forget it, nor can he forget the carriers and stretcher bearers of this land who fought a cruel war there with him. … The sons and young brothers of these men are bursting to come and try the track, and I am sure that away in Japan there are others who will want to carry out a similar pillgrimage. And in Papua New Guinea, there are increasing numbers of young people for whom the track is challenge to their physical endurance and their tradition as sons of the men who gave so much on it to drive back the invaders 30 years ago. So why not a National Walking Track? A rugged and primitive one, for people who are fit and tenacious, and who want to remain resourceful. For men and women who know the true comradeship of long walks and camps in rugged terrain and the satisfaction that comes with conquering one more hill. … How about it, Papua New Guinea?
    Unfortunately Glare’s suggestions were ignored.
    The greatest threat to the potential of ‘the Kokoda experience’ that you describe is from well-intentioned but misguided government departments engaging consultants who have little empathy with trekkers (the paying customers), the Koiari and Orokaiva villagers who live between Owers Corner and Kokoda (the landowners), or the many tracks that comprise the Kokoda Trail.

  23. Trevor Shelley says:

    Charlie,
    There are a lot of positive’s in the previous suggestions and as a long term PNG trecker I would never turn down the chance of a hot shower after a long day and any other comforts I could get. In the case of Bilum’s all PNG Bilum makers out to be encouraged to start making the old fashioned string Bilums that used to be around – a much better item than the new style’s.

  24. Jo Clarke says:

    Hi Charlie

    I could not agree more with John Nalder in what he says. I trained with John before my trek in 2007 and he was fantastic. What is the sense of trekking Kokoda if you have “home comforts”. For me it was all about experiencing the hardships, enjoying the natural beauty and learning about PNG culture. We are visitors in their country and should not expect them to cater to our needs. It is totally up to the people of the villages what they want to offer the trekkers. It is hard for me to express what I am feeling in my heart, but if I had the wherewithall to do so, I would trek Kokoda as often as I could. I was so touched by my experiences while trekking that beautiful country, I cried all the way home. Why spoil the beauty of the place by offering things we have in our everyday life. I hope you can understand part of what I am trying to convey in this reply. Thank you for the opportunity to experience what I did.
    Like Wendy, I too would love to have some recordings of the villagers’ songs and music. It is just amazing!
    Thanks and keep up the good work.
    Jo

  25. John Lloyd says:

    Hi Charlie,

    Still in training for the trek in July 09 but would like a balanced approach to support for the villigers, being Health before Wealth.

    I would be more than happy to have clean dry clothing for each couple of days, good coffee (scones optional), and a trekking pole at the end of the trek.

    Looking forward to the trip

  26. Jim Jane says:

    Hi Charlie sorry about the delay in responding. Many great ideas already – I would happily pay for many of the things you have suggested – stand outs for me on my trek were a hot shower at Myola and the bread that we had there that night. A hot shower and some bread each night would be great luxuries on the track as would be a self composing sit down toilet. In addition to the carved sticks we brought back I would have loved to have supported the people by buying local coffee to bring home. Not sure if there is a customs issue coming back into Australia. Many trekkers would pay a premium price back in Australia for coffee from the highlands of PNG, especially if they could identify the product with a village they had walked through – getting the beans out of course is a challenge.

  27. Hi Charlie’
    Im terribly imprest by all the preceding comments but Damien Griffin & John Nalder sum up my thoughts best. Doing it tough is the whole point of the trip in my book, to get some idea of what our troops did in 42.
    A carved stick would be great – I still have my plain old one from 04, & fresh fruit is always welcome, but Im not too sure about the other stuff.
    Keep up the good work Charlie
    Cheers , Tim

  28. Glenn Azar says:

    G’day Charlie,

    There are a lot of good points in here but I don’t know why people want to trek and add all of these comforts.

    I also don’t know if we want to make the track as commercial as other parts of the world (Everest, Nepal etc). A large part of the appeal is getting to knwo the locals for who they are. Unfortunately as westerners we view success and happiness as being achieved by westernising the other cultures we come in contact with.

    I have seen this in Bougainville, East Timor, the Middle East, Nepal etc etc.

    If the local population is not westernised and thinking commercially then we feel sorry for them and feel the need to change them.

    It’s a real shame as many cultures are happier before we force this change and increasingly we see this change being pushed onto the PNG population.

    Tread softly, assist where required and leave only footsteps. Do not force change to our way of life.

    Just my opinion.

    Look forward to catching up again soon mate.

    Cheers,

    Glenn Azar

  29. Tony Prescott says:

    Dear Charlie

    thanks for the opportunity to make some suggestions – this is a very worthwhile pursuit and a development issue not always easily understood or well appreciated. That said, Im no expert in rural livelihoods either but have been around long enough to have a couple of ideas which might be helpful.

    the village laundry idea sounds like a good one to me. God knows how we craved clean clothes on the trail, but I just wonder how practical. If somebody’s kit should go ‘walkabout’, this would be a major inconvenience for the trekker and probably a bloody big headache for the trek organiser (I just cant imagien you putting up with the bloody whinging that would go on !!!). Maybe this is unlikely to happen, but I guess there would need to be some one in the village responsible for both organising but also checking that everything returns.

    the one that really jumps out for me was the hot shower we had at Myola creek. If an arrangement like this was set up in every village, some of us probably wouldnt want to come home. I reckon this is a winner – its low maintenance, it requires some initial set up and then just someone to light a fire and keep the 44g drum topped up – and most importantly would be in huge demand. This is almost a high return activity when you look at demand vs workload.

    the fruit stalls along the trail are also a winner, atleast from the hikers perspective.

    I like the point above about the carved walking poles at both ends of the trail – can I suggest though (as you know) these guys carve alot more than just walking poles, so I reckon a carvers market (maybe set up as a bit of a village cooperative) at each end, so that the village runs the market and the returns go back to the village – but of course the risk in coops is that the ‘bigman’ may diddle the books

    I also reckon some sort of welcoming ceremony performed by villages at either end (once youve completed the trail) would be a really emotional way to finish. And I also think there is probably more opportunities to promote PNG culture on the trail – like various cultural ceremonies or talks or even just getting a few of the trekkers to try beetle nut (that would be pretty funny actually)

    I think there is a huge job creation opportunity for trek preservation / maintenace – I want to clarify though, I dont mean building handrails and escalators because clearly we want to maintain the ‘pristineness’ of the trail – but rather what about simple things like trail signs (eg ‘you are now at Kokoda Pass’, ’25kms to Isurava’ or even some battleground signs explaining some of the history and context), the occasional bench seat, leaf hut and dunny probably wouldnt go astray along the trail either.

    finally, its worth thinking of how to do this – in many countries things like this have been supported through microfinancing schemes ran by donors and NGOs – whereby small cash grants are given to set up a sustainable business (with alittle bit of business training thrown in) – this might be the way to go (I can probably track down some info on different approaches if you need it)

    anway mate, hope this helps, thanks for the opportunity to comment and keep up the good work Charlie – god knows its needed.

    best regards
    Tony

  30. Trevor Benson says:

    Hi Charlie,

    It is disappointing the government is paying $50,000 to conduct a livelihood study when so much knowledge is already available to them via trek operators and trekkers.

    When I walked the track I concurred with your thinking of giving prioity to educating the young.

    Back to the matter at hand.

    No, I would not pay to have my clothes washed and dried. I would prefer to do this task myself.

    Yes, I would buy scones and coffee on the track.

    I would buy some momentos along the track. Particulary items that identified the village. But I fear this may cause them to persue commericalism.

    Th facilities at the villages should be improved. I liked the idea of a warm shower at Myola. The toilets could be improved and a few signs could be posted.

    Keep up the good work Charlie.

    Cheers

  31. Aileen Elliott says:

    Hi Charlie,
    The thing that impressed me along the track was the cleanliness of the villages and the genuiness of the people. This needs to be preserved. We should not be forcing our culture on these people. What would they like to do – have they been consulted.

    I agree that the hot shower at Myola was a highlight – and would appear to be a simple thing to provide. I agree washing clothes at the end of the day adds to the overall challenge of the trek. Maybe trekkers could pay the villagers to maintain the fires in the drying huts to ensure their clothes are dry to put on each morning.
    The fruit and the bread that was also provided at some villages was a welcome addition to our diet and I would pay for similiar items along the track.

    I am a firm believer in maintaining the pristine nature of the forests. The big thing for governments world wide is carbon emissions. We should be paying these villagers to be caretakers of the forests. It would be criminal if roads are built and the forests logged. However, the people / country has to have an income. We cannot destroy our own forests on one hand and then complain if this happens in PNG. The solution is for us to pay to maintain the pristine wilderness.
    Regards
    Aileen

  32. Ron Beattie says:

    Charlie,

    Just back from 910A-some interesting developments along track re subject of Blog:

    Isurava. A New toilet block (3 toilets) has been constructed since Anzac Day (they were not there on the 22nd of April) with excellent wooden (obviously constructed by a qualified carpenter) outer protection and with lockable doors. Would do credit to any outdoor dunny here in Australia-a real doable model for the other camp sites.

    Efogi 1. Evonne agreed after a short discussion with me that she would establish a clothes drying service with the other women of the village. $5k for shirt, $5K for trousers, $2K for socks and $5K for boots. I believe Chad’s trek were first to use the service (AK910 K to O) as they arrived a couple of days after us. I understand Evonne did a roaring trade and we now need to let the other trek leaders know about the service-unfortunately for we of 910A we continued on to Naduri saturated.

    We had so many carved sticks done for us (usually done by Victor at Kovello- who was subcontracted by the other porters (they made $10K to $20K and he made $20 -30K per stick) the plane looked like a forestry vehicle. Everyone was happy.

    Thoughts from the blog turned into positive action for the benefit of the Koiari Villages along the track.

    Regards,

    Ron Beattie

  33. Angus McDonald says:

    Dear Charlie,
    I did AK47 in August 2006 with Peter Davis and thoroughly enjoyed the exprience.
    I have skimmed most of the replies you have had to your quest and they have either outstripped my meagre ideas or already coverred them.

    All I can ADD is we purchase other carving beside walking poles. Small traditional hard wooden things to make carrying home and passing customs easy.

    I like the idea of CD’s of singing of porters or villaager or both.

    I ask if some viallagers could give treckers talks at night about their local customs, beliefs and culture as long as that is acceptable to them.

    Good luck in your quest for realistic and sensible support for the villagers and people along the Track.

  34. Charlie and the crew

    I just finished the walk with Ron Beattie (our legend and what knowledge he has – made for a great trek).

    I fully support the concepts of cleaning and food being available. The sticks I liked coming from my porter (on a subcontract basis) as it reminds me of him. They could set up a stall at both ends but still give porters the chance of making a few extra dollars (expecially for Ron who spend 2 hours getting thorugh customs with all of his – I guess they thought he was from a logging company doing a recon mission).

    As for comforts – no way. I did this trek to experience the hardship, so no creature comforts for the trekkers (and I was sick for 3 days). For the locals different story, if we can provide better building material, medicine etc through grants or charity runs then that is great and should be done – I might even have another go – what am I saying!

    Another thought is the charitable fund being set up – a great idea. I wanted to give my boots but needed them to get home. If there was some way that I could buy something before I left and give it to my porter, his family etc then that would be acceptable (in this way it is still fresh in your mind) otherwise $$ to a charity is the go.

    Col Grace – 910A

  35. Ian Townsend says:

    Hi Charlie,
    I have recently completed AK910 K-O, a truly memorable experience which I believe, along with some wonderful advice from Chad and Bernie will make me a better man.

    Our group was the first to utilise the clothes washing service at Efogi, which I believe was of great benefit not only for us trekkers but also for the Villagers as well. The clothes came back slightly damp but more importantly, clean! I would encourage potential trekkers to consider supporting the communities along the trek by taking advantage of the service offered. The cost was 5$ Kina for Shirts/ trousers, $2 Kina Socks/Hankies etc.

    The idea put forward by others where trekkers could purchase walking sticks pre-carved at the end of the trek has merit in terms of transport but, knowing that your porter has carved a personalised stick means so much and adds meaning once you get it home.

    Once again, thank you Adventure Kokoda, Chad and Bernie for a wonderful journey not only into the past and present, but also into ones own character. I am proud to have met you and to call you friend.

    Regards, Ian.

  36. maxine wain says:

    dear charlie i did the track in august 07 one of the reasons for doing the track was trying to understand the hardship of what our soldiers went through so not having hot showers, dry clothes is part of that. The idea of paying just that bit extra for the privelege staying in villages along the track, for local fruit or pole carvings seems logical to me. I left whatever medical supplies i had leftover at the hospital in kokoda. The idea of locals selling cans of soft drink and twisties was great to see at some stops. The idea of scones and jam, hot showers at every stop ,someone washing and drying my clothes thats not what the track is for, as my trek leader simon hart would say get a can of harden up. Regards maxine

  37. Hi Charlie’
    Im terribly imprest by all the preceding comments but Damien Griffin & John Nalder sum up my thoughts best. Doing it tough is the whole point of the trip in my book, to get some idea of what our troops did in 42.
    A carved stick would be great – I still have my plain old one from 04, & fresh fruit is always welcome, but Im not too sure about the other stuff.
    Keep up the good work Charlie
    Cheers , Tim

  38. G’day Charlie,

    There are a lot of good points in here but I don’t know why people want to trek and add all of these comforts.

    I also don’t know if we want to make the track as commercial as other parts of the world (Everest, Nepal etc). A large part of the appeal is getting to knwo the locals for who they are. Unfortunately as westerners we view success and happiness as being achieved by westernising the other cultures we come in contact with.

    I have seen this in Bougainville, East Timor, the Middle East, Nepal etc etc.

    If the local population is not westernised and thinking commercially then we feel sorry for them and feel the need to change them.

    It’s a real shame as many cultures are happier before we force this change and increasingly we see this change being pushed onto the PNG population.

    Tread softly, assist where required and leave only footsteps. Do not force change to our way of life.

    Just my opinion.

    Look forward to catching up again soon mate.

    Cheers,

    Glenn Azar

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