KOKODA: Time for a Rethink . . .

 1942 Kokoda BadgePapua New Guinea is the custodian of our Australian Pacific War history.  A place where our wartime relics have rusted in peace in remote jungle clad mountains for the past 70 years. The names of hitherto unknown places are emblazoned on Army, Navy and RAAF Battle Honours every Anzac Day – Coral Sea, Milne Bay, Kokoda, Buna, Gona, Sanananda, Finschaffen, Lae, Wau, Shaggy Ridge, Bougainville and Wewak.

The Kokoda Trail is one of many jungles shrines littered with relics of desperate battles fought between Australian and Japanese soldiers in late 1942. It lay dormant in the minds of Australians for five decades after the war until Paul Keating became the first Australian Prime Minister to visit the village that bears its name.

Government interest in the preservation of the Kokoda Trail receded for another decade until Prime Ministers’ John Howard and Sir Michael Somare opened a significant memorial at the village of Isurava on the 60th anniversary of the campaign. The awareness of these two ceremonial occasions led to increasing numbers of Australians wanting to walk in the footsteps of the brave.

However it wasn’t until a public outcry over the threat to mine a large part of the trail that the Australian Government finally took more than a token interest in the area. The public were united in their opposition to the possible destruction of such an iconic part of our military heritage. [Read more…]

The Sogeri Lodge – Port Moresby’s most popular escape . . .

???????????????????????????????At the turn of the 19th Century Irish writer, Beatrice Grimshaw, described Sogeri as “one of the most beautiful places in the world”. She had a cottage built overlooking the majestic Rouna Falls where she might enjoy the “excellent health” that she had observed in the other white residents of the district. The Sogeri Plateau at the foothills of the Owen Stanley Ranges is about half-way between Port Moresby and the start of the Kokoda Trail at Owers Corner.

The plateau was formed by a volcanic eruption thousands of years ago. The river Laloki runs through the cannon at Rouna and provides the Port Moresby with water and electricity.  Some claim that Rouna Falls are similar to the Sisters Falls in Brazil.

The Koiari people, whose ancestors were fierce warriors, occupied the Sogeri plateau. They lived in treetop houses as a form of protection against surprise enemy raids.

Today the plateau is a popular escape from the scorching heat, razor-wire and bustle of Port Moresby which has been criticised (somewhat unfairly) as ‘one of the world’s worst cities’.  At almost 1000 metres the scenic plateau is green and moist with cool, airy mountain breezes, secluded lodges, an Inn and the exclusive Koitaki Country Club. It is hard to imagine General Sir Thomas Blamey addressing the battle weary troops of the 39th Battalion near the current clubhouse in 1942. [Read more…]

Network Kokoda helps to make ‘PNG Hep B Free’

Alice LeeOur Kokoda networks have been engaged to help Dr Alice Lee achieve her goal of making ‘PNG Hep B Free’.

Chronic hepatitis B, the world’s second most potent carcinogen, is a life-long illness and prevalent throughout PNG. Hepatitis B is chronic if it has been in the body for more than six months. It occurs when the body cannot get rid of the virus, so it stays inside the body and can eventually lead to severe liver disease and liver cancer if left untreated. Chronic hepatitis B usually has no symptoms and that is why it is so dangerous.

A/Professor Dr Lee, MBBS (Hons), FRACP, PhD (University of Sydney) is a human dynamo. She is a Gastroenterologist and Hepatologist; Senior Staff Specialist, Concord Repatriation General Hospital; Head Gastroenterology, Macquarie University Hospital; VMO, The Canterbury hospital; Co-founder and Director: Hepatitis B free (non for profit charity to improve health outcomes to disadvantaged communities); President: Korean Australian Medical Association; Chair: Korean Health Committee; and Vice President: World Korean Medical Organisation

With generous support from Sue Huntley of Huntley Clinical Research Services they have formed a group with the primary aim of improving health delivery to Oro Province in PNG, up skilling the local health care workers through education and sourcing of ongoing training tools. They also plane to explore ways to improve nutrition and reduce preventable parasite infestation, i.e. worms. [Read more…]

RIP: Ovoru Indiki – Wartime Carrier, Naduri Village

Ovoru Indiki Naduri Village April 2003

Kokoda trekkers who had the great pleasure of meeting Ovoru Indiki in Naduri village will be saddened to learn of his passing on 15 November 2013.

Ovoru was a respected chief of Naduri Village which is about halfway across the Owen Stanley Ranges east of the Kokoda Trail. I believe he would have been in his early 60’s when I first met him in 1991 however it is difficult to substantiate his exact age because of the lack of records in PNG at the time of his birth.  He would therefore now be in his late 80’s.

Ovoru was a teenager when war came to PNG with the bombings of Port Moresby in 1942.  Like many Papuans at the time they did not understand the war and did not know what was happening. Like many others he fled back to the safety of his village from the city. It was a long trek and he recalled to me that he was very frightened at the time. He was later recruited to help carry desperately supplies forward for the Australian troops fighting on the trail.

On his return journeys he often came across wounded Australian’s who could struggle no further. Ovoru and his friends would always stop and build a stretcher to carry the wounded digger back to ‘the care of doctor’s at the bottom of the track’ on the Sogeri Plateau.  It was a slow and tortuous journey which took up to three weeks to complete.  Ovoru was always proud that he was able to help our diggers in this way. There sacrifice on our behalf was immortalised by Sapper Bert Beros in his tribute poem, ‘Fuzzy-Wuzzy Angels’. Beros wrote it in the field hospital at Sogeri whilst he was convalescing after being carried off the track.  His grandson and great-grandson have followed in his footsteps with Adventure Kokoda. [Read more…]

Report on our Agricultural and Community Development Projects along the Kokoda Trail

Network Kokoda Logo

With the generous support of our Adventure Kokoda trekkers we have been able to establish Network Kokoda as a philanthropic organisation to honour the legacy of Papua New Guinean Wartime Carriers.

The organisation subscribes to the principles developed by the PNG Department of Community Development which, according to former Minister, Dame Carol Kidu, is based on local communities working together to develop sustainable initiatives which generate income to invest in their future.

Network Kokoda is registered in Australia and Papua New Guinea. We are hopeful that our application for tax deductibility will soon be approved.

The Australian body is chaired by Brigadier Phil McNamara AM (RL).  The Executive Officer is Lieutenant Colonel Rowan Tracey (RL).  Both served as officers with the Pacific Islands Regiment during their army careers and are fluent in Tok Pisin.

The PNG body is chaired by Major Charlie Lynn (RL).  The Board of Directors includes Dame Carol Kidu, former Minister for Community Development; Brigadier Ken Noga, former Chief of the PNG Defence Force and High Commissioner to Australia; and Marianna Ellingson, Secretary to the Office of Tourism, Arts and Culture. [Read more…]

Sharing Kokoda with Great Australians – Dick Smith and Dr Charlie Teo

Charlie Lynn Kokoda WebOver the past month I have been privileged to spend time on Kokoda with two great Australian’s – Dick Smith and Dr Charlie Teo – one in a helicopter and one on foot.

After arriving back from my helicopter safari with Dick Smith I received my copy of ‘Lion’ where he was featured donating a $1 million cheque to Lions Australia –
http://lionsclubs.org.au/dick-smith-donates-1-million-to-lions-australia Dick was Australian of the Year in 1986 and is one of our most generous philanthropists. He is certainly fit enough to do Kokoda without his helicopter and hopefully our safari might also turn out to be a ‘reconnaissance’ for the real thing!

A week after our trek with Dr Charlie Teo he was featured on Channel 7 for his work in trying to save orangutans from extinction in the jungles of Borneo – http://au.news.yahoo.com/sunday-night/features/article/-/18129693/charlies-angels

Charlie is a remarkable man. He sets aside three months each year to provide pro-bono neurosurgery in Third World nations, heads up his ‘Cure for Life Foundation’ which aims to find a cure for brain cancer within 10 years. He was recently invited to address the US Congress to encourage President Obama to include brain cancer in the US $100 million project to map the human brain. He became the first non-politician in Australia to be accorded this honour. [Read more…]

2014 ANZAC Trek across the Kokoda Trail

1942 Kokoda BadgeThere is no more memorable way to commemorate the sacrifice of our veterans than by linking a trek across the Kokoda Trail with the official ANZAC Dawn Service in Port Moresby.

Bomana War Cemetery is the largest in the Pacific with 3779 graves. The cemetery lies in a serene tropical garden 19 kilometres north of Port Moresby off Pilgrims’ Way. The cemetery was begun by the army in 1942 and formally dedicated by the Governor-General of Australia, Field Marshall Sir William Slim, on 19 October 1953. Those who died fighting in Papua and Bougainville are buried here.  The official ANZAC Day Service is attended by veterans and dignitaries from across the Pacific.  The Australian Defence Force provides the Catafalque Party at the Cross of Sacrifice and Papuan soldiers form a Guard of Honour. The service includes a martial band and the angelic voices of a local school choir.

The solemn silence of the pre-dawn is a time for quiet reflection on your trekking experience.  The first glint of light on the endless rows of polished marble headstones is a humbling reminder of the price of freedom and the sacrifice involved to secure it.  The candle-lit faces of more than a thousand Anzac pilgrims bow in silence as an army bugler sounds Reveille. A lone bagpiper then moves among the headstones  to the haunting tune of Flowers in the Forest which bids farewell to the dead.

Our ANZAC treks follow the original wartime trail and include authentic historical briefings at all battlesites and other significant areas. They also include a moving battlefield Dawn Service at the Isurava War Memorial and a Remembrance Service at the 21st Brigade Headquarters position on Brigade Hill.

At Bomana the Cross of Sacrifice, the Memorial to the Missing and the Stone of Remembrance are built of a particularly beautiful golden-coloured sandstone.  The graves are marked with polished marble headstones and dressed in uniform rows on sloping lawns between the Stone of Remembrance and the Cross of Sacrifice.

On a rise at the rear of the cemetery is the Port Moresby Memorial to the Missing which consists of a rotunda of cylindrical pillars enclosing a circle of square pillars with bronze panels engraved with the names of 703 Australians as well as Papua and New Guinea local forces listed as missing-in-action. The names of the battlefields on which the men died are carved on the entablature above the pillars. In the centre is a topograph with a bronze compass showing the direction of the distant New Guinea battlefields. [Read more…]

Kokoda: A new frontier for bucket-listers and chanting bogans

The jungles of Papua New Guinea can be a dark and foreboding place for the unwary. During the Kokoda campaign darkness came swiftly as the overhead canopy didn’t allow any form of twilight to penetrate below. Fires were forbidden because the glow of embers and the smell of dank smoke could betray a position to the enemy.

Before the transition to darkness each day soldiers would lie still during ‘stand-to’ in shallow pits lest the enemy used the cover to launch a surprise attack.  The silence in such an environment is deafening – until battalions of 6 o’clock crickets pierce the air with shrill buzzing calls lasting for up to half-an-hour.  For the first-timer in the jungle it is an unnerving sound but soon becomes part of the normal cycle of activity as they acquaint themselves with the sounds of nature.

Speak to any veteran of the Templeton’s Crossing campaign and they will quickly ask if the 6 o’clock crickets are still around. They are – but their status is under challenge from a new creature, the ‘chanting bogan’. [Read more…]

Kokoda Corporate Leadership Treks

The Kokoda Trail provides the setting for one of the most awesome physical and emotional challenges available. The Kokoda campaign provides abundant examples of Australian leadership and team esprit-de-corps. The Koiari and Orokaiva people (of ‘fuzzy-wuzzy’ angel fame) provide the opportunity for humble, personal reflection.

Our corporate treks expose young managers to the environment where examples of Australian leadership and teamwork are the stuff of legend. We tailor each one to meet the needs of endividual trek groups.

Some may want to use the physical challenge of Kokoda to get to know each other better and improve their team esprit de corps. Others may wish to draw upon the lessons to be learned from our battlefield leadership during the Kokoda campaign – and there are lessons aplenty at all levels in this regard.

Participants learn about themselves in a way that is only possible when they are tested to their limits in a challenging and unfamiliar environment – and they learn more about their colleagues than they would after a lifetime association within their normal corporate environment.

Team bonds established last well beyond the memory of the hardships shared during the program. Witness Australian Diggers who sometimes only knew each other for a short time on the Kokoda Trail in 1942 – but who meet annually ever since to commemorate that experience.

Our leaders are well qualified for these treks because of their practical experience in command leadership.

Commodore Simon Hart was Captain of two of our frontline battleships (HMAS Brisbane and HMAS Hobart) during his distinguished career in the Royal Australian Navy.  Both ships were awarded ‘ship of the year’ under his command and he was awarded the Conspicuous Service Cross for his outstanding leadership.

Major Chad Sherrin was decorated for his combat leadership as a Sergeant during the Vietnam War.

Lieutenant-Colonel Rowan Tracey commanded a unit of 1000 men during his tour of duty in Papua New Guinea – he is regarded as Australia’s most authoritative historian on the Kokoda campaign.

Major Charlie Lynn is a Vietnam Veteran, graduate of the Army Command and Staff College and instructor in outback survival.
[Read more…]

Adventure Kokoda trekking hints for keeping clean on the trail

A high standard of personal hygiene is essential to avoid discomfort and disease when trekking in the jungles of Papua New Guinea.

The tropics are unforgiving on those who are slack in this regard. Microscopic There are no large predators high up in the Owen Stanley Ranges but there are billions of microscopic bugs that will cause just as much grief if they are enter the system via a crack in the skin, a dirty hand or food that has not been prepared hygienically.  In some cases the bugs don’t even need a crack in the skin. For example if you walk around in bare feet and inadvertently tread in some dried dogs poo you could contract strongylides – if you haven’t heard of this condition please click here.

You just can’t be too careful in this regard.

The best way to stay healthy is to follow these guidelines:

  • Keep a clean set of underwear and clothes to change into after you have showered or bathed at the end of each day’s trekking.
  • Wash the clothes you have trekked in when you shower/bathe at the end of each day – you will be able to dry these over the fire in the drying hut at each campsite.
  • Carry a small bottle of hand-sanitizer in your pocket (you will need to bring about four of these) – apply it to your hands before you eat anything or rub your eyes.
  • Keep a small bottle of hand-sanitizer in a waterproof zip-lock bag with your toilet roll.
  • After you shower/bathe at the end of each day apply hand-sanitizer to your feet to kill any bacteria.
  • Wash your socks and the inner of your boot with anti-fungal soap each day.
  • Use water-sterilization tablets in your water bottle.
  • DO NOT walk anywhere at any time in bare feet – ALWAYS, wear camp slippers or sandals. I use camp slippers as socks to sleep in so if I need a pit-stop at night I don’t have to fish around in the dark for my sandals.

Click here to see how Cindy converts her camel-back into a portable shower.