Reported Attack and Rape by Cannibals on the Kokoda Trail – Really!

Matthew Iovane, of Shoreditch, East London, met restaurant hostess Michelle Clemens last year while he was visiting her native Los Angeles.

The adventure holiday regulars agreed to meet in Sydney, Australia, and then fly to Papua New Guinea together.

They planned to tackle the arduous Kokoda Trail, a 60-mile hike through one of the last great unexplored wildernesses on Earth.[i]

On Wednesday, 6 January, Mr Iovane called Sogeri Lodge from the Port Moresby airport to book transport and accommodation for one night for him and Ms Clemens. They had sourced the contact details for Sogeri Lodge from their Lonely Planet book on Papua New Guinea.

The Lonely Planet contains the following warning in regard to trekking across the Kokoda Trail:

‘The Kokoda Track is not PNG’s most difficult trek but it’s no walk in the park.  You must be pretty fit and, if in doubt, aid to do it in nine days, not six.  Be sure to use local guides and carriers and never walk with less than four people. If there is an accident two can get help and one can stay with the injured. Most trekking companies carry a satellite phone or a two-way radio.  If you don’t have one and there’s a problem, no-one will hear the screams.  Most villages have radios but it could be a long walk to the nearest one. Conflicts among traditional landowners have led to the track’s closure in the past, but in recent years the situation has been fairly calm. Still, it’s worth keeping an ear open.

‘When to Trek
‘It could rain at anytime of the year, but between November and February it will rain, and most companies don’t operate because it is too dangerous and uncomfortable.

‘Guides and Carriers
‘If you’re trekking independently, don’t do it without a good guide.’
[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…]

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…]

Government desecration of Kokoda battlesite condemned

Charlie Lynn Kokoda WebThe recent desecration of a significant wartime site along the Kokoda Trail by the Australian Government is a blatant act of historical vandalism.

The site I refer to is an abandoned mortar position adjacent to Lake Myola about halfway across the trail. I found the position approximately 10 years ago whilst I was investigating this particular area with a local landowner. It was off the side of a remote track that was used by local hunters. It was part of an ammunition storage system that supported the mortar baseplates out on the lakebed of what is called Little Myola. The mortars would have been positioned to support the Australian hospital and logistic support bases on Big Myola.

The position comprised a large ammunition storage pit and a large quantity of mortars, M36 grenades, clips of .303 ammunition, detonators and fuses. Lying around the area were rotted army boots and a couple of rusted shovels. The ammunition was stacked in rows beside the pit and covered in moss that had gathered over the past 60 years. This gave the position a haunting appearance in what is known as the moss forest. I reported the discovery to the PNG Kokoda Track Authority but at that stage it was operated by an expatriate manager and a part-time secretary and there was little interest in the preservation of historically significant sites along the Kokoda Trail.

It was not until a public outcry over the threat to mine a large part of the trail in 2006 that the Australian Government finally took more than a token interest in the area. Unfortunately, the Howard Government miscalculated and allocated responsibility for the preservation of the Kokoda Trail to the Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, most probably because the Heritage Division was responsible for the List of Overseas Places of Historic Significance to Australia. The status of Heritage’ has since been dropped from what is now the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities. Arts has recently been added to the Minister’s responsibilities but does not yet rate a mention in its acronym.

Since 2008 Kokoda has been used as a subterfuge for the department to pursue an environmental agenda in PNG. Its guise was to embed staff in the PNG Department of Environment and Conservation to assist PNG to develop a submission  for a World Heritage listing of the Owen Stanley Ranges including the Kokoda Trail. A joint agreement with an emphasis on global warming was signed with considerable fanfare. Terms relating to military heritage did not rate a mention. One can only speculate how ‘joint’ the agreement was in the framing process. Highly paid Canberra envirocrats with tax exempt salaries and generous allowances were dispatched to advise and assist the PNG Government to save the Kokoda Trail. For most of those involved, it was their first trip to PNG and the trail quickly became a lucrative honey-pot for a coterie of anointed consultants. They came; saw; held talk-fests; produced five-point plans; and left with a wallet full of booty. [Read more…]

Wire bridges on Kokoda=Bureaucratic vandalism!

The Kokoda Track Authority has advised of a plan to construct permanent swing bridges with cables and metal thread with constructed anchor points capable of taking up to 8 – 10 persons at Eora Creek Crossing, (Dump 1) Eora Creek, Efogi River (between Naduri and Efogi 2), Elomi Creek (between Efogi 1 and Efogi 2), Ofi Creek and Goldie River.

I do not know where these ‘plans’ are coming from but I do know they are being done without any consultation at all with the paying customer i.e. the trekker.

The research we have conducted with a significant number of people who have trekked with Adventure Kokoda over the past 18 years indicates that they want the track left alone. They want to trek in the footsteps of our diggers as they did it. They do not want boardwalks and bridges. [Read more…]

The Kokoda Trekker

Kokoda trekkers are the basic building block of Papua New Guinea’s most popular tourist destination. They are also the most neglected.

Any business, industry or service provider who dared treat their customers with as much contempt as the Kokoda trekker receives would be placed in the hands of a commercial undertaker in a very short period of time. [Read more…]

Charlie’s ‘angel’s Survive K-Trail

Article in PNG Post Courier by Barney Orere

Port Moresby Grammar School grade 12 students, Alfreda Nakue and Margaret Aitsi, have a different view of the Kokoda Trail from what history teaches them. Having walked the track recently, both girls say their real life experience of the track has given history a different dimension where they can relate more meaningfully. [Read more…]

Renee Kennedy’s Kokoda Story

Hi, my name is Renee Kennedy and I have recently conquered The Kokoda Trail.

Why would a mother of two and physically unfit choose to walk The Kokoda Trail? Well, it all began on 31st August 2005 when my daughter was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia at the age of 17 months old. I was devastated, I blamed myself as I suffered with depression throughout my pregnancy and after she was born my depression didn’t improve.

I honestly feel now that there is always a positive in a negative situation and my daughter and I now have a bond that we never had before. This feeling of always looking on the bright side and finding a positive was reinforced in me when I was walking The Kokoda Trail.

I decided to fundraise for The Children’s Hospital at Westmead, as they are helping save my daughter’s life, but I didn’t know how or where or when. Shortly after being discharged from hospital I was watching Getaway, they were doing a story on The Kokoda Trail by the end of it I knew how I was going to fundraise!

On the 7th August 2006 I flew out to Port Moresby and the next day I was on a bus to Ower’s Corner and my adventure was about to begin. I was very nervous because I suddenly thought I wasn’t fit enough, what if my children needed me, what if Hannah relapses, there were a lot of what if’s running around my head. I wasn’t going quit before I even started and the children world wide needed me to finish, as all the money I was raising was going to the Medical and Research Centre at Westmead. [Read more…]

Kokoda – a neglected jungle shrine

‘Infantryman’s calvary where the pain of effort, the biting sweat, the hunger the cheerless shivering nights were made dim by exhaustion’s merciful drug. Surely no war was fought under worse conditions than these. Surely no war has demanded more of a man in fortitude. Even Gallipoli or Crete or the desert.’

Osmar White Wartime
journalist, writing from the track in 1942

Article by Charlie Lynn

When I first trekked Kokoda with a local guide in March 1991 I was struck by the fact that there was no information on the location of places such as Brigade Hill, Butcher’s Ridge, Templeton’s Crossing, Eora Creek, Imita Ridge, Kokoda Gap. Isurava, Deniki, Kokoda, etc. Ever since I was a small boy I could remember thousands of veterans marching behind battle honours emblazoned with these names. I therefore expected to find these places and be able to navigate around the positions with some sort of information booklet or guide.

I expected to see the remnants of the steps up the infamous ‘golden staircase’; to feel the pain of climbing ‘Jap’s Ladder’; to wonder how our diggers felt in their weapon pits on the forward slopes of Butcher’s Ridge as they waited to meet thousands of fanatical Japanese soldiers; to follow the footsteps of Private Bruce Kingsbury as he led a counter attack against the Japs at Isurava; to stand on the ground defended by Charlie McCallum as he stood bravely between the Japs and his men to protect their escape.

I wanted to see where Captain Butch Bissett was machine gunned; where Ben Buckler led his fateful patrol; where Captain Claude Nye and Captain Brett (Lefty) Langridge led their fateful charge at Brigade Hill; where Lieutenant-Colonel Ralph Honner held his famous parade at Menari with ‘Those Ragged Bloody Heroes’ of the 39th Battalion; where Corporal John Metson and Sergeant Lindsay Bear crawled on all fours along the track refusing all offers for help because they had mates ‘a lot worse off than us’!

I hoped to meet ‘fuzzy wuzzy angels’ who saved hundreds of diggers by carrying them across some of the most inhospitable terrain on the planet and say ‘thank you’ to their families in the villages.

Unfortunately I was to be bitterly disappointed because there was not a single signpost, monument or memorial along the entire track apart from a few plaques placed by regimental associations and a small plinth erected by a Japanese soldier at Launumu – the forming up place for the Japanese attack against the Australians on Butcher’s Ridge and Brigade Hill on 6 September 1942.

I was further disadvantaged by the fact that my PNG guide knew nothing about the war history of the campaign and there were no maps or signs to assist in identifying important sections of the track or any of the battle-sites.

I was also struck by the fact that we had neglected those who sacrificed so much for us in Papua New Guinea – the legendary ‘fuzzy wuzzy angels’. I learned that none have been issued with a medal for their service and some claim to have never been paid. When I asked one of the elders about the war on the track he explained that they had lived in peace for generations then one day the Australians and the Japanese came, had a big fight in their backyards, caused a lot of damage in their villages, then went away! Our efforts to correct this shameful neglect has been unsuccessful to date however we have been heartned to receive the support of the RSL of Australia – and we will persevere! [Read more…]