Port Moresby Post-Courier Newspaper Editorial – 12 October 2009

THE scene of bloody killing more than 60 years ago, the Kokoda Trail has again become a world news scene because of death.

Four Australians have died while walking the 96 kilometre track so far this year.

At the same time, hundred more have made the journey and done it safely.

Days after the latest fatality occurred, a retired Sydney man, Don Vale, achieved a remarkable feat, completing the walk in nine days at the age of 83!
However the recent deaths have whipped up a storm of comment and criticism in the Australian media, with some suggesting it is a deathtrap and that tour operators are at least partly to blame.

That is, honestly, a lot of beat-up claptrap!

Anyone with half an ounce of sense knows that the Kokoda Trail is a tough assignment. The difficulties of making the walk are well known to every Australian as well as Papua New Guineans because they’ve seen the black and white footage showing the terrible mud and rain and the tortuous climbs up and down mountain trails and clambering over log bridges and wading through mountain streams.

It is not a picnic walk in the Fitzroy Gardens of Melbourne and anybody who signs up for a Kokoda tour knows that.

The major problem stems from individuals not taking sufficient note of the differences in walking 96 kilometres in the Blue Mountains in cool, temperate conditions and the same distance in hot, sweaty tropical weather with mountain altitudes to also cope with. That, combined with precious little time to acclimatise with a night in an air-conditioned Moresby hotel before taking on the flight to Kokoda and then straight onto the trail.

People have died when left paddling in the waters of the Great Barrier Reef, with their cruise boat disappearing in the distance. Quite a few Aussies and others have perished in snow disasters in the tourism mountains of New Zealand. A state government minister disappeared on a mountain walk in Victoria recently, by himself and without great precautions, causing a huge hue and cry.

People who sign up for excitement or adventure holidays should expect tour operators to provide them with reasonable care and safety precautions. But the ultimate responsibility falls on the individual to be honest and astute about their own health.