Adventure Kokoda

Important Questions

Warning

 

 

 

 


Do your homework now - it's too late when you're three quarters of the way across the trail and your trek operator has run out of food - or you wake up to find your guides have gone missing - along with your wallet, camera and passport (this happened last year)!


Four PNG trek operators have been suspended by the Kokoda Track Authority for stealing from their trekkers.
Of the 29 PNG based trek operators registered with the Kokoda Track Authority only two have Public Liability Insurance.

YOU DO NOT HAVE THE SAME LEGAL PROTECTION IN PAPUA NEW GUINEA AS YOU DO IN AUSTRALIA - you therfore need to be aware of the legal principle of Caveat Emptor i.e. 'Let the buyer beware'.


Some Australia trek operators are just as shonky - you therefore need to look beyond their website claims to find out what you are actually getting for the price you pay - as a rule the harder it is to find out what is included in the price the more likely they are to be shonky.

CLICK HERE to CHECK COMMON 'HIDDEN EXTRAS'

Your choice of trek operator could mean the difference between a safe, informative and enjoyable experience or an ill-informed and uncomfortable struggle.

Websites can be misleading. Some operators claim to trek on the original wartime trail but their itinerary includes the popular eco-shortcut through Naduri village. Others claim to be experts in the wartime history of the Kokoda campaign but their presentations at various battlesites involves reading a chapter from a book on Kokoda. Some offer the experience of 'sleeping in village guesthouses' - this saves them the cost of providing tents for their trekkers but increases the risk of malaria substantially because they do not have mosquito nets. Others promote the benefits of 'village food' to save themselves the cost of carrying in supplies. 'Village food' comprises subsistence vegetables - unfortunately there are no hygenic standards which often leads to severe gastro problems.

The best method of obtaining information to meet your needs is to write to each of the trekking companies you are researching and ask them specific questions that will allow you to hold them to account.

Following is a list of questions you should ask BEFORE you decide which Kokoda trek operator you choose:

YOUR TREK LEADER

The experience of your trek leader is an important factor because the quality of their presentations will determine how much you benefit from the journey and their ability to handle emergency situations in a rugged and remote environment could have serious consequences.

IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN THE MILITARY HISTORY OF THE KOKODA CAMPAIGN:

YES

NO

Has your designated trek leader served in the Australian Defence Force?    
Does your trek leader understand the Phases of War and Principles applicable to each phase?    

Can he relate the phases and principles of war to his battlesite presentations along the Kokoda Trail?

   
What qualifications/experience does he have in relating the wartime history of the Kokoda campaign?    


LOOKOUT FOR 'HIDDEN EXTRAS'

There are many tricks used by dodgy trek operators to keep their prices down.

These are difficult to detect prior to your trek because they do not provide a comprehensive list of inclusions and exclusions. You should seek to find out if you have to provide your own meals in Port Moresby. Does your operator carry all of your food with the group or does he rely on 'village food' (sounds good but does not contain the nutrition you need and poor hygiene standards can have disastrous consequences). Some don't provide mosquito-proof tents. Most say they follow the original wartime trail but take eco-shortcuts through Naduri village.

The following questions will help you keep them to account:

REGARDING TREK INCLUSIONS/EXCLUSIONS:

YES

NO

Are you a licensed trek operator with the Kokoda Track Authority? If so, what is your Trek Operator Licence Number?    
Will you have a representative meet us when we arrive at the Port Moresby Airport?    
Do you provide transport between the airport and our accommodation in Port Moresby?    
Do you provide accommodation in Port Moresby on the first and last night in PNG?    
Is breakfast and dinner provided in the price of our accommodation in Port Moresby?    
Do you have to share a tent with another trekker?    

Do you provide all meals during the trek?

   

Do trekkers in the group have to assist with the preparation and serving of meals?

   

Do you rely on local villagers to provide any meals?

   
Do you provide a personal mosquito-proof tent for each trekker?    

Do I have to carry my own tent?

   

Do we have to sleep in any village huts?

   

Are mosquito-proof nets provided in village huts?

   

Do you take the eco-short cut via Naduri village?

   
Do you trek via Loni village on the original wartime trail between Menari and Efogi villages?    
Do you obtain a Trek Permit for each trekker in our group from the Kokoda Track Authority?    

Do you arrange for a resupply drop at the half-way point i.e. Efogi village?

   

Do you provide a First Aid Kit for the trek group?

   

Is the cost of a local flight between Port Moresby and Kokoda included?

   

Do you conduct a DAWN SERVICE at the Isurava Memorial?

   

Do you provide a Certificate of Completion at the end of the trek?

   
Do you provide a commemorative polo shirt to each trekker?    
Do we visit the Bomana War Cemetery?    



EMERGENCY SITUATIONS

Trekkers have died on the trail because the operator they chose did not require them to have a comprehensive medical examination before they arrived in PNG.

When the emergency happened they did not have anybody trained in First Aid; did not have a satellite phone; did not have emergency contact details; and did not have any record of their Travel Insurance policy (helicopters in PNG will not start their rotors until they receive clearance from the Travel Insurance company).

The answers you receive to these questions could therefore have serious consequences:

REGARDING EMERGENCY PROCEDURES:

YES

NO

Has your company completed a detailed Risk Assessment in regard to the leading of trek groups across the Kokoda Trail?    
Do you provide a detailed trek itinerary to the Kokoda Track Authority prior to the commencement of each trek?    

Do you lodge the emergency contact details of each trekker to your rear link in PNG prior to the commencement of each trek?

   
Do you lodge the Travel Insurance details of each trekker to your rear link in PNG to the commencement of each trek?    

Is your rear link in PNG available on a 24/7 basis during the conduct of your treks?

   

If you have a real link, what are the primary telephone contact numbers?

PHONE:  ....................................... MOBILE:  ............................................
   
What is the name of the company you are insured with for PUBLIC LIABILITY INSURANCE?
.........................................................................................
   

What is your PUBLIC LIABILITY INSURANCE NUMBER?

..........................................................................................

   
What is the date of expiry of your PUBLIC LIABILITY INSURANCE policy?

..........................................................................................
   
Do you have a SATELLITE PHONE with each trek group? If ‘Yes’, what is the phone number?

............................................................................................
   

Do you carry at least two VHF Radios with each trek group?

   


WELFARE OF PNG GUIDES AND CARRIERS

The exploitation of PNG guides and carriers is one of the most shameful techniques used by dodgy Australian and PNG trek operators. Unfortunately many Australian trekkers choose them becasue they are cheaper. Dodgy operators keep their costs down by not chartering an aircraft to fly in a food resupply to the half-way point at Efogi. They therefore overload their guides and carriers with some being forced to carry backpacks weighing up to 40 kg. Another way of cutting costs is not to provide the guides and carriers with sleeping bags, sleeping mats or trek uniforms. If you don't want to be an unwitting participant in the shameful practice of exploiting local guides and carriers then demand answers to the following questions:

REGARDING WELFARE OF YOUR PNG GUIDES AND CARRIERS:

YES

NO

Do you provide individual sleeping bags for each PNG guide and carrier in our group?    

Do you provide a foam sleeping mat for each PNG guide and carrier in our group?

   
Do you provide a trek uniform (i.e. Shirt, Cap and Shorts) for each PNG guide and carrier in our group?    
Do you allow your PNG guides and carriers to carry backpacks weighing more that 20 kg?    

Do you allow PNG guides and carriers in our group to drink alcohol at any time?

   
Do you pay your PNG guides and carriers in group within 24 hours of the completion of the trek?    
Do you provide an air fare or equivalent for each of our PNG guides and carriers to return to their village at the end of the trek?    



IMPORTANT QUESTIONS:

  1. What is the difference in the quality of wartime history presentations?
  2. Will you learn about the wartime history of the Kokoda campaign from PNG led treks?
  3. What is the difference between the wartime trail and the eco-track?
  4. What is the main cause of evacuation from the Kokoda Trail?
  5. What type of meals are served during the trek?
  6. Why should trek groups be equipped with a satellite phone?

What is the difference in the quality of wartime history presentations?

The difference is the dialogue during and after the presentation. Professional ex-servicemen are able to relate the ground and conditions to the strategic situation of the time and the various principles that apply to the different phases of war.  They are also able to debate some of the decisions made by commanders in the heat of the campaign and relate many of the personal stories of veterans they have previously served with.  This is not stuff you can learn from a book - it comes from personal experience in the army and makes for interesting and lively dialogue.

Some eco-operators try to emulate professionals by engaging 'quack historians' to give the impression they can provide a quality wartime historical experience. Their clients are often disappointed. 

According to Major-General Gordon Maitland, a distinguished military historian there are three types of military historians:

  1. journalist historians, who show little respect for the facts in order to tell a good story;

  2. academic historians, who have the time and facilities to unearth new and valuable information, but mainly at the political and strategic levels; and

  3. soldier historians, who are the only ones one can trust at the tactical level, for they have been taught to understand the key factor – ground'.

Adventure Kokoda engages 'soldier historians' who have no equal on the Kokoda Trail.

Adventure Kokoda trek leaders are ex-servicemen or wartime historians expert in the wartime history of the Kokoda campaign. They meet Major-General Maitland's criteria of understanding key tactical factors and are able to incorporate them into interesting and entertaining battlefield presentations.


Will I learn about the wartime history of the Kokoda campaign from PNG led treks?

NO - PNG trek leaders are masters of their environment however their knowledge of the Kokoda campaign and their presentation skills do not rate at this stage of their development. 

Adventure Kokoda organises PNG led Kokoda spirit treks to provide additional employment opportunities for our Koiari and Orokaiva guides. Our PNG trek leaders have been well trained in expedition leadership and are the best in the business but they do not have the knowledge or presentation skills to conduct battlesite briefings.


What is the difference between the wartime trail and the eco-track?

The wartime trail is much as it was in 1942 because fewer trekkers use it today. Most trek operators claim to use the wartime trail but lead their groups over the easier eco-route via Naduri village. This is a popular poist-war short-cut to and from Lake Myola.

Those interested in the authentic history of the Kokoda campaign trek via the original wartime trail over the Kagi Gap to Lake Myola.

Click here to check the authentic itinerary for the original wartime trail
- some operators claim that 'there are many tracks to the Kokoda Trail' - this is code for them using the eco-shortcuts to get their trekkers across in shorter periods of time.


What is the main cause of evacuation from the Kokoda Trail?

Most of the evacuations from the trail are due to gastro problems which cause severe vomiting and diarrhoea which leads to chronic dehydration. 

Unhygienic handling and preparation of food is the most common cause of the gastro problems which lead to medical evacuations. 
As a result of this we carry all of our own food and discourage our trekkers from eating food prepared in villages as we cannot guarantee the standard of the local hygiene.

Some trek operators rely on village food to save the costs of engaging PNG porters to carry the additional load.  If the operator you choose includes ‘village food’ as part of their catering plan it will save them money but it could cost you dearly.


What type of meals are served during the trek?

Credible trek operators either carry supermarket food, dehydrated food or a combination of both. Others rely on village food which is fraught with danger for two reasons - gastro problems caused by unhygienic food preparation cause dehydration and there is no guarantee of supply. Supermarket and dehydrated food is more nutritious but obviously more expensive. Village food is much cheaper but the risk of contracting a gastro complaint is high.


Why should trek groups be equipped with a satellite phone?

The VHF radio net along the Kokoda Trail is unreliable -it did not operate at all for the entire 2010 trekking season.  It is therefore essential to have a satellite phone within your group as this will provide better security in the event of an emergency.  As a general guide, dodgy trek operators don’t have satellite phones - and those who do rarely have a SIM card!


GENERAL TREKKING QUESTIONS

  1. How fit do you need to be?

  2. What sort of physical training and preparation do you need?

  3. Do you need to carry my own backpack?

  4. What is the best direction to trek?

  5. Climate

  6. What is the best time of the year to do the trek?

  7. What size groups do we take?

  8. What sort of meals do we provide during the trek?

  9. Do you need to bring any additional food?

  10. What does the trek cost?

  11. Is the price 'all inclusive'?

  12. How much should you budget for 'Hidden Extras'?

  13. Does our trek leader have a satellite phone?

  14. Does our trek leader have a VHF Radio with a rear link to Port Moresby?

  15. Do we camp in village guesthouses or tents?

  16. How do we dispose of rubbish along the track?

  17. What protocols should you observe along the track?

  18. What about other protocols in villages along the track?

  19. What type of accommodation do we have in Port Moresby?

  20. What about personal security in Papua New Guinea?

  21. Is the Kokoda Trail Safe?

  22. What happens in the event of an emergency?

  23. What about personal security in Papua New Guinea?

How fit to you need to be?

There were more than 50 evacuations from along the Kokoda Trail in 2008. Kokoda is not for those whose fitness is doubtful.

You will need to be physically fit and free of any medical ailments to attempt the trek. You will need a medical clearance from a Medical Doctor to certify that you have had a full medical check-up and that you are capable of undertaking an arduous trek in a remote mountainous tropical environment in a developing country.

Unfortunately some doctors don't understand how difficult the trek is and will give you the benefit of doubt. On a recent trek we had a participant who was cleared by his doctor but only lasted 40 minutes on the first day and had to be evacuated.

You should be aware that it is your responsibility to ensure you are fit enough for the challenge.


What sort of physical training and preparation do you need?

If you lead a sedentary lifestyle you will need a minimum of three months physical training and preparation.

You should start with a complete medical check-up then consult with your local gymnasium to prepare a personal training program aimed at increasing your aerobic fitness level. As a guide we recommend you start with minimum of 45 minutes of aerobic activity (walking, power-walking, jogging, cycling, tennis, etc) at least four times per week. You should aim to increase your work rate by ten percent each week after that.

Your training needs to include extensive walking, preferably in a hilly-area, carrying a weighted pack. In the last month of your training you need to be capable of walking at least 10 km daily, carrying 3 to 5 kg more than the weight you expect to carry on your trek.

Click here for more advice on your physical preparation.


Do you need to carry my own backpack?

No. You can choose to carry your own backpack if you have trained hard for the trek and are in great physical shape.

Alternatively you can choose to engage a personal carrier to carry your camping gear whilst you carry your own clothing, food, water and medical supplies in a small backpack or you can arrange for a personal porter to carry your backpack with all of your gear.

If you are 55 years or older it is mandatory to engage a Personal Carrier for your trek.


What is the best direction to trek?

If you trek from Owers Corner to Kokoda via the wartime trail you follow the footsteps of our young Diggers as they advanced across the Owen Stanley Ranges to meet the Japanese 144th South Sea Islands Regiment.

If you trek from Kokoda to Owers Corner via the wartime trail you follow the route of the Australian withdrawal in the face of overwhelming Japanese odds back to the last line of defence on Imita Ridge.

There is no 'best' way to trek Kokoda. The experience is just as powerful in either direction (that is the opinion of Charlie Lynn who has trekked 27 times from Kokoda to Owers Corner and 29 times from Owers Corner to Kokoda).

The difference is the experience and knowledge of your trek leader. If your trek leader has a detailed understanding of the history of the Kokoda campaign you will get maximum value from your trek. If they don't you will be disappointed and will soon realise the savings you made from going 'cheap' are a false economy in more ways than one.


Climate

The temperature on the Kokoda Trail is a constant 29 - 30 degrees Celsius during the day. Humidity is very high however trekkers are protected from direct sunlight most of the time because they are under the jungle canopy. Over the higher party of the Owen Stanley's the temperature can drop to 1 - 2 degrees Celsius during the night.


What is the best time of the year to do the trek?

The best time to trek Kokoda is during the middle of the 'dry' season from August to October. Trekkers can still trek comfortably during the wetter periods provided they are equipped with proper gear.


What size groups do we take?

The average size of our groups in 2012 was 15 trekkers - groups are larger during school holiday periods.


What sort of meals do we provide during the trek?

We are the only operator to provide fresh meals along the trail. We have trained our Niugini guides to prepare, cook and serve meals and this has proved to be a most attractive option to trekkers. Life is too short for ration packs!

Our menu includes breakfast cereals, pasta, noodles, biscuits, canned meat and vegetables with potato and rice, tea/coffee/hot chocolate etc as standard fare. These are supplemented with tropical fruit and fresh vegetables from villages along the Trail. Click here to view our daily menu.

*Warning: Most of the emergency evacuations from the Kokoda Trail are caused by gastro problems which cause severe vomiting and diarrhoea leading to dehydration - the most likely source of this condition is contaminated food cooked and served by villagers. This is why we carry ALL of our food with our trek groups.


Do you need to bring any additional food?

Most trekkers bring some of their favourite snacks to nibble on between meals during the day. These include biscuits, chocolate bars, jelly beans, etc. Try and avoid too many dried fruit and nut mixes as they are heavy and can be a bit hard on the digestive system. Your daily snack pack should not exceed 150 grams.


What does the trek cost?


Is the price 'all inclusive'?

Yes - Adventure Kokoda treks include all accommodation, meals, transport, trek fees, etc. The price also includes the provision of a roomy mosquito-proof tent for each trekker.

You will find that some trek operators offer much cheaper treks - you need to check the small print to find out if there are any 'hidden extras' - which is often the case. If you have to pay for additional items or 'hidden extras' such as accommodation and meals in Port Moresby, airfares to/from Kokoda, personal camping equipment, etc then any saving on price can prove to be a false economy. Make sure you check the fine print with the tour operator you choose.


How much should I budget for 'Hidden Extras'?

The following list is an indicative guide of the cost of 'hidden extras' to budget for:

  • International return airfare Sydney - Port Moresby - $1,100
  • Two nights accommodation in Port Moresby - $600
  • Meals in Port Moresby - $150
  • Backpack - $ 250 - $350
  • Tent - $180 - $300

If your trek operator does not have a public liability insurance policy then you will need to arrange for your own cover. This is an essential requirement but will be a difficult and expensive exercise to arrange on an individual basis.


Does our trek leader have a satellite phone?

Yes he does. The VHF Radio network can sometimes be down for extended periods. The only way to communicate in such situations is with an emergency satellite phone. In recent years our groups have had to arrange for emergency evacuations of trekkers using our satellite phone. One distressed trekker had been left behind at a bush campsite with the promise they would get help as soon as they reached Kokoda because they didn't carry a sat phone. He was greatly relieved when we arrived and arranged for his evacuation.


Does our trek leader have a VHF Radio with a rear link to Port Moresby?

Yes he does. This is an important safety item however the system was down for the entire 2010 trekking seasons so it is essential that your trek leader has an operational satellite phone.


Do we camp in village guesthouses or tents?

We provide a personal tent for each trekker. Our tents are fully screened and provide protection from malarial mosquitos, leeches, cockroaches, mice and other creepy-crawlies.

Most of the campsites along the Trail now have a guesthouse built from basic bush materials. These offer shelter from the elements but they don't have any privacy or screened protection from malarial mosquitos, leeches, cockroaches, mice, etc! If you have to sleep in village huts because your trek operator does not provide mosquito proof tents make sure you sleep with your mouth closed! There is also no protection from the inevitable snorer in village huts where everybody is required to bunk together.

For personal protection, privacy, comfort and convenience our guides will erect your tent each night.


How do we dispose of rubbish along the track?

Adventure Kokoda has a strict policy of carrying our rubbish off the track. All rubbish is collected by our PNG guides and carriers from our campsites and carried off the track for disposal.


What protocols should you observe along the track?

The villages along the Trail are Seventh Day Adventists. They are vegetarian, don't drink alcohol and strictly observe their Sabbath between 4.00 PM on Friday and 4.00 PM on Saturday each week. They also have two church services in each village each day - one at 6.00 AM and one at 6.00 PM. Trekkers are asked to respect these religious protocols.


What about other protocols in villages along the track?

Each village has a designated area for trekkers to camp. They also have dedicated toilets for trekkers. Your guides will identify these areas for you.

There are also separate bathing areas for males and females. To avoid embarrassment you should ask your guides to show you where they are. Ladies should wear a sarong to their bathing area.


What type of accommodation do we have in Port Moresby?

Security and service are our main consideration in Port Moresby. Our Kokoda Campaign groups stay at a secure and comfortable lodge on the Sogeri plateau - about halfway between Port Moresby and the start of the Kokoda Trail at Owers Corner.


What about personal security in Papua New Guinea?

You should not have any worries if you are travelling with a reputable trek operator who utilizes a secure hotel and pre-arranged transport in Port Moresby.

The same applies for your trek. We use local Koiari and Orokaiva guides from villages along the Trail. They are in constant contact with each other via VHF radio and are fully aware of all other movements along the Trail.


Is the Kokoda Trail Safe?

The Kokoda Trail is a rugged and remote 100 kilometre jungle path across some of the most hazardous terrain most people will ever traverse. The track itself can be quite dangerous with steep jungle clad mountains and swift-flowing rivers/creeks strewn with large rocky boulders. Much of the area is inaccessible by helicopter. Rivers and creeks can rise rapidly after heavy rain in the catchment area and can be dangerous to cross.

If an emergency occurs it is vital that your trek leader be experienced and capable of handling the situation. Ideally they should also be equipped with a satellite phone and VHF radio with a reliable back-to-base line of communication.

As a trekker you need to ensure you are protected with a personal Travel Insurance policy to cover your medical evacuation and treatment costs should you become sick or suffer a personal injury. It is your responsibility to ensure the insurer you select will approve immediate air evacuation from the Kokoda Trail if the call is made by your trek leader.

You also need to ensure the operator you choose to trek with has suitable Public Liability Insurance protection. If they don't have it don't even think about trekking with them.

You should not confuse Personal Travel Insurance (your responsibility) with Public Liability Insurance (trek operator's responsibility).

The current Travel Advisory from the Department of Foreign Affairs states:

  • 'We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution in Papua New Guinea because of the high levels of serious crime.
  • 'Pay close attention to your personal security at all times and monitor the media for information about possible new safety or security risks.
  • 'Crime rates are high in the capital Port Moresby and in other areas of Papua New Guinea, especially in Lae, Mt Hagen and other parts of the Highland provinces'.

You should check with the latest travel advisory from the Department of Foreign Affairs by clicking on the above link. Trekkers on the Kokoda Trail can be vulnerable if they trek in small groups without an experienced trek leader.

Adventure Kokoda only use trek guides and personal carriers from the Koiari and Orokaiva people who live along the track. These are the sons of the famous 'fuzzy-wuzzy angels' who look after our trekkers just as their fathers looked after our diggers.

Our trek leaders are trained in emergency evacuation procedures and are qualified in emergency first aid. They also carry satellite phones and VHF radios with direct links to Port Moresby for use in emergency situations.

Adventure Kokoda is one of the few trekking companies to complete a comprehensive risk assessment of the trek and has been able to secure public liability insurance protection for trekkers as a result. The policy has a limit of A$10 million per claim.


What happens in the event of an emergency?

The situation is assessed by the trek leader. If it is an emergency he will immediately contact the Adventure Kokoda base at Sogeri via satellite phone or VHF Radio. The person in charge of the office will initiate immediate evacuation procedures by telephone with the appropriate emergency authorities in PNG and will advise the Australian High Commission of the details. Immediate action will be taken to move the patient by stretcher to an area accessible by helicopter or to a nearby airfield. The patient will be met on arrival by our representative from Sogeri who will then liaise with the appropriate medical authorities and the Australian High Commission for the most appropriate treatment or further evacuation to Australia if necessary.


What about personal security in Papua New Guinea?

You should not have any worries if you are travelling with a reputable trek operator who utilizes a secure hotel and pre-arranged transport in Port Moresby.

The same applies for your trek. We use local Koiari and Orokaiva guides from villages along the Trail. They are in constant contact with each other via VHF radio and are fully aware of all other movements along the Trail.