The Kokoda Track or Trail is a single-file foot thoroughfare that runs 96 kilometres overland – 60 kilometres in a straight line – through the Owen Stanley Range in Papua New Guinea. It is a rugged and remote 130-kilometre jungle path across some of the most hazardous terrain most people will ever traverse.
‘Imagine an area of approximately one hundred miles long. Crumple and fold this into a series of ridges, each rising higher and higher until seven thousand feet is reached, then declining in ridges to three thousand feet is reached, then declining in ridges to three thousand feet. Cover this thickly with jungle, short trees and tall trees, tangled with great, entwining savage vines. Through an oppression of this density, cut a little native track, two or three feet wide, up the ridges, over the spurs, round gorges and down across swiftly flowing, happy mountain streams. Where the track clambers up the mountain sides, cut steps – big steps, little steps, steep steps – or clear the soil from the tree roots.
‘Every few miles, bring the track through a small patch of sunlit kunai grass, or an old deserted native garden, and every seven or ten miles, build a group of dilapidated grass huts – as staging shelters – generally set in a foul, offensive clearing. Every now and then, leave beside the track dumps of discarded, putrifying food, occasional dead bodies and human foulings. In the morning, flicker the sunlight through the tall trees, flutter green and blue and purple and white butterflies lazily through the air, and hide birds of deep-throated song, or harsh cockatoos, in the foliage.
‘About midday, and through the night, pour water over the forest, so that the steps become broken, and a continual yellow stream flows downwards, and the few level areas become pools and puddles of putrid black mud. In the high ridges above Myola, drip this water day and night over the track through a foetid forest grotesque with moss and glowing phosphorescent fungi. Such is the track which a prominent (Australian) politician publicly described as ‘Being almost impassable for motor vehicles’, and such is the route for ten days to be covered from Ilolo to Deniki.’
– Major General Sir Kingsley Norris