Seeing Kokoda the easy way
While many will be daunted, and rightly so, by the difficulties of walking the Kokoda track there is an easier way to see something of the arena of war in Papua in 1942...
A short flight away from Port Moresby is Popondetta on the north coast. From Popondetta the battlefields of Buna, Gona and Sanananda are less than 20 kilometres away by road. There is a hotel at Popondetta and basic accommodation right on the beach in the village of Sanananda.
[A wide creek lined with palm trees and green fields runs toward the ocean. It passes a group of buildings on stilts. Most have traditional brown roofs. A few have white roofs.]
VOICEOVER: Sanananda, was the very centre of the Japanese base on the north coast of Papua. In 1942, this area was covered by storage sheds, piles of equipment, ammunition dumps, and hospitals. On the beach, the rusty remains of the barges used to bring all this ashore can still be seen.
[Text: The battlefield toward Buna.
Trees dotting a wide grassy plain thicken into forest.]
VOICEOVER: On New Year's Day, 1943, the Australian 2/12 Infantry Battalion, Tasmanians and Queenslanders, charged across this now overgrown airstrip at Buna, and into the heart of the Japanese defences.
[Text: The Kokoda Track.
Exploring the site of the battle fought by Australians in World War II.
Â© Department of Veterans' Affairs, Australia 2010.
Music Â© Mark Douglas Williams 2010.]
Several hours drive to the west along the Popondetta-Kokoda road is the battlefield of Oivi-Gorari. This, the largest battle of the Kokoda period of the fighting, is not actually in the Owen Stanley Range but rather in the valley of the Mambare River. Proceeding along this road will also take the visitor past two other scenes of fighting in the early stages of the campaign at Awala and at the Kumusi River crossing. A half-hour drive further west from Oivi is the village of Kokoda. The airstrip here was the objective of two small but furious engagements in 1942 between the Australians and the Japanese. The airstrip is still in use and it is possible to fly direct from Port Moresby to Kokoda.
None of the places described so far require any hill climbing and all are accessible by vehicle - except sometimes in the wet season when the rivers flood. For the slightly more adventurous a six-hour walk, a steep climb up from Kokoda into the Owen Stanley Range, will take you to Deniki and to the iconic battlefield of Isurava. An overnight stay in tents or huts can be arranged at nearby Alola.