By ELLEN TIAMU
TODAY, Friday Nov 3 marks Kokoda Day which is being celebrated in Kokoda Station in Northern as we read. This day marks 75 years since WW2 victory was declared on the Kokoda Track in the war between the Japanese and the Allied forces.
Apart from the traditional singsings and sports events to mark the day, a high level delegate from the Australian Government is also attending.
The day remembers heroes from PNG and Australia who fought off the Japanese during the war in 1942 along the now-famous track with our Fuzzy Wuzzy angels playing a big part in that victory for Australia and America.
The Kokoda campaign lasted from July to November 1942 as troops turned back the Japanese advance that swept through Asia and the Pacific.
Years after the war, the Kokoda Track slowly became a popular site where overseas visitors come to walk as a pilgrimage dedicated to the men and women who served during in the war.
PNGTPA has been partnering with Kokoda Track Authority, Conservation and Environment Protection Authority, Australia High Commission DFAT, Kokoda Initiative, Central Provincial Government and Oro Provincial Government to initiate several projects along the Kokoda track on the eve of 75th Anniversary.
All these have been completed.
The list of projects are:
1. Cane Bride Construction – Four bridges along Kokoda track;
2. Distribution of 160 Pedestal Toilet Pots (two each to every guest house/campsite owner);
3. Track re-generation programme partnership with Queensland Park Wildlife Services;
4. Waste Management Programme;
5. Business Skills Training and Awareness to local businessmen and women;
6. Fuzzy Wuzzy Rugby 9s Tournament; and
7. Production of WWII Kokoda Documentary – Fuzzy Wuzzy – Beyond the Legend.
Sohe MP Henry Amuli and Oro Governor Garry Juffa will be on site to receive the Australian government delegate who will open the projects initiated by Australian Government through Australia High Commission Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).
Last week, a TV crew from Fox Sports Australia walked the track and filmed their journey in an undertaking co-sponsored by PNGTPA. The team, which included a female TV host, ended their walk at Isurava in Central on Sunday Oct 29.
Consisting of Nathan Hindmarsh – Presenter, Bryan Fletcher – Presenter, Jessica Yates – Presenter, James Rochford – Presenter, Ben Hogarth – Producer, Dale Warner – Cameraman, James Petch – Sound Recordist, Alan Manning – South Sea Horizons, Tom Cunningham – PNGTPA (Sydney), the crew did very well considering they had TV equipment as well and had to stop to film along the way.
Hindmarsh and Fletcher are former NRL greats and needed no introduction to the rugby league-mad people of PNG. They have both played football in PNG before for the PMs 13.
Sound recordist James Petch whose great uncle fought on Kokoda has walked the track twice before. This was the first trip for the rest of the team. For programme producer Ben Hogarth it was a sentimental trip as his grandfather and two of his great uncles fought in PNG in WW2.
The invitation of Fox Sports is part of TPAs ‘Do Kokoda Campaign’ which was launched in 2014 in Sydney. The Kokoda Track is a major tourist magnet for PNG but the numbers have been dwindling in recent years, according to TPA CEO Jerry Agus. He said the number of visitors peaked in 2003 at 6000 and has not been matched again in the ensuing years.
TPA is hoping to get more stars to trek Kokoda, however, cannot confirm at this stage whether any more are coming over the next seven weeks. This is an ongoing project to get stars to trek Kokoda and is considered an initiative that is hoped to boost PNGTPA marketing efforts in the Australia and New Zealand market.
The strategy has a huge following in the social network, according to a TPA senior staffer.
“We invite them to track Kokoda and share images, videos and their personal experience to inspire their followers so we can convert those followers of stars to potential consumers/trekkers who can book for Kokoda in the subsequent years,” he said.
“We would like to attract more Australian trekkers to Kokoda not just an adventure trekking destination but to appreciate our historical bonding relationship to be maintained through such program and for Australians to really see and experience the sacrifices made by both PNG and Australian soldiers on the track in WWII.”
The media groups that are hosted by them are invited through their respective market offices in Australia, US, UK, Europe, Japan and China.
Fox Sports sees this as an opportunity to film while trekking and create episodes that will attract viewers of Fox Sports.
They are also doing this out of respect for the fallen heroes of WW2.
The footage will be turned into a documentary which will be aired in segments, starting in March. Their trip was in partnership with PNGTPA for the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Kokoda.
“We began the walk at Owers Corner and completed the walk in 5 ½ days,” producer Ben Hogarth said. He also described the walk as quite difficult in some places.
“The long hours and extreme conditions, fluctuating between torrential rain, stifling heat and cold evenings. Plus the mud never seems to end.”
“The conditions in the jungle are harsh. Weather is always changing. The hills and valleys never end. But the walk is a special experience for Australians and Papua New Guineans alike. It’s a sacred place for both countries,” he said.
The total team of eight trekkers and 23 porters walked for up to 13 hours a day due to filming time. But not all was doom and gloom.
“There were plenty of light moments. Good laughs with our porters, the cold river swims each night. A few of the boys snore, which caused some funny moments at night. Sometimes when you are exhausted, all you can do is fall down and have a laugh.”
Hogarth was also quick to point out that the trek would not have been as easy as it was without help.
“We would like to thank the incredible people from South Sea Horizons and the people along the Kokoda Track. They are the lifeblood of the region and are angels like their forefathers who protected and cared for our soldiers in WW2. We will never forget this trip.” The group also visited the Bomana War Cemetery where many Australian soldiers are buried.
Tourism CEO Jerry Agus described Kokoda as a tourism magnet for PNG but unfortunately, numbers have been dwindling since 2003 when the figure that year peaked at 6000 visitors.
When farewelling the Fox team at Airways Hotel in Port Moresby on Monday this week, Agus said TPA was embarking on a marketing campaign using high profile people to attract visitors and the trip by Fox Sports, especially including presenters and former league stars Hindmarsh and Fletcher, was part of the initiative to bring Kokoda visitor figures back up.
He also praised the team for making the 96km walk in 5 ½ days saying most visitors making that walk take from 8 to 10 days to complete it.
PNGTPA has a dedicated a website for Kokoda www.dokokoda.com which contains all the information consumers would require.
By ELLEN TIAMU