Has anyone done the Kokoda Trail or Track in Papua New Guinea? My brother, Axe, is working in PNG and needs some beta. He doesn't have web access so I'm helping him out. How hard is it to do without guides? Are there lodges along the way or should he plan on camping? Estimate on how long for two very fit guys to complete? Any reason to hire guide/porter? Any other info that might help? Cheers!
Yeah the Kakoda track is a good tough slog. Views are not that great but its an excellent fitness challenge and you do get to see alot of local PNG life.
Most people walk the track in 5-10 days, in organised groups with guides and porters. There are plenty of small villages along the way with 'guest houses' consisting of little huts - nothing flash though. The track is very worn so with a little common sense its easy to walk without guides.
I've only done a leg of the trail on one of my few days off (I am also working in PNG, probably on the same job - PNG LNG). But from what I have experience I would leave 4 days to walk it (for fit people). But if you don't hire porters you must fit in some solid training with heavy packs - there are some big climbs.
My usual climbing crew (who are used to these crazy fitness challenges) are coming over and we're planning to walk it in 3 days, but leaving 4 days just in case. We're doing it off our own back - no guides or porters. Our actual main challenge is Mt Wilhelm (PNG's highest mountain). At a little over 4500m, its one of the highest mountains between the Himalayas and Antarctica (with the exception of Carstensz Pyramid) and has an pretty epic walk in approach and we should also catch some snow near the equator!
I spent a little more than 3 years teaching high school in the mountains of the Gulf Province between '98 and '01. Although I never hiked the Kokoda, I spent a lot of time trekking in other areas. So, my advice is specific to the situations I encountered and may not apply to the Kokoda, but at least it's something to go by.
The biggest difficulty I had on my treks came from the slickness of the hard packed clay, and all the muddy mossy log crossings. I fell more on a typical New Guinea hike than in 50 snow and ice slogs back in the States. You had to be careful, because new growth on a trail's edge is often cleared using downward swings of a machete, which gives the trail a lining of upward-facing daggers. Several times I caught myself just short of being impaled. If I were to go back, I'd take along some sort of pair of micro-spikes. The trick would be to get extra traction without tearing up the trail.
I think you'll get along fine without a guide. It's a very popular trail, and I'm sure there will be no shortage of people to point the way for you. You'll have to change your way of thinking, though. In PNG, the biggest trails often lead straight to the garden. So, the most traveled path will often be the wrong path.
I'd travel as light as possible, and forget about the tent. You'll meet some of the friendliest people on earth. You'll find places to stay, just make sure you offer some cash in return. PNG is a very expensive place. If someone gives you rice or tin fish, or some kerosene to cook with, you can bet they paid more for those items than you would have at home.
Have a good time. PNG isn't the easiest place in the world to travel, but that's what makes it among one of the most rewarding. You'll have experiences that can't be duplicated anywhere else on this earth.