Starting a little over an hour's drive east of capital Port Moresby, this single-file trail runs some 60 miles in a straight line across the rugged Owen Stanley Range at an altitude of more than 8,100 feet. Established by gold miners in the 1890s, it was also the site of a notable World War II campaign between Japanese and mostly Australian Allied forces.

Today it's a bracing challenge for hikers/trekkers, not so much for the terrain as for the weather conditions they must endure: hot, humid days, intensely cold nights, and torrential rainfalls - not to mention the threat of diseases such as malaria. The Kokoda Track usually takes between four and 12 days to traverse. More than 3,000 trekkers do it every year, and various tour operators offer packages.

The track is also on the tentative list of PNG UNESCO World Heritage Sites because of its WWII history as well as the unique culture of the local Kotari mountain people.

Luke Brindley


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