Kokoda light: how to tackle the famous trek without raising too much of a sweat


Carmel Pilotti steps out of her comfort zone for a stroll along a short section of the Kokoda Trail.

A drone view of the rugged terrain near Imita Ridge. Credit: Anton Lutz

Tackling the gruelling undulations, river crossings and rainforest environment of the 96-kilometre Kokoda Trail is a bucket list activity. But a high level of endurance and fitness is required, putting many people off the challenge.

Now, local tour company Tru Warrior is bringing the trek within reach of more people, with the introduction of a series of shorter excursions along the trail. You can go for guided one- or three-day treks, an overnight camping tour along the trail, or do a ‘fast trek’ of the whole 96 kilometres in six days.

You may not raise the same sweat levels on a short trek as you do on the entire journey, but Tru Warrior founder, Tala Kami, warns that there are no easy days on Kokoda.

“Whether you sign up for a short trek or the full experience, it is going to be tough,” Kami says.

Trekkers and guides at Owers’ Corner. Credit: Tru Warrior

“For some people, it is the hardest thing they do in their lives. However, it is also one of the most amazing experiences you will have. You get to see beautiful and lush mountain rainforest, immerse yourself in the history of the trek and interact with the Koiari people and their culture.

“It is a life-changing experience and we recommend it for everyone to try.”

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As a beginner, I opt for the one-day trek. Although it’s the easiest on offer, it turns out to be quite a challenge for me. Trekking day starts early. I meet up with seven other trekkers at Gordons at 6am and we board a bus that winds through the early morning fog through the Sogeri hinterland to Owers’ Corner.

Depending on which way you are trekking, Owers’ Corner is the staging post for the start or end of the 96-kilometre trail that pierces the Owen Stanley Range. From Owers’ Corner, there is a breathtaking view of the vast forested valleys and mountains ahead.

I admire it as best I can with butterflies in my stomach about the trek ahead and, soon enough, we are on our way, descending into the jungle.

“The good thing about this one-day trek is that you can turn around at any point if you are getting too tired.”

The air thickens and the earth dampens as we walk into the jungle, with a leafy canopy now high above us. The downhill path is steep, but I manage to walk it quickly with the help of a tree branch for a hiking pole, given to me by rangers at Owers’ Corner.

The steepness pulls me forward and I feel the impact of my heavy steps in my ankles. Walking downhill is not so easy if squatting exercises are not your regular thing.

Our destination for the day is Imita Ridge, a bit over five kilometres from Owers’ Corner. Along the way, I realise all the hustle and bustle of the city is gone and the only noise is the occasional call from birds in the canopy. Streams with fresh, cool water are perfect for refilling water bottles. In some places the track evens out to provide some respite from the steepness.

The good thing about this one-day trek is that you can turn around at any point if you are getting too tired. A guide will go with you to a resting spot where you can wait for the others.

Tru Warrior one-day Kokoda treks cost PGK200, including guiding, food and return transport from Port Moresby. A weekender trip (two days, one night) is PGK549. Tel. +675 7465 3447; email truwarriorpng@mail.com.

This is an edited version of an article which was first published in the January–March 2024 edition of Paradise, the inflight magazine of Air Niugini.

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