RT Walker’s Weekend Wondering | OPINION

AT THE end of 1975 I walked the Kokoda Trail (see footnote 1). Whenever I camped near a village the local custom was for them to present me with a pineapple.

Returning the compliment, I would present the giver with a packet of my Paddy Pallin freeze-dried camping meals (2).

These seemed to be highly appreciated gifts whenever such exchanges took place (3).

Before I departed for the Trail, I went to the local police station in Port Moresby, mainly to alarm them with my intentions, but also to enquire about a map – which I thought might come in handy.

And the ordnance map that they copied for me provides the evidence for my topic here: it’s Kokoda Trail, not Kokoda Track.

Or, technically, it can be either or both – depending on how you use it in a sentence.

The map – a two page cross-section used by the police and military – is helpfully headed “Kokoda Trail” (as is the huge archway at Kokoda itself, but that’s a bit too obvious).

Little notes dotted around it with arrows pointing at bits of the wiggly line say things like “This is the steepest part of the trail”.

However, others might mention “the track is very hard to find on the other side of this river.”

In other words, it’s like the Hume Highway which, as the name suggests, is a “Highway” if you intend to travel on it.

But if you stop the car and get out and examine a particularly pot-holed section, for instance, it’s the “road” you will be looking at and the “road” you might later whinge about.

That analogy is as clear as I can make it – depending on what you’re discussing, the Hume can be both or either a Highway or road; and it’s the same with the route between Port Moresby and Kokoda.

If you are discussing a particularly treacherous section then it’s the “track” that you are discussing. If it’s the entire route, then it’s the “Trail”.

Both are correct depending on the context.

When Germany had dibs on the joint, they probably called it an Oberalpenstrasser or something (the Germans do so love cramming an entire phrase into one word) and Aussie diggers probably just called it Hell.

But, personally (I could use other evidence, like the aforesaid archway at Kokoda or the signposts such as at Ower’s Corner) I’d rather call it what the people who live there call it – the Kokoda Trail.

  1. Well, I walked “on” about 5km of it, slipping, tripping and free-falling down the first near-vertical hillside to the village of Uberi; then clambered upwards a kilometre or so to the first ridge. There I sat for an hour or so gazing out over the jungles, mountains and mists “like stout Cortez, silent upon a peak in Darien”. Then I returned to camp in the village before trekking back to the Port Moresby Hotel to drink the local brew.
  2. Sydney’s “Paddy Pallin” was the Mecca for all things camping. They pioneered packets of freeze dried, just-add-water meals which would tide you over for a few hours and bind you over for a few days; or their curries, which would bend you over in a few minutes.
  3. I’m not sure what sort of appreciation this was. People would gather round and laugh hilariously; some until they cried or fell over, clutching their sides with delight and roaring something in their dialect – probably some blessing upon my generous head.

RT WALKER, www.dailyadvertiser.com.au