CHARLIE LYNN | Kokoda Treks Blog
SYDNEY – As many as 600 trekkers will be on the Kokoda Trail during the Anzac period over the next fortnight.
The Kokoda Tour Operators Association (KTOA), established to protect the interests of their members, has refused to adopt the World War II army standard of 18 kg, imposed in 1942, as the maximum weight allowed to be carried by PNG wartime carriers.
Instead, the KTOA adopted a weight of 22.5 kg, a number worked out by an Australian bureaucrat who had never trekked the Trail.
That 4.5 kg difference, in addition to imposing a greater burden on carriers, will lead to the loss of 150 jobs for local Koiari and Orokaiva villagers during the Anzac period.
Here’s the math - 4.5 kg X 600 = 2,700 kg ÷ 18 kg = 150 carriers.
KTOA calls for these porters to carry 22.5 kg for 138 km over some of the most rugged terrain on the planet.
Many of them will have a limited trekking career due to the heavy physical impact on their backs, hips and knees.
Unlike professional footballers who have similar career limitations due to the physical impact on their bodies, there is no post-playing career for Kokoda porters – just a lifetime dependency on fellow subsistence villagers for physical assistance.
Unashamed exploitation of vulnerable native populations used to be referred to as ‘blackbirding’ in the 19th century.
This practice was eventually outlawed in the early part of the 20th century.
But to me it seems the Kokoda Tour Operators Association has shamefully introducing a new strain of this abhorrent practice.