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South Sea Horizons Information on Kokoda

The Kokoda Track has gained increasing popularity for Australian travelers over the last decade. Traversing the Owen Stanley Range in the Southern Highlands of Papua New Guinea, the Kokoda Trail was the site of a heroic rearguard action of Australian soldiers against the invading Japanese army in 1942. The physical challenge and the tangible history of the trail attract more and more trekkers of all ages each year, particularly from Australia. Walking the track typically consists of hiking up to 10 hours a day with a backpack weighing up to 20kg for 7 to 10 days.

The remote jungle location of the trek means that transport to medical care can be slow and difficult. Careful preparation is vital to ensure the wellbeing of each trekker on the Trail.

Kokoda Trail Map – Cross Section

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About Brigade Hill Mission Tours (BHMT)

Brigade Hill Mission Tours (BHMT) was formed by local experienced guides from the Kokoda Track, and owned by a cooperative of vilages Nauro to Eora Creek. The company was formed with the objective to empower local landowners along the track, to enhance the international profile of local guides and to promote this community owned company who are the original descendents of the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels.

Accommodation

Guest house accommodation is provided to trekkers. Guest houses are made of local bush material and are not luxury style accommodation but provide decent shelter for trekkers.

Tents are not provided but can be rented out upon request. Trekkers are welcome to bring their own tents provided they factor this weight into their back pack.  

What to bring - Trekker is advised to pack a sleeping bag, air mattress and/or tent (personal preference).
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Track Menu

SSH-BHMT have prepared wholesome and hardy meals for the trek that we believe our trekkers find to be energy boosting and sometimes a little too generous.
  • Breakfast: Biscuit/local village bread/ Cereal/Spreads/Coffee, Milo and Tea/ Fresh Fruit
  • Lunch: Variety of canned foods with biscuits - Baked Beans, tuna etc/ Coofe, Milo and tea/ Spreads
  • Dinner: Carb's and Protein focused - Mashed potato, ric, pasta, local vegatables.
Village Food: Trekkers are advised to carry along some money (circa $100-150) in small amounts, as local village food can be purchased along the track. This includes fruits such as bananas and mandarins, cooked root vegetables and occassionally cooked dinner food.
  • Bowl of Fruit: PGK5-10 per bowl
  • Bowl of Root vegetables: PGK5-10 per bowl
  • Cooked dinner (Vegetables and meat): PGK10 per serving
  • Wild Pig: Enquire with BHMT tour guide
  • Can of Coke: PGK5.00
  • Can of SP Beer: PGK10.00 per can (Only available from certain villages)

SSH-BHMT Guides & Porters

BHMT have selected the best of the Kokoda Trails local guides and porters. Our guides have been trekking the Kokoda Track for up to 10-15 years and have learnt the skills, knowledge and tricks of the trade from Australian operators such as Executive Excellence, Kokoda Spirit, Adventure Kokoda and Kokoda Trek and Tours.

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South Sea Horizons is a supporter of the International Porters Protection Group (IPPG) organisation which is an NGO that dedicates its time towards creatng fair treatment for porters and guides.
Our guided tours are structured as follows -
  • 1:1 Trekker to Porter Ratio - Trekkers are assigned a porter who will be responsible for carrying trekkers back pack. SSH and BHMT believe that this structure promotes relationship building between porters and trekkers; It aims at providing greater employment opportunities for porters; SSH-BHMT tours are designed to make sure that our trekkers complete the trek from start to finish. The 1:1 ratio attributes to this goal being reached.
  • Tour Leader (TL) - Each group will be assigned a local tour guide who will be responsible for communication with home base, decision making on the track and liaising between porters and trekkers.
  • Compressed formation - The compressed formation keeps the trekking group tightly bonded. This assists the porters, guide and lead man to closely monitor trekkers conditioning. By keeping the group close together, we believe that the team factor and impetus will drive trekkers harder to reach the end goal - Kokoda!
Tour Leader (TL) TL
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Download your own packing list (Here)

What to Pack

SSH's corporate partner - Paddy Pallin have prepared a packing list for all SSH-BHMT trekkers. Please note that all SSH-BHMT trekkers will received a 10% discount from Paddy Pallin outlets for a period of 6 months. All trekkers will receive a booking reference number upon tour payment.

Cultural Performances

SSH-BHMT can organise traditional cultural performances to be performed for groups at a seperate cost.
  • Groups are advised to notify SSH at the time of booking if they would like a cultural performance to be performed
  • Under the cooperative structure, SSH-BHMT share cultural performances between the villages included in the cooperative.

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Risk Management

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Safety and risk are at the forefront of BHMT and SSH Kokoda Trail Tours which is part of the reason why we have implemented the 1:1 porter to trekker ratio. In addition to this SSH provides a strict protocol and procedure to their BHMT counter-part in the case of an emergency or medical situation along the track. BHMT Guides are fully equipped with UHF Radios and each tour group will be provided with a satellite phone. At all times along the track, the tour group will be contactable. It is compulsory for all trekkers to have comprehensive travel insurance and a copy of this form will be retained by your SSH representative in Port Moresby. Your SSH representative in Port Moresby will relay any contact between Insurance companies, medical assistance companies and trekkers' family members in the case of any emergency along the track. It is important that all trekkers understand and accept the terms and conditions of the SSH travel policy. That trekkers understand ans respecy the conditions and hazards along the Kokoda Trail which can be life threatening if not properly identified.
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AIG is the largest and most successful insurance and financial services organisation in the world. Operating in 130 countries and jurisdictions AIG offer a high standard of customer service and provide security and peace of mind. South Sea Horizons have partnered with AIG Australia to offer customers a 30%* saving on travel insurance. Cover includes:
  • Overseas medical expenses, flight cancellation, loss of luggage and more,
  • Individual and family cover,
  • Access to 24-hour emergency assistance with AIG Travel Assist,
  • International, Mature Age and Australia domestic cover,
  • Or for frequent travellers a multi-trip annual cover.
Click on the logo to quote or buy online today *The savings are calculated by comparing with AIG Australia's full price premiums as detailed at www.aig.com.au current at 18 June 2008. Savings do not apply to pre-existing medical assessment fees. AIG Australia and the AIG logo are registered trademarks of American International Group, Inc. Insurance products and services are provided by American Home Assurance Company, ABN 67 007 483 267, AFSL 230903, a member company of American International Group, Inc. American Home Assurance Company is the issuer of travel insurance products. You should read the Product Disclosure Statement and consider the PDS in light of your personal circumstances, prior to making any decision to acquire the product. South Sea Horizons act as referrer of AIG Australia.

Medical Preparation

Medical information taken from Adventure Medicine - Dr. Sean Rothwell

Website: www.adventuremedicine.net Email:info@adventuremedicine.net

Physicial Fitness
Trekking the Kokoda Trail is physically demanding. The 96km track is a narrow, uneven, muddy path with numerous steep inclines and declines. Training is essential. Any training programme should consist of aerobic exercise, strength building and hiking up and down hills with a backpack. We recommend that all trekkers over the age of 40 have an exercise stress test prior to commencement of training. Those with risk factors such as obesity, smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol or strong family history of cardiac disease should consider an exercise stress test even if under the age of 40. Trekkers with known cardiac disease should have a stress echocardiogram or myocardial perfusion study prior to commencement of training.

Immunisations
Current recommendations are for immunisation against

  • Typhoid
  • Hepatitis A

A combination Typhoid/Hepatitis A vaccine (Vivaxim) is available. This should be given at least 14 days (preferably one month) prior to risk of exposure. We also recommend ensuring Hepatitis B and Tetanus immunisations are current.

Malaria prophylaxis
There are three medications available for malaria prophylaxis

Doxycycline. One tablet each day for one week prior to departure until four weeks after returning home. The most common side effects are heartburn/reflux and exaggerated sunburn response. Be sure to apply adequate sunscreen if using doxycycline. This medication is also an antibiotic and theoretically provides protection against wound infections and possibly even against diarrhoeal illness (although the diarrhoea bacteria are mostly resistant).

Mefloquine (Lariam). One tablet each week starting 1 - 2 weeks prior to departure until four weeks after returning home. Mefloquine's main advantage is its once-weekly dosing. Side effects include nightmares, insomnia and nausea. It can rarely lead to psychiatric disturbances and seizures. Trekkers taking beta-blocking cardiac medication, those allergic to quinine or with a history of seizures should not use mefloquine.

Atovaquone/proguanil (Malarone). Malarone is a newer combination tablet taken once daily for two days prior to departure until one week after returning home. Malarone can occasionally cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal pain and headaches, although side effects are usually mild. The most effective method of malaria prevention is to avoid mosquito bites. Liberal use of insect repellant and tents with mosquito netting are essential. Personal medical kit
All SSH-BHMT guests will be provided with a personal medical kit on arrival into Port Moresby. The medical kit has been designed by Chemcare Pharmaceuitcals - PNG's leading pharmaceuitcal company. Any extra medication that trekker's require must be aquired individually.

  • Ibuprofen or similar anti-inflammatories
  • Antibiotics – We recommend cephalexin (for wound infections, urinary tract infections) and ciprofloxacin (for diarrhoea)
  • Antihistamine – for allergies, insect bites/stings
  • Antifungal ointment or powder
  • Bepanthen or similar barrier ointment
  • Sunscreen
  • Disinfectant gel for handwashing
  • Waterproof elastoplast – two rolls
  • Strapping tape – two rolls
  • Blister dressings – prevention and treatment
  • Band-Aids (waterproof)
Bring your own
  • Malaria prophylaxis
  • Mosquito repellent
  • Pocketknife – with scissors, tweezers, etc
  • Sports drink powder – useful for masking taste of purified water.
  • Water Purifying tablets

On the track

Diarrhoea
Diarrhoea during travel is thought to affect 10 million travelers each year. The most common cause is a bacteria called E. coli. Traveller's diarrhoea is characterized by frequent loose bowel motions, abdominal cramps, nausea and vomiting. On the Kokoda Trail, it can complicate an already grueling exercise with severe dehydration and fatigue.

The bacteria that cause traveller's diarrhoea are sensitive to some antibiotics, including ciprofloxacin, norfloxacin and azithromycin. Prophylactic antibiotic treatment is not recommended for healthy adults.

This risk of contracting traveller's diarrhoea can be substantially decreased by strict adherence to simple hygiene precautions. Wash hands before eating and after going to the toilet, purify all water, ensure food is freshly cooked and fruit (and nuts) are peeled.

For those who get traveller's diarrhoea while on the Trail, a single large dose of antibiotic is usually all that is required
Ciprofloxacin – 1.5g
Norfloxacin – 800mg
Azithromycin – 1g

Chafing and foot care

Chafing is a potentially serious problem in the moist jungle environment of the Kokoda Trail, leading to bleeding, skin infections and extreme discomfort. It can be prevented by the wearing of bike-pants-style elastic undergarments such as Skins. Careful, early attention should be given to any areas that appear to be chafing with liberal use of barrier ointments like Bepanthen. Infected chafing areas may require antibiotic therapy.

Foot care is vital on the Kokoda Trail. Worn-in, supportive waterproof boots are a necessity. We recommend inner and outer hiking socks to minimise shearing, with at least a new set every second day. Ensure toenails are trimmed throughout the trek. Where possible, allow your feet to dry (eg. lunchbreaks, during the evening). When crossing creeks without your boots on, be sure to wear reef sandals or Croc-style shoes to avoid cuts and scratches from submerged rocks. Take similar care while bathing in the creeks and streams. Fungal infections can be prevented by the application of antifungal powder or cream in the evenings.

Prevention of blisters can be achieved applying hydrocolloid pad dressings (eg Dr Scholl, Spenco) to pressure areas. These often come off in extreme moisture and require an elastoplast dressing over the top to remain in place. The common pressure areas are the side of the big toe and the ball of the foot, but obviously this varies and individuals should become familiar with their particular pressure areas during training.

Treatment of blisters consists of keeping them clean and avoiding further abrasion. Commercial blister pads (Dr Scholl, Spenco, Band-Aid) are useful for this purpose. Antibiotics may be required if the blisters become infected with bacteria.

Patellofemoral syndrome

A common overuse injury on the trail is known as patellofemoral pain syndrome (runner's knee). This condition has a variety of causes, but on the Trail is due to repetitive knee flexion with extra weight loading the joint. Pain is usually felt behind the kneecap, especially when going downhill.

It may not be possible to totally prevent this condition but there are some measures which can be taken to reduce your risk.

  • Proper warming up and stretching before each day
  • Good footwear
  • Quadricep strengthening during training
  • Some people may benefit from taping or bracing the knee joint to ensure proper tracking of their kneecap - see your physiotherapist if you are experiencing these symptoms in your training
  • Trekking poles to decrease the load on the knee joint

Treatment of the condition begins with rest (which may not be possible!). Anti-inflammatory tablets can aid in pain reduction and decrease the inflammation.

Injuries

The Kokoda Trail traverses slippery, steep, uneven slopes and sometimes treacherous river crossings. Almost any injury is possible. Those suffering serious injuries will require evacuation, usually by a combination of jungle stretcher and helicopter.

Injury prevention measures include:

  • Boots with good ankle support and grip
  • Trekking poles - one or two, depending on personal preference. Trekking poles decrease the amount of force going through your knee and ankle joints and also provide stability on slippery downhills
  • Personal carrier. Decreasing the load on your back will improve your balance and decrease back strain injuries. A personal carrier will also assist you across log bridges and in slippery areas of the track.

Fluids

Your body's fluid balance will be placed under considerable stress while hiking in the humid mountain jungle of Papua New Guinea.

Risks of dehydration include strenuous exercise, hot climate and illnesses such as diarrhoea. Some blood pressure medications called diuretics can also increase your risk of dehydration. Symptoms include increased thirst, dry mouth, decreaed urine output, weakness, fatigue and confusion. Severe dehydration can lead to seizures, coma and death.

Too much fluid can be equally dangerous. The practice of "drinking as much as possible" has lead to a condition called exercise associated hyponatraemia (EAH). A near-fatal case occurred on the Kokoda Trail in 2006 with the trekker requiring helicopter evacuation to Intensive Care in Port Moresby Hospital. Symptoms of EAH include lightheadedness, confusion, weakness, seizures and even death.

Just how much should you drink? The best guide is your body's thirst requirement. Only drink fluids when you are thirsty. A rough guide is a maximum volume of 750ml/hour, with 1000ml/hour the absolute limit.

Afterwards

Fevers
Some illness may present after returning home.

  • Malaria. The usual incubation period is 7 - 30 days, but this can be delayed by months if the trekker has taken antimalarial tablets for prophylaxis. The symptoms of malaria are fevers, chills, headaches, vomiting and generalised aches and pains. Trekkers should seek medical attention if any of these symptoms develop in the 12 months subsequent to returning home.
  • Dengue Fever. Another mosquito-borne illness with an incubation of 3 - 14 days, most often less than 7 days. It is characterised by fever, joint pains, headache and rash. A small proportion of people progress to the more serious form of the illness, Dengue Haemorrhagic Fever.
  • Typhoid Fever. Typical incubation is 5 - 21 days. Presents with fever, nausea, abdominal discomfort, diarrhoea (or constipation). The disease may still occur in those who have been immunised.

All the possible rare illnesses are too numerous to mention here. Remember to inform your doctor about your recent travel to Papua New Guinea if you become unwell after the trip.