Papua New Guinea lies 150 kilometres north of Australia and has some of the world's most impenetrable rainforest - traveller Matt Young embarks on an epic journey to explore this fascinating and remote country.
From the capital Port Moresby, on the south coast of Papua New Guinea, Matt flies to the remote village of Kokoda where he treks in the footsteps of Australian soldiers battling with the Japanese during World War II along the infamous Kokoda Trail, otherwise known as "the devil's design, the ultimate military obstacle course". The Kokoda Trail is centuries old, and has traditionally been used by locals to travel between their villages and to move from the mountains to the coast. Today, apart from flying, hiking the trail is still the only connection between the villages along the Owen Stanley Range.
When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbour during World War II, Port Moresby was of great strategic importance. Had it been captured by the Japanese, Australia would have been at risk of attack. As it happens, the Japanese landed on the north coast of Papua New Guinea in 1942. Their plan was to advance along the Kokoda Trail and capture Port Moresby. After fierce fighting Japanese troups advanced as far as Kokoda within a week and the Australian forces had to retreat towards Port Moresby with the Japanese in hot pursuit. Matt Young retraces the combatants' terrible struggle for survival, as they fought their way through almost impenetrable rainforest and across steep mountain ranges.
Setting out from Kokoda, Matt is drenched by rain and perspiration as he treks for days through the humid, dense rainforest. En route, he is invited to take part in a traditional wild boar hunt by the villagers of Kovelo. he finally arrives at Isurava village, site of a major battle in 1942. Continuing his journey, Matt passes some recently discovered WWII artefacts war - amongst these a collection of hand-grenades, flares, sub-machine guns, an unexploded bomb, and the wreck of an American B25 bomber. He also meets a remarkable old man who was one of the local "Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels", and affectionate nickname given by the Australian troops to the Papua New Guineans who helped them during the fighting.
Finally, having climbed over the highest ridge of the Owen Stanley Mountains, Matt's trek of a lifetime ends at Brigade Hill, site of one of the Kokoda Campaign's bloodiest battles in 1942. This marks the spot of the first defeat on land for the Japanese Army in the Pacific. Although the Australian forces were greatly outnumbered, they fought back with ambush, delay tactics and by frustrating the enemy in every way possible. Over 2,000
Australian troops were killed during the Kokoda Campaign and - of the 20,000 Japanese soldiers who fought on the Kokoda Trail - it's estimated that 13,000 lost their lives.
Trekking the Kokoda Trail has been a gruelling experience both physically and mentally - just like the Australian soldiers during the Kokoda Campaign, Matt couldn’t have done it without the help of the locals. Jam packed full of war history, local culture and spectacular scenery, Papua New Guinea has been a truly is a fulfilling experience for Matt.