Inviting Kiwis to trek PNG’s historic Kokoda Track    

22/03/2016

The Kokoda Track in the Central Province of Papua New Guinea is a rugged 97km trail, from the Owen Stanley Pass to Port Moresby climbing to 2190 metres and taking up to 8 days to complete.

[caption id="attachment_7845" align="alignleft" width="300"]<a href="https://pacifictradeinvest.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/300xlarge-Florence-Buna.jpg"><img class="size-full wp-image-7845" src="https://pacifictradeinvest.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/300xlarge-Florence-Buna.jpg" alt="Florence Bunari, Director of Marketing for Buna Treks and Tours from Kokoda, Papua New Guinea, who was here to promote the track to Kiwi tourists at the Pasifika Festival." width="300" height="406" /></a> Florence Bunari, Director of Marketing for Buna Treks and Tours from Kokoda, Papua New Guinea, who was here to promote the track to Kiwi tourists at the Pasifika Festival.[/caption]

The trail has become popular not only for its challenging terrain but also as the historic trail of the battle between the Japanese and Australian forces during World War II after the invasion of Papua (then an Australian territory) in 1942.

This year, Pacific Islands Trade &amp; Invest (PT&amp;I) NZ sponsored a small group of business operators from the Pacific to attend the Pasifika Festival at Western Springs in Auckland.

<em>Pacific Periscope</em> spoke with Florence Bunari the Director of Marketing for Buna Treks and Tours from Kokoda, Papua New Guinea, who was here to promote the track to Kiwi tourists. Ms Bunari stands out as the only local female Kokoda Trail owner amongst the mostly Australian trekking companies.  Although there are other women trekkers she says, they are not from PNG and work as part of a husband-and-wife team.

Although she has done the trek four times since her first in 2011 and starting up the business in 2013 she still finds the trek difficult. “It’s kinda hardcore trekking,” she smiles. You have to be very fit and each participant must supply medical clearance forms she says.

Buna Treks and Tours has forward bookings for May, June, September and November treks offering a variety of experiences from three-day short walks on the Kokoda Track, Solo treks up to the eight-day ANZAC Kokoda Track following the footsteps of the World War II soldiers along the 96km track. Each has a minimum of 5 clients and 13 carriers - a luggage carrier and a food carrier.

Ms Bunari says she used to trek with an Australian business but decided to start up the business after she felt the businesses were run for the interests of the owners and they weren’t getting anything. She also wanted to do something for her community. So she did some research and spoke to two senior carriers with 20 years experience. “I said, let’s do it and bring in some changes to the village and be paid.”

One of her business partners is Arthur Puka of the Sanananda Village, one of the pioneers of the Kokoda Track when there was no road, no clear trail and you had to “primp and prod to find the track,” she said. Although now clearly marked and open for tourists the track started much earlier covered by vines, where trekkers had used ropes tied to one another and crawled over ground in some places.

Nowadays the Kokoda Track Authority maintains the track and oversees the operators who must have a license to track. Rangers along the trail also check permits and make sure the carriers are not overloaded.

Ms Bunari says security is not an issue describing the track as the “bread and butter” for the Puna and Sanananda Villages in the Northern region and the Oro Koiari and the Popondeta in the Central track. During the off-season, Ms Bunari also makes and sells her own crafts, jewellery and bilum wear.

For more information please contact: Joe Fuavao, PT&amp;I NZ Trade Development Manager. Email: joe.f@pacifictradeinvest.co.nz