Trekking Tips for PNG's Kokoda Trail - How to stay safe

The Kokada Trail, best known as the scene of some of the most bitter fighting between Australian and Japanese forces in World War II (1942) is today, one of the most popular recreational treks in PNG.

 The Kokoda Trail was originally used by gold miners walking north from Port Moresby to the goldfields of Kokoda and Yodda during the 1890s.

The 96 kilometre walk over the Owen Stanley ranges is not recommended for the faint hearted. Travellers are advised to undergo fitness testing and training before embarking on this demanding trek.

Apart from the physiological stress of the walk itself, temperatures and humidity are high, and the route is often very wet due to the constant tropical downpours. Because the high temperature and humidity are associated with heavy sweating and resultant loss of fluid and body salts, some have sought to remedy the situation by drinking inordinate quantities of water.

A cautionary article1 suggests that drinking too much water is dangerous. Melbourne-based Dr Eric Seal, suggests that drinking too much water can lead to exercise-associated hyponatraemia (EAH), and hikers on the Kokoda Trail were just as likely to suffer this potentially fatal condition.

Apparently, the early symptoms of EAH look like heat exhaustion. Advice to drink more water (It was common for Kokoda's trekkers to start every day carrying more than four litres of water) can lead to over-hydration. The typical profile of risk factors for EAH includes high availability of drinking fluids, more than four hours' exercise duration and hot environmental conditions.

The Kokada Trail, best known as the scene of some of the most bitter fighting between Australian and Japanese forces in World War II (1942) is today, one of the most popular recreational treks in PNG. The Kokoda Trail was originally used by gold miners walking north from Port Moresby to the goldfields of Kokoda and Yodda during the 1890s.

The 96 kilometre walk over the Owen Stanley ranges is not recommended for the faint hearted. Travellers are advised to undergo fitness testing and training before embarking on this demanding trek.

Apart from the physiological stress of the walk itself, temperatures and humidity are high, and the route is often very wet due to the constant tropical downpours. Because the high temperature and humidity are associated with heavy sweating and resultant loss of fluid and body salts, some have sought to remedy the situation by drinking inordinate quantities of water.

A cautionary article1 suggests that drinking too much water is dangerous. Melbourne-based Dr Eric Seal, suggests that drinking too much water can lead to exercise-associated hyponatraemia (EAH), and hikers on the Kokoda Trail were just as likely to suffer this potentially fatal condition.

Apparently, the early symptoms of EAH look like heat exhaustion. Advice to drink more water (It was common for Kokoda's trekkers to start every day carrying more than four litres of water) can lead to over-hydration. The typical profile of risk factors for EAH includes high availability of drinking fluids, more than four hours' exercise duration and hot environmental conditions

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