Tracking Kokoda with Culture & Tourism Minister

Last week my Oro wantok and Post Courier journalist Newman Cuthbert accompanied Tourism & Culture Minister, Mr Charles Abel on a walk across the Kokoda Track starting on banks of the mighty Kumusi river, whose bridge was washed away by Cyclone Guba in 2007. Below is what Newman relayed to me via email:

“Though his intention was to experience life along the track so that he can formulate appropriate legislation for PNG to take ownership of the track, and look at various service projects for people along the track for their benefit, he was taken aback when in his presence a dead body was being transported across the Kumusi in an inflated tyre tube.

“Yesterday he told me that he was taking the issue of Kumusi bridge to the NEC and demanding to know what the Oro Restoration was doing. (Yes… since the devastation by the Cyclone the Restoration Authority has not done much)
When he called the Governor and works secretary he was given the run around.
On the track he told me; "Bro I am going to kick up a lot of fuss about this even if I make enemies among my own colleagues and they say it is not within my portfolio"

“The fact of the matter is in the absence of our own leaders this kid from Alotau who grew up in Kokoda is still concerned about the place of his childhood. I feel our leaders have a very “Able” leader in Cabinet through which they can work if they are finding it difficult to push anything through.

“On the hill that marks the divide between Central and Oro provinces, he told his wife, “This is where my home ends..…now we are crossing over into your province".
Mrs Abel is from Porebada in the Central province.

Thought I’d share this once in a life time experience with you all”.

I walked the Kokoda Track in 2002 with the retired Anglican Bishop Tevita Talanoa and a group of about 70 others. I caught a flight to Popondetta (Girua Airport) and took a 2-hour PMV ride to Kokoda. This was when all the bridges including Kumusi were intact. With the recent ill-fated crash in the Kokoda Gap, the option of flying into Girua hasn't been without unnecessary hassles. The effects of the devastation of the Cyclone Guba has left its mark far & wide. However, Kokoda is certainly a lifetime experience no matter what the challenges.



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