To walk Papua New Guinea’s Kokoda Track is to undertake two journeys. The first starts at Owers’ Corner and undulates through ninety-six kilometres of primary jungle over the Owen Stanley Range until you reach the village of Kokoda on the other side. This journey is ordinarily taken in the company of others and with a backpack, which you may hire a porter to carry for you if you wish. The second journey began the moment you were born. It brings to the track baggage of a different kind. This you must carry yourself, and the journey you must make alone.
Visits to Kokoda and Gallipoli are as close as we have to a national pilgrimage. Gallipoli you catch the bus to and stay for a matter of hours but Kokoda you walk for more than a week. You tread the same track as the diggers, climb the same ridges, stay in the same jungle. It is an entirely immersive experience which compels the pilgrim to contemplate what the sacrifice of our diggers made some eighty years ago means to generations who have never known war.
Each pilgrim brings something different to the Kokoda experience, and each takes something different away. JFK Miller brought the emotional baggage of a mental illness and took away some life lessons and inspiration that will resonate with many readers.
JFK Miller’s first book was Trickle-down Censorship (Hybrid Publishers, 2016)