Walking with Ghosts in Papua New Guinea
Crossing the Kokoda Trail in the Last Wild Place on Earth
by Rick Antonson
Hardback | Nov 2019 | Skyhorse Publishing (Dist. by New South Books in Australia)| ISBN 9781510705661 | 288pp | AUD$39.99, NZD$47.99
AUSTRALIAN BOOK BUYERS CLICK HERE
This book is not a military history book. Rather, it is a travel narrative set in a location with a significant wartime history.
Rick Antonson has plenty of background in writing about mostly inaccessible places: from the summit of Mount Ararat in eastern Turkey, to the abandoned stretches of Route 66, from going to Timbuktu for a haircut, to travels in Iraq and Iran so he didn’t think twice when one day by chance a new Australian acquaintance invited him for a ‘walk across the country’ of Papua New Guinea.
The ‘walk’ turned out to be a gruelling trek on the notorious Kokoda Trail — a narrow, 60-mile footpath featuring rough jungle, 6,000 feet in elevation change, and punishing weather extremes.
The Kokoda Trail featured some of the fiercest fighting of World War II among the Australian, Japanese, and American armies.
Antonson travelled with a mostly Australian trekking group. Anyone planning on undertaking a Kokoda trek would do well to read this book – to understand the physical demands of the undertaking.
I was interested particularly in his participation in a demonstration of the difficulty of evacuating wounded soldiers from the Kokoda Trail. He describes a makeshift stretcher with four men struggling to carry their volunteer patient up a steep slippery slope. It was a sobering reminder of the conditions facing the Australian troops fighting on the Trail.
Was this what my father did, I wondered, in his Field Ambulance role? He had no fond memories of his time in New Guinea. It is his picture that you will see on the masthead of this blog – Frank Masters (1920-2004).
Antonson is an experienced and well-established author of this genre and it shows.
His research of his topic shows surprising depth. To Antonson, this was not a mere physical challenge or a ‘bucket list’ item to be ticked off.
He delves deeply into the history of the people and the place and in doing so comes to understand a significant aspect of Australia’s World War II history.
— ends —