Health and Medical Preparations
The Kokoda Track is no picnic and there is every possibility that you may suffer some form of injury during your trek. Your expedition guide will brief you on preventive safety and your guides will support and assist you with traversing difficult parts of the walk, but no matter how experienced a hiker you are there is always a chance you will slip on a mossy rock or one of the hundreds of exposed buttress roots that cross the Track. You may also suffer a gastric reaction to something you eat or drink. If you fall ill or have an accident while on the Kokoda Track, we have a contingency plan in place.
This section focuses on how you can prepare for the expedition by understanding your own personal health and medical considerations, and how our expedition team assist through the provision of nutritious food, snacks and manage emergency situations if they should arise.
Ruth Rampling - Expedition Guide
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Please remember that you will be trekking in a remote area and therefore there will be a delay in accessing any additional medication or medical assistance. Therefore, it is very important that you take these medical considerations, insurance and your own fitness very seriously. The expeditions along the Kokoda Track are very difficult and should not be underestimated.
If you have a medical condition such as an allergy, injury, physical disability, etc., please advise your Expedition Guide ASAP to discuss. This matter will be kept confidential.
We recommend that you have a medical check-up with your doctor ASAP (preferably before commencing training) to discuss if your general fitness and medical condition are conducive to undertaking this strenuous walk.
We recommend you discuss with your doctor topics such as:
It is also advisable to obtain routine dental care before you leave as a dental emergency (as a result of a pre-existing dental condition) on the track, may result in an emergency evacuation.
Immunizations and Vaccinations
Plan ahead for getting your vaccinations (ideally, 4-6 weeks). Some of them require an initial shot followed by a booster, while some vaccinations should not be given together. This also applies to some malaria prophylactics, which have to be begun at least a week before you leave home.
It’s never too late to vaccinate; however, some vaccines require a long period to take effect and more than one dose may be needed. You may need boosters for childhood vaccines as well.
PNG specific advice:
To treat this, take a tube of Canasten. Canasten will quickly clear up the problem. If you develop internal thrush, take a couple of spare tampons. This way you can smear the Canasten on the tampon and treat the internal thrush directly. Come prepared. The only person you can rely on is yourself. That way you know you will be safe.
Medicines and First Aid
Please consult your doctor and include items and medicines that may be required for you or for the area you are travelling in. No Roads does not supply any medicines and takes no legal responsibility for any medical treatment or professional medical support to our clients.
If you have something you are particularly prone to, such as ear infections, sinus problems or mild asthma, bring what you need with you.
Diabetes and Trekking
At No Roads we highly recommend reading advice from Diabetes Australia on their travel website, and to speak with our expedition consultants. Depending on the severity and complexities of your condition, we hope that it will be possible to help you manage your diabetes whilst on expedition with us, but we cannot guarantee in all circumstances this is possible.
Diabetes Australia Website
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Malarial mosquitos are night-biters (unlike day-biting dengue mosquitoes) so you need to take particular care to cover up at dusk and night-time. It is best to wear long sleeve shirts and long pants during these periods and to cover any exposed skin with tropical strength mosquito repellent.
The most important preventative measure is to sleep in a mosquito proof tent (No Roads Expeditions provides tents, twin share, for our trekkers for this very reason). If you elect to sleep in guest-houses along the Track you will increase your chances of contracting malaria substantially because villagers may carry the malarial parasite. If a malarial mosquito bites one of them in their hut - then bites you in the next guest-house - bingo! Using a full bed mosquito net, or wearing a head mosquito net and sleeping in your sleeping bag or liner at night in the guest-house will help protect you.
- http://www.tmvc.com.au/ (use the 'What Vaccine do I Need' tool)
Tell your doctor you are going to PNG for 11 days and will be spending eight of those on the Kokoda Track in the Owen Stanley Range. He or she will then prescribe the appropriate anti-malarial medication for you.
If you become ill with a fever either while traveling in a malaria-risk area or after you return home (for up to 1 year), you should seek immediate medical attention and should tell the doctor about your travel history.
Doxycycline based Anti-Malaria Treatment
- Take doxycycline 1 hour before or 2 hours after antacids (including sodium bicarbonate), calcium supplements, and laxatives containing magnesium.
- Take doxycycline 2 hours before or 3 hours after iron preparations and vitamin products that contain iron.
- More Info - here and consult your Doctor on this issue.
NOTE: Please note that some electrolyte replacement supplements contain high levels of magnesium. We recommend you take the Doxycycline based anti-malaria tablets at breakfast around 6.00am and don't take any supplements that contain magnesium until at least 8.00am or later.
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Nutritious Meals are Important
As an ecotourism company we are always looking for ways to maximise the benefits of tourism to the people living in the local area. Our tour uses experienced Australian guides and guides recruited from all along the Track. Some of the food you will eat along the way is supplied by people we know in the village enroute. This not only gives the villagers a market for their vegetable crops but gives you a wonderful opportunity to try out local foods. Food purchased locally includes pineapple, bananas, potatoes, pumpkins and eggs.
The villages we pass through are not tourist villages and the villagers engage in subsistence agriculture. They need to work from sunrise to sunset in order to produce enough food for the village. Locally grown food is only made available to trekking groups at times of surplus and when in season. Other trekking groups on the Track also may be competing for fresh fruit and vegetables.
Our food is one of the biggest differences between us and other operators. We do not get you to carry the food (apart from the snacks such as muesli bars and instant soups) and we do not supply baked beans, rice and two minute noodles for every meal. We cook up curries, vegetarian pastas, damper, prawn crackers, fried rice and the list goes on.
Trekkers are welcome to, but not required to help prepare a few meals with the porters so that you can engage them in conversation as this helps you build a bond with them. This may be as simple as chopping some vegetables whilst discussing how they prepare meals over a camp fire.
Q: What does No Roads do to minimise the increased risk of stomach bugs with freshly prepared food versus ration packs?
A: No Roads implements a very strict health regime which must be adhered to by our trekkers and local support team. The majority of our trek food is purchased from supermarkets in Port Moresby and any fruit and vegetables purchased on the track are uncut and washed by us in water that has been boiled. Waterless hand sanitizer is supplied and must be used at toilet stops, before food preparation and eating. We discourage the sharing of food and sweets.
Camp breakfast is billy tea/milo/coffee with damper and porridge or Weetbix and Corn Flakes with powdered milk.
Camp lunch is noodles, instant soups, biscuits and cheese in addition to your No Roads snack pack. We also have a selection of tuna and mountain bread to keep things interesting.
We also provide you with eight days of electrolyte replacement, to replace fluids and essential electrolytes. This process helps prevent muscle seizures and cramps.
Special Dietary Requirements
Due to the complexities of preparing and cooking meals in a jungle camp environment some dietary requirements may be difficult to cater for. Please contact us so we can discuss your circumstances and work through to a solution.
Kokoda Master Chefs
In each expedition one of our guides is trained to be the head cook. He is experienced at cooking our meals and upholds strict hygiene standards amongst his helpers whilst preparing and cooking our food in the jungle kitchen.
Our head cooks are very creative and have introduced a number of surprise treats for our trekkers to enjoy. You will be amazed at what can be prepared in a camp fire kitchen!
Guide Team Food
Our guides pack their own supplies and eat more traditional meals amongst themselves, both out on the track during the day and at camp. Our PNG Operations Manager ensures they have enough supplies and communicates with the Local Guide to monitor supplies.
Often the guides will supplement their food with supplies from their own villages as we pass through them and from track-side plants and gardens along the Track.
No Roads "Snack Pack"
Two weeks before the trip you will receive a small snack pack which will have some snacks, tshirts etc. to take on your trip. Don't worry, this is not the only food you will get (we will cook delicious meals on the trail for you).
We provide you with eight days of snacks that will help you from meal to meal. The snack pack contains the following items:
The soups, hydration mix and muesli bars are very important snacks to eat/drink during the day to supplement your sugars, salts and minerals lost through sweating.
Packing Lolly Snacks
Take your snacks across to PNG in their original packaging and once in the hotel in Port Moresby the night before you begin your trek, separate the snacks into daily portions and put them into plastic bags.
This helps you keep the items fresh, assist with rationing and should weigh less with the original packaging thrown out. Resealable plastic bags are a good solution.
Don't forget to leave the snack foods in their original packaging so that quarantine/customs officials can verify the contents.
A word of caution about the weight of your extra snacks. Lollies, bars and other items can weigh quite a bit so take care when choosing what extra you would like to bring. Note that chocolate often melts in your bag in PNG.
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Drinking Water Access
Drinking water along the Kokoda Track is collected from a variety of water sources. Some of the creeks you pass through may be crystal clear and free flowing and safe to drink from.
There are only a couple of locations during the trek where the water is considered unsuitable to drink and you will be advised of these. Some villages have good drinkable water supplies recently installed by AusAID‐funded projects.
Village guest houses will supply cooled boiled water for drinking, on request. If you get stuck at a camping site where there is no clean water available you can boil water on your campfire and cool it in your water container for the next day, use your Steripen or add water purification tablets.
In the drier months August to October, some small creeks disappear so we suggest 2 or 3 litre water bladder packs so that you will have plenty of water on you.
Many trekkers are worried about the quality of the water available along the track and whether they need to use sterilising tablets and/or a Steripen etc..
In most places the water is good; however No Roads advises that you should always use some method of water purification/sterilisation.
Most villages have a water that is either supplied by a pipe system that comes from a water supply further away, or from a stream nearby. In both cases the water is sometimes not working or available.
Treat all drinking water. Chemical or other treatments, such as a Steripen should be used. Do not rely on boiling water, as a fire won’t always be available. More information on purification gear can be found here.
Even if the water looks crystal clear and the locals are drinking it, you must purify your drinking water. Ensure you allow time for the process to finish.
Be aware of dragging the mouthpiece of your hydration bladder in the dirt when taking the backpack on and off. The dirt can contain bad organisms and these can easily be ingested when taking the next sip from the hydration bladder mouthpiece. Some hydration bladder systems come with a mouthpiece protection cap which is a great idea, so use it.
If you wish to use a Steripen we recommend you bring a small number of water purification tablets such as Aquatabs, which you can purchase from most chemists, camping or army disposals stores, just in case you are stuck somewhere with no clear water. Steripens are only effective in clear water.
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It should be noted that, even if you have insurance which includes cover for medical evacuations from the along the Kokoda Track by aircraft, the weather conditions in some locations, may prevent immediate air evacuation. The pilots and aircraft typically come from Port Moresby and are very experienced, but even they cannot fly in heavy rain or thick fog.
An evacuation is a worst case scenario for all involved and we aim to avoid them.
No Roads helps to avoid evacuations by ensuring you are as prepared as possible, reducing the risk of injury and subsequent evacuation scenarios.
Example of a Real Life Evacuation
Preparing for Transport
Our experienced Expedition Guides will take control during an emergency to ensure first aid and emergency medical assistance is arranged through your insurance company.
Our PNG Guide team are experts at making bush stretchers, just like their relatives during the war.
Camp mattresses are used for padding.
Transport - Over Land
The thick jungle canopy, weather conditions and the rough terrain often require an injured trekker to be moved to a suitable landing zone.
Our Guide team are trained in moving stretchers over rough terrain whilst keeping the injured trekker comfortable.
It is quite amazing watching how skilled the Guide team are at moving the stretcher over such rough terrain.
Transport - Water Crossing
There are main water crossing along the Kokoda Track. They present a difficult challenge for an able bodied person, let alone a team of people carrying a stretcher.
This video highlights the skills of our Guide team crossing a fast flowing creek whilst carrying an injured trekker on a stretcher.
In locations where a light plane cannot land, helicopters are often used, but only when the weather conditions make it safe.
A rescue helicopter will typically need to fly 20-40 mins from Port Moresby Airport to the evacuation point which needs to be a cleared area, flat surface free of loose objects, and in a location with a clear approach angle.
These requirements do limit the locations for landing zones.
Helicopter Flight to Hospital
Once the trekker has been loaded into the helicopter it typically heads back to Port Moresby.
Evacuation Considerations / Procedures
- Evacuations have occurred each year for seriously injured trekkers. No Roads Expeditions has an excellent record for managing evacuations and dealing with the low volume injured trekkers each year - why, check out our Safety page.
- Evacuations for tired or "I have given up" trekkers is extremely rare as they are too expensive because they are typically not covered by your insurance (i.e. $3,000 per hour would be a starting price!!!). Don't even consider this as an option. You will finish!!
- The No Roads Expedition Guide will always have a satellite phone with them to call for help if needed. The first call is to your insurance company to determine if they will evacuate you given your current condition. This cannot be taken for granted. Remember that, with the assistance of a guide, people have been able to continue with sprained ankles and even fractured knees!
- There are well known locations along the Kokoda Track that support the landing of helicopters or fixed wing aircraft. No Roads will always aim to evacuate seriously injured persons from these locations (when possible) and if your insurance company has organised and tasked an aircraft to evacuate you.
- If the injury is not considered worthy of an immediate air evacuation by the insurance company, No Roads may organise for you to be carried (by makeshift stretcher) to the nearest village (forward or backwards along the track) or to an air evacuation point to await further advice from the insurance company.
- Your insurance company always has the final say on your evacuation.
- The type of evacuation aircraft is determined at the time of the emergency by your insurance company and may be either helicopter or fixed wing aircraft (e.g. a small plane). Most evacuations over the years have been by helicopter.
- Emergency first aid will always be applied by the No Roads Expedition Guide when needed at any location. Emergency paramedic services would have to be brought in by helicopter for very serious injuries and this kind of service is not typically available unless your Insurance Company has arrangements in place for this to be available.
- If you are evacuated back to Port Moresby one of the No Roads Expeditions PNG staff will endeavour to remain in contact with you whilst your insurance company deals with the logistics of managing your injuries and hospital stay.
- No Roads Expedition staff in Australia will be notified of your evacuation and the emergency contact number provided on your booking form will be used to notify your emergency contact.
- Always remember that the Kokoda Track is located in very rugged, remote mountain jungle terrain with rain, fog and bad weather a risk at any time. There are no roads, 4WD tracks or quick ways to get help to you unless it arrives by air or walks in.
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