This delightful track is located right on the Melbourne fringe near Upper Ferntree Gully Railway Station. For people of my era it is a ‘walk into history’ as so many of our close relatives (fathers, uncles, etc) were involved in this heroic struggle, either in New Guinea (or WW2 in general) in one way or another.
The Japanese onslaught on Australia included the bombing of Darwin and Broome and attacks in many other places in Australia – famously in Sydney Harbour, but less well-known was an assault by a plane flown off a submarine in Bass Strait on the Yallourn Power Station here in the Latrobe Valley, the plane being shot down and crashing in the bush not five kilometers from our house!
The Japanese invasion came within about 20 kms of Port Moresby, so Australia was in imminent danger of invasion and was successfully repulsed by the sacrifice of our Kokoda heroes. Their campaign and the related battle at Milne Bay was the first time the Imperial Japanese Forces had ever been defeated, so it was crucial and pivotal to the Allies winning against the encroachments of the Axis.
You can spend a couple of delightful hours exploring this lovely spot, and soaking up some of the history which ought never to be forgotten. Much of it is intelligently displayed in monuments, billboards and brass informational plaques, so it it readily accessible.
The entrance: the lush Dandenong Ranges area is Melbourne’s best kept secret. Often the Mountain Ash forest has been replaced (as here) with beautiful introduced trees.
A spectacular information board area is worth an hour of closer study. Here you will learn eg about Kingsbury VC who charged the Japanese with a Bren machine gun under his arm, killing many of them – until he himself was killed.
I was particularly impressed by this photo of the Highlanders (the so-called ‘Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels’) carrying a wounded ‘digger’ (who has clearly lost a leg – his composure in that circumstance is astonishing!). I was impressed by the elegance of the improvised litter: It would not have occurred to me that the weight of the patient on the ends of the blanket would be enough to secure it in place, as it is clearly doing.
You follow a winding path and are plunged immediately into the forest primeval.
Some very big timber still exists – this is a giant mountain ash. The largest of these were the largest trees which have ever existed on earth.
You pass the remnants of some of these giants which have fallen amongst the ferns.
The track follows a fern gully up the hill. The stream tinkles away only a few metres from the path.
The path is also called ‘the 1,000 steps’ though I did not count them. Along the way, approximating major points of ‘interest’ on the real Kokoda track there are brass plaques explaining what occurred at each point. My uncle, Basil Jones fought in the New Guinea campaign, so I found these plaques very poignant.
Here is the last one when you reach the Kokoda Village.
A statue and Honour Board to the fallen serve as a permanent reminder of what we owe to these brave soldiers and New Guineans.