Anthropologists adore Papua New Guinea. Most of this immense country remains blanketed by impenetrable tropical forests while its numerous indigenous tribes pursue rural subsistence lifestyles. Yet, running through much of the country, you find evidence of the Second World War – a conflict that remains exposed like an open wound.
"Two years ago near my village, a B-26 bomber was found in the jungle with six dead American crewman," said Rodrick Vane, my trekking guide. "The airmen were still strapped into the plane and American officials came and took them away for burial more than 60 years after they'd died."
I'd met Rodrick in Popondetta, the northern airport hub of the Kokoda Track – and the beginning of my journey through history. This year marks the 70th anniversary of fighting all along this route between Japanese and Australian soldiers. Having steamrollered through South-east Asia, the Japanese invaded northern Papua New Guinea in July 1942. They set off south along a jungle trail over the Owen Stanley Mountains of Kokoda towards the Australian-held capital, Port Moresby.