Sandakan-Ranau Death March (1942 - 1945)
The Sandakan Track – Best Death March Tour in Borneo

21~26 July 2011 :: PNG Trekking

Left : Pam Christie, Pauline Bastion and Nikki George

Pam Christie from PNG Trekking Adventures made contact early 2011 with Tham from TYK Adventures in Borneo who along with Lynette Silver pioneered this trek. Tham and Lynette have been working on the correct route of this track for the past 20 years and have put hours and hours of their time in to making sure that the route that we were to walk is the correct track.

Unfortunately it has been bought to our attention that there are operators out there not from Borneo claiming that they have discovered areas of “undiscovered track” that the death march took. This is incorrect.

The purpose of us walking this trek was to get a feel of the terrain and for Nikki George our PNG WW11 Historian to learn more about the “Death March” so that in conjunction with Tham and Lynette we could offer this trek to our many Kokoda clients as the next must do WW11 history trek that they have to do.

Nikki is studying the history and the personal stories of the “Death March” so that she can take our trekkers across the track and bring to life the Australian POW struggles and the history in detail to our clients.

PNG Trekking Adventure guides Pauline, Nikki and Pam set out on 22 July to walk the Sandakan –Ranau Death March in North Borneo. Walking approximately 70klms of the 240klm track. Little did we realise at the start of the trek what an emotional journey this was going to be. Trekking through the Borneo jungle, so different to the PNG jungle, on the way learning about the sheer hell that the Australian and British POWs went through as we trekked. The track was at times almost impassable with bamboo clawing at our packs, down on our hands and knees crawling through the jungle mass. Walking along rivers, and the leaches. Leaches were finding their way into undiscovered territory on our bodies. The heat was claustrophobic, we are used to extreme exercise in the tropics, but
this was energy sapping. We had each been given a necklace with a small bell attached to it which had been hand crafted by Thams wife they represented our POW soldier that we were walking for and had to get through to the end. It would tinkle when the trekking got tough and spurred us on.

We had all the gear, we weren’t walking in bare feet and a loin cloth and living off a few grains of rice or putrid food every day. We weren’t being beaten by the Japanese and when we wanted to sit down and rest we knew we didn’t have to say goodbye to our mates, during the march sitting down meant you would be shot by the Japanese. All three of us are passionate about the Kokoda Trail. That campaign which our young Australian diggers fought was beyond what any human being should ever have to experience. But unfortunately here we have yet another horrific, untold story of the Death March which has been a “Conspiracy of Silence” until recent years. This story needs to be told. This trek is the next step that all Australians who have walked with us along the Kokoda Trail should take.

Our trek finished at Ranau the last POW camp along the track. From here we flew to Labuan Island to visit the Commonwealth War Graves Commission War Cemetery where the POW’s are remembered and buried.

All three of us feel extremely privileged that Tham and Lynette have come into our lives. We are going to work with Tham and his great team of guides and staff to bring more trekkers to Borneo and walk this track.

TYK Adventures and PNG Trekking are like minded companies. We both put the people first of our respective countries. Thams ongoing support and training of his team in trying to set up sustainable
echo tourism in their villages is impressive. As he says he will not be here forever so he has to leave a legacy of sustainable products for his team to carry on with. Which is exactly what PNG Trekking
Adventures is trying to achieve in Papua New Guinea.

Thank you Tham and your team for going over and beyond to make our trek, our climb of Mt Kinabalu and our visit to the War Cemetery on Labaun Island so professional and personal.

Nikki, Pauline and myself look forward to helping you promote the Sandakan Death March and all of what Borneo has to offer.

PNG Trekking Adventures

  • P.O Box 91, Gordons, NCD, Papua New Guinea.
  • Telephone : +675 325 1284
  • Facsimilie : +675 323 0984
  • Mobile : +675 7686 6171

Within Australia:

Mon, Sep 5, 2011

Hi Lynette,

Just a note to tell you how much I enjoyed reading “Sandakan A Conspiracy of Silence”. I started it before we left but didn’t get so much opportunity to read it in Borneo other than to use the tables as reference however I couldn’t put it down once I got on the plane to head home.

I am so glad I waited for first hand experience before reading it as I was able to become so much a part of the whole book. I felt every step, saw every face and cried many many tears. Despite being a very factual book it had so much soul. I mourned the finish of it and so wanted just to reach out and save those dear brave soldiers. History is history but I so would have liked a better ending.

I am very much looking forward to Blood Brothers. I have two copies here ready for Xmas presents to my sister and an Australian friend which I am tempted to start reading. Pam has my copy which she will bring to me later this month so will hold off.

We had a wonderful trip to Borneo, Sabah is such a very beautiful part of the world which I hope to get back to as a tourist spending time visiting Eco lodges and Orangutans etc.

Tham and his crew were such superb and generous hosts. Catherine, Mickey and Jimmie were just great. So knowledgeable and helpful we could not have been better looked after.

We have a couple of show and tell evenings coming up over the next couple of months which include promotions for Borneo 2012. Nikki is very excited about future adventures there and was so passionate about the history. She will do her part very well in accordance with the guidelines and tracks laid down by Tham and yourself.

Thank you both so much for taking the many years to bring this forgotten part of history into our lives. I have been deeply moved and very saddened by the efforts of those tremendously brave men. My father and grand-father were both WW1 and WW11 vets and I thank god they came home.