Please Take A Picture!!

Trip Start Aug 06, 2011
Trip End Oct 06, 2013

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Flag of Papua New Guinea  , Western Highlands,
Friday, August 12, 2011

From the minute we entered the festival grounds we knew we were in for something special and it just kept getting better from there. We went early so we could wander around the outside of the show grounds and watch the various participating tribes getting ready.

It's hard if not impossible to describe what we were seeing, hearing, smelling. An explosion of colour (can colours explode?) was made that much more exciting by the various tribes practicing both dances and songs with an energy that, at times, seemed to shake the ground. At times aggressive and at other times offered up shyly, the hospitality of the various participants was warm and authentic. Every time we turned around there was an amazing site that was pulling my camera like some sort of digital magnet- we had recently spent time in Morocco where most of the people made it very clear they didn't want any part of my photographic history so it was pure joy to be at the other end of the scale where people were noticeably upset if you didn't think them worthy of a photo. I'm sure this won't last as too many of my fellow travelers on photo tours with multiple cameras slung around their neck were busy physically posing the dancers to capture the best light and background. This type of behaviour is part of what turns PNG into Morocco and I wish there was a greater recognition of this. Enjoy but respect.

The surprise add-on day to celebrate an anniversary was apparently such a surprise that no one was told about it, and if they were 20 people in attendance I'd be shocked. On Saturday maybe 200 people showed up, and on Sunday the attendance dropped back down again. Both DH and myself ranked this festival as the best we had ever seen and it ranks as one of our best experiences ever- it's the type of event that would draw thousands if it were held anywhere else- I don't know how PNG engineers a fix to this problem but I feel quite fortunate to have witnessed it in such intimate surroundings.

The main event of each day was held in a central field and was to some degree competitive but for the most part was simply a chaotic collection of marching, singing, dancing, and showing off. Great visuals. Fabulous sounds. Good all around fun. Unbelievable and highly recommended.

So is PNG as dangerous as it is made out to be in the various government advisory sheets? I'm not sure I can give an accurate response yet.

The Poroman Hotel was certainly a fortified encampment as were most other accommodations in the area. We spent one afternoon strolling through the town itself and we were certainly the centre of attention but I think most of it was curiosity and nothing negative- the majority of packaged tour types were kept holed up in the hotels and as a result I think we were something of an oddity.  The town offered nothing in the way of significant sites and did look to be on the wrong end of a pretty severe beating- many of the windows were boarded up and where there were still windows, they were universally protected by a heavy iron mesh. Many of the cars and trucks also had their  windshields covered in security mesh and no one appeared to leave a vehicle unattended. Every store, office, and bank was also protected by multiple security guards and dogs. 

We wandered from one end of town to the other and the only difficulty we ran into was one of pace- after one of the locals asked to have his picture taken and laughed hysterically when viewing himself in the display, it became something of a free-for-all with everyone insisting on photos. As a result it took quite a while to make our way back to the hotel. Good fun but there was obviously substance to the security concerns expressed by even the locals. The hotel would not allow us out after dark, and when we expressed interest in watching a rugby game which followed the festival on Sunday, we were dissuaded when the hotel manager indicated that they would not send a car for us and would not allow any of their security staff to attend the game with us. His only advice- "Hire two very large men and leave your wife at the hotel".

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May on

Can't wait to see the pix!

May on

Really gr8 pix, Vic!

Marlene on

It's almost like being there !!

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