Backpack , cheap place to stay, basic food and no guide during the show while sitting behind the fence with hundreds of locals. Yes , we tried to go basic and broke to Mt Hagen Show.
My Hagen show is a unique experience that seem to bring more than 100 tribes together . At least that is what most journalists say online.
We felt it might have been 100 or maybe less- it was difficult to make sense . Well it was our fault as we didnt get a ticket at the start and basically did not pre- learn anything . Just rocked up at entrance of the show and wondered around and took photos of people getting ready .
Groups of men and ladies all covered in shells, feathers, leaves and what not . People of all ages were gathered outside chilling in the field and painting their faces. They were friendly. Some waving, smiling , shaking hands or offering to paint our faces.
Tourist were no strangers to them .
We did witness traditional costumes ,unique face paintings , but most imporntly we witnessed life before “ show starts” . I felt this was the most precious part. As far as I understand – other areas where cultural shows in PNG are held – you can not witness people getting ready , MT Hagen is exception . Here you are welcome to wonder trough the field.
You can see people sit with tiny mirrors on the ground and paint lines on their faces, care for each other by adjusting feathers to hair peaces, you can feel the excitement in the air. Everyone seem to be moving .They are ready to in the arena and show off .
Get a guide that knows all about tribes and gonna keep you safe !!
To my surprise we also witnessed crowds of locals outside cage that was all around main arena . The same us tourist they gathered to see Famous Mt hagen show too.. First it was just few hundred, but over day crowds grown to thousands of people from local villages.
And quite a few foreigners inside the cage allowed to wonder in between the tribes . If you wonder what the tourist pass pays for- well this is it . You can walk inside the cage in between tribes and get close up shots of them- i would call it a photographer pass in a way . It felt that tribes just kept walking around over and over again until their round was over and they left.
I strongly felt that explanation about tribes on some sort of loud speaker would have made so much more sense. As we didnt knew what we were looking at . We didnt know where did the tribes come from . Where they even tribes? Clans? What is the difference? We looked online in the evening , but didn't find as detailed information that seemed legit. I felt outside before tribes enter arena was the best part to be at . There you could ask questions . Learn about tribes direct . No one was in the rush. People were just chilling out. The moment everyone walked in arena it was all “ game on “
Second day we came back bright and early , but to our surprise there was no difference in the show. It was the same tribes walking around in circles.
MT Hagen show is said to have started in 1961 before PNG independence . It was started to unite the tribes in the region .Show is staged next to the Kagamuga showgrounds that are located right next to the airport .
Over all I enjoyed show and feel grateful too have had a chance in my lifetime to see it. It was magical no doubt . But I feel tourist who travel once a year maybe should be prepared better than we did.
- Buy ticket in advance . We didn't and after had a problem to get one
- Stay nearby showground in a small place , so when show is done you don't have to wait long for drivers before getting back as walking around by yourself is not an option
- Get a guide that knows all about tribes and gonna keep you safe !!
- Keep your belonging in bag. One tourist we met had phone stolen right next to car on the way of stepping in the car
- Accept things to be late and random . PNG time.
- Take little cash( small notes like 2 Kina and 5 Kina with you to buy arts and crafts sold on site
- But when buying arts and crafts remember that most countries have certain policies on bringing organic things in
- Get wet tissues to clean hands and maybe for bathroom . Some bathrooms on site were bad . But wet wipes fixes all problems
- Afternoons can get messy when gates are open to mass tribes can leave, but sometimes fight break out, so stay near police / tourist area instead of wondering around.
Here info on our cheap airport motel we used and a coffee place that saved us ! Read here
Papua New Guinea