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7 November 2014 / leggypeggy

Let’s check out Goroka town—without the tear gas

Goroka shop

A general store—see the coffins outside on the left

Goroka Market

A roadside market near the National Sports Institute

You might remember that the Goroka Show finished with a bang—literally. The cops fired off tear gas canisters to calm down the crowd outside the showground, then a stiff wind carried the gas back across the show-goers.

But burning eyes and news of an unruly crowd weren’t enough to keep us from venturing into town again.

Goroka street

The institute’s van ventures into the crowd

As capital of Papua New Guinea’s eastern highlands, Goroka has about 19,000 residents. Numbers swell dramatically during the show weekend. Unfortunately so do tempers, rambunctiousness, drunkenness and other behaviours that can bring out the worst in people.

The community tries hard to limit problems. All the bottle shops (liquor stores) closed at noon on the day before the main show started. And there was a large police presence around town.

The National Sports Institute, which is where we stayed and which is next to the showground, provides an on-demand van service to take visitors to town for shopping, sightseeing or meals.

Bilums, Goroka

A fence makes a good display surface for bilums (woven bags)

While we often took the van, a group of us did walk to the town centre in daylight hours and no one hassled us. Instead there were hellos, smiles and chats with a few locals. It was different at night and we always took the van then.

The focus on security is quite disarming. One night we decided to go to the Mandarin Chinese Restaurant. The van dropped us across the street, at the entrance to the Bird of Paradise Hotel. We started to cross, but the hotel’s security guard insisted on escorting us across the street.

When the van returned to pick us up, the restaurant’s security guard insisted on doing the same in reverse.

Likewise, the guards at the National Sports Institute would escort you to the museum down the road, or flatly refuse to let you (especially women) out the gate.

I read that an Australian news reporter was pick-pocketed, but am not aware of any other offences in Goroka.

The pictures here give you an idea of how the town looks on an event-filled and busy weekend, although some pics are from the Monday.

Goroka's market

Shoppers gather in Goroka’s main market


Leave a Comment
  1. David / Nov 7 2014 7:37 am

    Very nice, Peggy! LOVE the toe-pincher caskets outside the general store! Makes me wonder if in the wild west of the U.S. they displayed them in any similar way. You certainly don’t see them featured in any western films unless of course a dead cowboy is inside! Ha! Additionally these toe-pincher style caskets are painted quite lively colors which make them even more curious. Any knowledge as to why the lively colors or symbolism of each color/design?

    Gee, I sure hope I haven’t marred your wonderful blog by focusing on the toe-pinchers!


    • leggypeggy / Nov 7 2014 8:02 am

      In addition to the colours and super slim shape, I love the air vents up around the head. No idea about any symbolism, but it was not the only time in PNG that I saw coffins on display.


  2. skippersy / Nov 8 2014 11:34 am

    Aside- Where is PNG…
    If anyone has “Google Earth” you might want to do a search and see where Papua New Guinea is (north of Australia) and Goroka (Eastern Highlands in PNG). And do a second search for the Marshall Islands and see many very small Islands and some even have air fields (zoom in to see details). I wonder what the local people look like, how they can survive in such a basic environment… with limited medical capabilities (hospital, doctors), typhoons, no TV/Cable, Internet.. just radio transmissions… basic foods and no diversity of produce… electricity, drinking water, etc.

    Sy S.


    • leggypeggy / Nov 10 2014 5:29 pm

      You’re right Sy. Papua New Guinea (or PNG as most Australians refer to it) is our nearest neighbour. I can’t say anything about the physical appearance of Marshall Islanders, but you’ll be seeing lots more of Papua New Guineans. And hearing about their lifestyle.


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