Young Pioneer Tours

Visiting a traditional village in Papua New Guinea

Visiting Papua New Guinea is an amazing thing, but while seeing enactments and festivals is fun enough, nothing quite beats visiting a traditional village in Papua New Guinea. 

To read about the 2022 Mt Hagen festival click here

How do tribes work in Papua New Guinea?

Papua New Guinea is a very strange country in that it is not really a country. The actuality of PNG is that it is made up of thousands of tribes, with over 860 languages and well a people that do not always like each other.

This means in essence that there are a bunch of people who still associate with their tribe rather than the nation of Papua New Guinea – a point reinforced by a Papua New Guinean friend who said to me “We are not really a county, we are different tribes that were told you are Papua New Guinea”. 

I’ll delve into this more later, but 92 percent of PNG are living rurally still, the most in the world, which means a real spectrum of tribes from completely untouched, to ones that 30 years ago were practicing canibalism still. 

What is a traditional village in Papua New Guinea and why visit?

In the interests of this article a traditional village in Papua New Guinea is just that, a village that as much as possible still exists outside of the complete mainstream. Yes they buy stuff, they wear “normal” clothes, but in essence you get a real glimpse into what real life is like in the country.

This is not to downplay the Mount Hagen festival, or shows that have been put on for tourists, but this in our mind is a lot more authentic and dare we say more YPT. Of course we are bias in thinking we run the best tours, but do check when you book a tour to PNG just how much real interaction you are getting. 

Why visit a traditional village village in Papua New Guinea? In our mind at least why not!

Visiting a traditional village in Papua New Guinea – Jiwaka Village

As part of our trip to Papua New Guinea we arranged a trip Jawaka village home to our local partner and the Nokwa Tribe. We won’t go into huge detail about the Nokwa tribe, at least not now, but 30 years ago they were true warriors, something we were to learn as soon as we arrived. 

Our greeting? A war dance by young and old alike, the eldest being the main warrior from back in the day. In his 70’s but fit as a fiddle we asked if he had killed people “Oh yes he killed lots of people back in the day. He would be at the front of the other warriors, but things have changed now” came the reply…..

It really is crazy to think that it was in many of our lifetimes that PNG was pretty much simply untouched. 

Being treated like like royalty…..

Despite the reputation for violence in the country, things really are night and day when you get to the highlands. This is particularly true for village life, where people essentially police themselves.

To read about Mount Hagen click here

We were guests of the tribe, ergo we were safe in their presence. After a bit of a show we were then invited to dress up. This involved face-painting and the like for men, with grass skirts and optional toplessness for the women. Toplessness is a real thing for the tribes of PNG and far from being titivating it really foes to show how prudishness creates an issue where there need not be one.

As for the dressing up itself? No the tribe do not do this everyday, but the Nokia tribe the rituals are still enjoyed for marriages, festivals and of course tourists. Of course it was bit touristy, but real life for tribes or otherwise simply involves getting in with life at the end of the day.

You can see a video f the affair below!

Mumu and hanging out in the village

The most famous and traditional meal to have in PNG is Mumu, which involves the sacrificial killing of a pig, followed by said pig then being cooked underground over stones. Mumu will DEFINITELY get its own article, but lets just say this, while it is delicious the killing of the pigs involves it being clubbed to death, rather than having its throat slit. This is not halal, like at all.

After this we were then treated to a village circle where important people such as myself got up to say thank you for them welcoming us.

So, what is it like visiting a traditional village in Papua New Guinea?

Certainly puts our tour o me at least it was a wonderful experience and one which I feel at least puts our tours above those of our competitors! It also gave a real insight into life in rural Papua New Guinea and the villages of Mount Hagen. 

I had wondered how rural people survived in a country that was so damned expensive, but after talking to them it was explained that aside from soap and oil everything they needed was simply frown in the village, a real look into sustainability and in stark opposition to the mist have culture of the west. This is not to say that things are perfect, they are not, but interesting none the less.

And for that reason this is very much a mainstay of our tours here. Want to join us for our next Papua New Guinea tour? Click here

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