With a history of gold mines and coffee plantations, Eastern Highlands has had more exposure to European influence than any other Highlands provinces. It has a history full of colourful characters- miners, missionaries, patrol officers, plantation owners. Traditional dress is seldom worn this days, although the Highlanders still live in village of neat clusters of low walled round huts built amongst the rolling kunai-grass covered hills.
Goroka, a small outpost station in the 1950's has developed into an attractive, well organised town with modern facilities and relaxed atmosphere. It is a major Highlands commercial centre of 25,000 people at an altitude of 1600 metres. It has a climate of perpetual spring.
Today Goroka has become known for its annual show, held every September. It is a marvellous opportunity to gain an overview of PNG cultural diversity. The shows were first held in the 50's as a means of gathering together the different tribes and clans. At times there could be more than 40,000 painted warriors dancing to the beat of the Kundu drums. The scenario was an amazing success and grew from its original concept of a local get- together into a major tourist attraction.
Amongst the performers are the legendary mud men of Asaro. Tribal folklore records that centuries ago the warriors of Asaro were defeated in a tribal fight "payback" raid, and, to make themselves look fierce in the process, covered their bodies with grey mud. According to legend, the ruse worked. Their enemies fled at the sight of these ghostly apparitions. The mud men recreated the drama at the Goroka show and for hotel tour groups.
The Raun Raun Theatre Company, based in Goroka is a highly acclaimed performing group which tours both nationally and internationally.
The J.K. McCarthy Museum in Goroka is named after one of Papua New Guinea's legendary patrol officers. It is second only to the National Museum in Port Moresby and exhibit a wide variety of artefacts, handicrafts, war relics and a collection of photographs which portray early contact with Europeans and Highlanders.
From the Post Office the street leads to a track that climbs to Mt. Kiss Kiss lookout. A long steep walk ends with a magnificent vista across the valley. More serious trekking can be found south of Goroka at Lufa, the base of Mt. Michael. There is a cave nearby with some interesting prehistoric paintings.
From Goroka on the road to Kainantu is the village of Bena Bena, a centre for weaving. The men operate the hand looms, weaving pleasantly coarse rugs, bedspread and place mats.
Eleven km's out of town by four wheel drive is the Mt. Gahavisuka Provincial Park. This is an area of around 80 hectares set in beautiful mountain scenery. The park includes a botanical sanctuary, where exotic from all over PNG have been added to the local, natural orchids and rhododendrons. There are clearly marked walk tracks and a lookout at 2450 metres with panoramic views.
Hotels can arrange day tours to any of the attractions near Goroka including visits to working coffee plantations, processing plants and the Kotuni trout farm.
How to get there
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