Located in the wide expanse of the Wahgi Valley, Mt. Hagen is
the provincial capital for the Western Highlands. Convenient air
service from all corners of Papua New Guinea make it the gateway to
the Highlands. Mt. Hagen was the first Highlands settlement to have
contact with Westerners in the 1930s and has since grown into an
important coffee and tea producing area.
The Mt. Hagen produce market is one of the biggest in Papua New
Guinea. It is a crowded, colorful meeting place which attracts
people from all over the province. It is not unusual to see locals
in traditional dress. Excursions to the traditional Chimbu Players
and the Asaro Mudmen villages during your tour of Papua New Guinea
can be arranged from Mt. Hagen. These wildly exotic tribes are but
two of hundreds of distinct tribes that inhabit PNG, each with
their own distinct language, unintelligible to tribes that may lie
a mere valley away. This is what makes Papua New Guinea so unusual
in the world: nowhere else is ther such a density of unique, small
tribal bands living so closely to each other.
You may choose to visit Mt. Hagen during the annual August
Highlands Cultural Show, also known as the Mt. Hagen Sing-Sing.
Sing-sings are where different and often antagonistic
tribes come together to sing and dance in their distinct, elaborate
traditional costumes, and compete for prestige against other
tribes. Participants take exceptional pride in representing their
tribe's unique garb and rituals. A sing-sing is an unparalled
pageant, a psychedelic smorgasbord of ritualized ancient theater
paraded to vocal accompaniment. The chanting of each tribe is
alternately haunting, happy or warlike, and ranges from dizzying
whoops to subtle, wind-like murmurs. Far from being a staged event
for tourists, sing-sing competitions have a long tradition, and
jealous losers have in the past been known to wage actual war on
the winning tribe. Accommodations fill up quickly, so if you wish
to attend the show, please book your Papua New Guinea travel about
one year in advance.