Saturday, February 11, 2012

Gumi Races

Race Day - Local children with gumis
Photo: Roger Smith
For the uninitiated a 'gumi' refers to an inflated car or truck inner tube.  These were are are still used as a  flotation device to cross rivers in PNG and also for one of the more famous/infamous annual events in Goroka.  It should not be confused with a Japanese candy of a similar name.

'Gumiing' was the local verb for floating down the river on anything inflatable, be it an inner tube, raft or air matress

The Annual Gumi race took place on the Asaro River, the main water concourse in the Eastern Highlands.  It is a highlight of  a weekend of fun and revelry initiated and largely supported by the Hash House Harriers.  not only was their a race but it was beholden on the participants to dress up in the most garish costumes possible. There were single gumis, groups gumi rafts and the occasional local who joined in the fun.

It should also be noted that the Asaro is not by nature a peaceful river and can turn into a raging torrent after a good tropical downpour.  The rapids therefore provided a good deal of fun for the spectators and engendered an element of trepidation in the participants.

Riding The Rapids - Asaro River
Photo: Roger Smith
Many ensured they were suitably 'fortified' for the event' by strapping a large 'esky' (polystyrene chilly bin) full of 'stubbies' (beer) on to their rafts so they could quaff en route.

Pacific Helicopters were based in Goroka and I undertook a photographic assignment of the Gumi Race, strapped in and leaning over the skid of the chopper as the tubes careened down the river. The photos were used for Air Niugini's in-flight magazine - Paradise and if I recall correctly by Pacific Helicopters themselves?

The Single Gumi
Photo: Roger Smith
Post race the Harriers, other entrants and hangers-on partied at the Lantern Lodge where I played the electronic organ as background music from time to time.

The outer casing of old tires was also put to good use and it was common to see local children running them down the road as toys, with a couple of sticks inserted into the casing from either side(below)

Source: Brian - Papua New Guinea Photos 1972

Papua New Guinea Photos 1972
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