An Australian volunteer who was doing whatever volunteers do in PNG.
I was there for 2 years until Dec 2005 .. I hope I made the most of it.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

The Pukpuk Races

One of the best fundraising events I have been to and certainly one of the most unique. Saturday night was spent at the Madang Country Club for the Pukpuk Races.

To get up to speed pukpuk is the pidgin word for crocodile. But to make sure people didn't stay away, no real crocs were ever used for the races. Instead they ingeniously had craved wooden pukpuks that were attached to fishing line and a reel spindle contraption at the end of the lanes. Jockeys volunteered or were drafted to wind in the pukpuks.

Pukpuks at the starting line

Winding them in

The real fun was on the betting. You purchased a form guide for 10 Kina and with that you got 100 "Madang Dollars" for betting. A bookmaker set odds for the different pukpuks, ranging from 4 to 1 to 20 to 1. No idea how the bookmaker set the odds as they were usually set before the jockeys even turned up.

Each pukpuk was given a name in the form guide and showed the organisation that sponsored it for the 9 different races. The names were cleverly made up, with things like Deliverance or Satisfaction (I wish I had kept my form guide now as the whole thing was very cleverly written).

My luck in the betting was not particularly successful. I started by just going by the name and realised that this was stupid as I lost my Madang Dollars. Then I waited until I saw the jockeys and picked a big guy. This was not successful either. I quickly reduced my 100 MD to nothing after 3 races.

Others had much better luck and managed to do quite well after a few races and a few wins. And then there were others who found the loophole and rigged the system by just spread betting on all the jockeys. This seemed to be the most successful method and by the end of the 9 (+ one for a female only race) some of the VSO volunteers had turned their 100 MD in 33,000.

The best part of the night was after the races though. With all the MD you win you are then expected to use that money to bid on wrapped up boxes with gifts inside. The gifts can be anything, but are all items that are donated by a particular sponsor. A box donated by RD Tuna Cannery is not hard to work out exactly what that will be.

It didn't stop the fun in bidding though. When you have 33,000 worthless Madang Dollars why not just have some fun and go to town on anything. My mates from VSO were doing exactly this and had a lot of fun and made it fun for the rest of us.

Four thousand thanks

Great, a twelve pack of Globe Honey Chicken for only 9,500

The whole event was a great night and great idea. Pity it was so hot though. After I went and jockeyed - managing a close second - I felt like I was going to pass out. There was no breeze and I had sweat dripping off me. Sitting outside with a cold beer seemed to help.