Eastern Highlands Province (EHP) covers 11,200 square kilometers of rugged mountains, broad valleys and hills in approximately the center of PNG. EHP has on its border Mt Wilhelm, the highest peak in PNG. Rainfall averages 1,500 to 2,000mm p.a. but droughts can occur in the dry months of July and August. Days are warm and nights cool except in the colder high altitudes. Vegetation includes grasslands, rain forest and Castanopsis and Nothofagus forests. Human occupation is densest in the intermontane valleys, where the grasslands have resulted from forest clearance for gardening.
The population increased from 276,700 in 1980 to 299,600 in 1990. Twenty-two languages are spoken. The provincial Constitution, adopted in 1977, provides for a House of Assembly of 27 elected members and two members appointed by the national government. The main diseases, respiratory, intestinal, sexually transmitted diseases and malnutrition, are treated at the hospital in the provincial headquarters at Goroka, or at one of the 30 health centers. EHP has a national high school, eight provincial high schools, a teachers’ college and a technical college. EHP is the most prosperous highlands province, producing 30 percent of PNG’s coffee, the most important cash crop. Vegetables are sent to coastal towns as well as being marketed locally. EHP has a better road system than most provinces and is linked to the coast, at Lae, by the Highlands Highway.
There is evidence of human occupation 18,000 years BP and trade links with the coast 9,000 BP. In the early 1930s, missionaries, gold prospectors and administration officials were the first Europeans to come to the area. Many Eastern Highlanders were recruited to work for the Allied (American and Australian) forces during World War II. In the 1950s Australians established coffee plantations, most of which have passed into PNG ownership.
Things to see
Goroka: Lying at 1600m, this attractive town built around the airport has pleasant temperatures for walking. On Saturdays, the market, across the park on the side of the Highlands Highway, is very colourful and busy as people trade, fruit, vegetables, pigs, feathers, small animals and ferns.
National Performing Arts Troupe: Home to a Goroka-based theatre company, this circular building located in the park opposite the market is the place to see live performances during production.
JK McCarthy Museum: Excellent displays of artefacts, pottery, weapons, war memorabilia and a collection of photos taken when Mick Leahy first came to the area in 1939 make this small museum a must see. It’s located across the airstrip on Morchhauser Street. Open weekdays 8am-12 noon and 1-4 pm; Saturdays 2-4pm; Sundays 10am-12 noon. Admission by donation.
Arts and Crafts: Baskets, Highlands hats, bilums, spears, bows and arrows and necklaces are available from the museum, from the footpath outside, and inside the lobby of the Bird of Paradise Hotel. Other places to look are the Christian Bookshop, the Prison Rehab Shop behind the Police Station and the art department of University of Goroka.
Goroka Show: Each year on Independence Day in mid-September thousands of painted tribe’s people gather to display their traditional cultures at a huge “Sing Sing”. There are ground-shaking dances, bands and other cultural attractions – a sight not to be missed.
Coffee Plantations: Tours of plantations and processing plants are a good way to see some of the outlying villages.
Asaro Mudmen: Villagers once used weird mud masks to scare their enemies and will show these off for visitors.
Famito: This lush valley 10km south of Goroka has a 9-hole golf course, pretty villages, coffee plantations and a go-cart track.
Lufa: A cave near here has interesting cave paintings and the village makes a good base for climbing Mt. Michael (3380m). You will need guides.
Kainantu: Strung along the highway this small town is a key service centre for the local coffee and cattle producers. Located on the Lae side of town, the Eastern Highlands Cultural Centre sells crafts and has a small museum and coffee shop. Open 8am – 4.30pm weekdays; 9am-4pm weekends. The little town of Kainantu is known for the famous pottery art work, along with a worldwide reputation for its remarkable pottery.
Ukurampa: The Summer Institute of Linguistics is based here in the Aiyura Valley, a 30-minute drive from Kainantu. It’s a pleasant place for day walks and the Institute has a guesthouse.
Okapa: Traditional culture can be seen in the nearby Yagusa Valley. In town, Highlands Handicrafts sells bark paintings and crafts typical of the area. The Eastern Highlands Mission has a guesthouse for those wanting to do walks, bird watching, see wildlife or visit villages. Bird of Paradise Hotel has more information, Ph: +675 531 3100 or email:
Things to do
Bird watching/adventure: For a remote experience, visit Crater Mountain Wildlife Management Area to the south of Goroka. The people of Herowana and Ubaigubi villages can act as guides. You can fly to Herowana or reach Ubaigubi by road. Trekking between villages is only for the experienced. Contact the Research and Conservation Foundation of PNG in Goroka, PO Box 1261, Goroka, and Ph: +675 532 3211 /
+675 532 1320 or Email: [email protected] for information.
FYI: PNG’s 4 Regions & 22 Provinces
|Highlands||Eastern Highlands Province||Goroka|
|Western Highlands Province||Mt. Hagen|
|Southern Highlands Province||Mendi|
|Southern||National Capital District||Port Moresby|
|Central Province||Port Moresby|
|Oro (Northern) Province||Popondetta|
|Milne Bay Province||Alotau|
|East Sepik Province||Wewak|
|Sandaun (West Sepik) Province||Vanimo|
|New Guinea Islands||Manus Province||Lorengau|
|New Ireland Province||Kavieng|
|East New Britain Province||Kokopo|
|West New Britain Province||Kimbe|
|Autonomous Region of Bougainville||Buka|