The PNG Chronicles: How to Butcher a Pig, or Things You Won’t Find on Lifehacker

We left Sebigo for the village of Yomeng the next day. I finally relinquished my last shred of misguided dignity and sheepishly asked my cousin Gesong to carry the Backpack of Doom. He made a big song and dance about it and muttered a lot of what I suspect were disparaging remarks in pidgin, but he gave in eventually. My people aren’t big on sympathy – in fact my physical misery was a constant source of amusement, and for the remainder of the trip the family joke was “Lala emba karai ya! [The white girl’s crying!]” Now I know why I’m grateful I never grew up with brothers and sisters.

My recollection of the walk is pretty fuzzy because I was thoroughly sick and miserable by then, but it was about five hours through thick rainforest and yet more savage slopes. I learnt to stare at my feet and under no circumstances look up to see how much farther the path ascended. Mum was just as exhausted as me by then, but she made a gallant effort to keep me encouraged while I regularly threatened to violently suicide on the spot. She’s good like that.

On the final leg, we stopped at the Masaweng river for a bathe. I’m glad my Mum and cousin took some photos at this point, because I really don’t remember it being this beautiful. I didn’t even go in the water; I just sat there glaring at it with a kind of dull, deranged hostility.

Let's fly Jetstar! (sorry, only the Aussies will get that...)

Let’s fly Jetstar! (sorry, only the Aussies will get that…)

Ada doing her Brooke Shields impression.

Ada doing her Brooke Shields impression.

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In Yomeng, we stayed in an amazing double storey, bush materials contraption built by yet another relative. On arrival I immediately shook out my sleeping bag, crawled into it like an angry caterpillar and passed out, and in doing so missed out on the pig slaughter.

I feel terribly hypocritical. The whole time I was in PNG, I really struggled to eat meat that I knew had been trotting around merrily just hours before – whereas here in Melbourne I’ll order a Big Mac without the tiniest pang of guilt. It’s this bizarre cognitive dissonance that’s been bugging me ever since I got back to the real world, and I’ve been alternately rationalising and moralising with myself for a solid five months now. It broke my heart spending time with the animals over there, knowing what their eventual fate would be – on the other hand, our approach to animal husbandry in the western world is absolutely heinous. The obvious answer to my moral dilemma is to embrace vegetarianism, but I don’t think I’m quite ready for it yet. I need a little more bacon first.

Anyway, the people of Yomeng generously killed a pig in honour of our visit. Apparently my delightful cousins thought it would be hilarious to come into the hut and wake me up with the head of the carcass…fortunately my American cousin Nicole vetoed the notion, and for that I’ll be forever in her debt.

Warning: following are graphic photos of a pig being butchered and cleaned. I’m terribly sorry if I offend anyone but I’m not sure how to hide them, so if you’re sensitive to these things then please scroll past really quickly and think about kittens.

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Start of gore:

Burning off the bristles. Different to Pindiu, where a handful of kids shave them off with machetes and knives.

Burning off the bristles. Different to Pindiu, where a handful of kids shave them off with machetes and knives.

The carcass after the bristles have been singed off.

The carcass after the bristles have been singed off.

Carving up the carcass with an axe. I wouldn't go to these guys for brain surgery.

Carving up the carcass with an axe. I wouldn’t go to these guys for brain surgery.

The fellas looking accomplished.

The fellas looking accomplished.

This is what my loving cousins were going to assault me with. That's Gesong on the right looking devious.

This is what my loving cousins were going to assault me with. That’s Gesong on the right looking devious.

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End of gore.

The next morning I treated myself to my first wash in a couple of days, fully clothed under the tap in the middle of the village. We had quite an audience, so I defiantly soaped my chest and nether regions with as much exaggerated vigour as I could muster while Mum looked on with a mixture of horror and amusement. I didn’t care; I was seriously over communal living at that point. Happily, it was our last day of the Self-Guided Walking Tour from Hell, and we were due back home in Pindiu by the end of the day.

The uncles having a pow-wow in Yomeng, while the pikininis do their naked thang.

The uncles having a pow-wow in Yomeng, while the pikininis do their naked thang.

Horrible, horrible mountains.

Horrible, horrible mountains.

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10 thoughts on “The PNG Chronicles: How to Butcher a Pig, or Things You Won’t Find on Lifehacker

    • It was pretty dry actually. And they don’t have seasonings like salt and pepper, so it wasn’t exactly a fine dining experience. Bloody hell,I needed the protein though! 🙂

      • Holy shit. I am sure you did need the protein. That grueling march sounds just awful.
        I’m glad you are safe at home with all the animals and amenities! I think I’ll have an extra glass of wine to celebrate your survival.

  1. I had the “pleasure” of watching some guys in f-a-r southern Mexico butcher a pig once … including watching the worms crawl around in the muscle tissue – the worms that cause trichinosis. Fun times! I just made sure the meat was thoroughly cooked (and, hell, it was practically burnt so no problems there!) and have survived 30+ years since then. But, I’m really just saying all this to let you know that you really didn’t miss out by not seeing ‘the show.’

    Oh, and we got to eat with the pig’s head hanging over the table … Didn’t bother me, but one of the female members of our group had a hard time with that. I gallantly traded seats with her, then told her the pig was winking at her.

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