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The Perancak Cup 1992
by Ni Jegeg
The 1996 Perancak Cup will be held on Thursday 19th September.
The Perancak Cup is one of three special race meetings held every
year in Jembrana, the most western region of Bali. .
Dawn broke over the hazy town and light streaked under the low
clouds. It was the twenty fourth day of September, in the year of
our Lord, 1992. Would it rain for the Cup? Singing birds in cages
began to greet the dawn, vying with each other for a beauty and
purity of note which gave an especially musical awakening to this
dawn. Light triumphed, and the day revealed the many people who
had gathered in this place the Cup meeting.
From everywhere they seemed to have concentrated on reaching this
point. All kinds of vehicles were to be seen. Parked near one
room was a shining new Harley Davidson motorcycle.
Breakfast, and the hubbub of the getting-ready time, and then we
set off for the track. Narrow roads wound through small villages
as we began to wonder how far we had to travel before arriving.
Suddenly small one meter high bamboo penjors lined the road and
the traffic police directed us into fields which seemed to be
growing cars and buses. From here on in, we walked to watch the
races. Excitement mounted as we approached the racing track.
Crowds were gathering around the starting line and the air was
festive. Clowns entertained the waiting throng and the beer
flowed freely in the stands. In the middle of the grounds stood
an open topped bus with several commentators entrenched.
Microphones seemed to be attached to nowhere but the sound was
loud and clear.
The commentary was bi-lingual. An Indonesian announcer began with
the Indonesian microphone style and with a sense of certain
achievement. He was followed by a rather tall Australian in an
Akubra cowboy hat, who informed the folks that today's racing,
which would begin any time now would feature two hundred and
sixty seven pairs of racing buffalo, the greatest spectacle of
its kind which had ever been held anywhere in the world, ... and
what a privilege it was folks, for us to be here to witness this
spectacle. It was bi-lingual time. The Indonesian announcer
brought a lightness of touch and a melodious sound to the
microphone but half the audience didn't understand a word he
The Aussie was back. Each beast weighs at least 200 kgs, and when
they thunder down the track pulling a cart with a charioteer of
old aboard, it is wise to stand back. They have been clocked at
speeds of up to 60 miles an hour. Yes folks, that's four hundred
kilos of buffalo flesh. How would that taste on your barbie?
We would never find out. The refreshments were Balinese and the
beer was good. They're away! ... and the first pair is off
followed immediately by the second pair. the gamelans sound their
bamboo music and the crowd shouts with excitement. The
loudspeaker explains that these are only the warm-up races.
They weren't really races at all. The animals didn't race against
each other but belonged to two camps which came from different
sides of the river. It was the two camps which competed for
points. One side carried a yellow flag and the other green.
Perhaps the animals weren't listening to the bi-lingual
commentary. They certainly seemed to think they were racing
against each other. The jockeys stood behind in their carts and
cracked the whip with the ease and expertise of their brothers at
The circuit was about two kilometres in length and featured names
for the corners and straits which were very easily pronounced by
the Aussie commentator who seemed as though he may have at last
been able to realise a long held ambition to become a race
caller. "Bring us another bourbon, Ketut!" he would call whenever
there was a lull in the activity.
The Perancak Cup is one of three special race meeting held every
year in Jembrana, the most western region of Bali. The buffalo
racing is known locally as Mekepung. The beasts which race are
not your regular working buffalo but are specially trained,
groomed and loved, as race-horses are in the west.
The commentators pointed out that many of the prevalent diseases
of cattle in the area had been eliminated through studying the
effects on these animals and through the careful breeding
programmes necessary to maintain the blood lines.
The pamphlet which was handed to the visitors explained the
history of the event in the following words, "nobody knows when
the buffalo races first began". While this might be the case, the
Perancak Cup is certainly an unusual event. Those lucky enough to
attend might think that they have suddenly stumbled upon the
equivalent of a picnic race meeting in the west. (in the west,
Two hundred and sixty seven pairs of buffalo is a lot of bull. It
took a while before the warm-up laps were over and the real thing
began in earnest. The announcers in the bus were a little hoarse
with excitement a the lat of the buffaloes passed the finish line
and one of the teams won. We never did find out which one it was,
nor did it seem to matter. The important thing was, the way that
day passed. It was a fun time for all and even the buffaloes seem
to enjoy it. They had been waiting a long time for the
opportunity to compete.
There probably is no other race meeting in the world which quite
compares with the Perancak Cup.
This article first appeared in The Archipelago Vol.1, No.12
Editor's Note: The 1996 Perancak Cup will be held on Thursday 19th September. Book your place now with: Bali World Travel.
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