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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 said.

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 Ascot.

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, again)

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.

Ni Jegeg

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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