When nature calls

Trip Start Feb 21, 2012
1
34
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Trip End Sep 20, 2012


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Flag of Malaysia  , Sarawak,
Friday, June 29, 2012

According to the Lonely Planet it is a crime to come to Sarawak, Borneo, and not visit the old tribes in the jungle. We didn't want to misbehave so we booked our 2 days-1 night with the Iban tribe and had one of our biggest adventures in Borneo.
After a four hour journey our guide dropped us off at a river in the jungle where an old, rustic longboat was waiting for us. The water in the river was very low which caused our boat to scrape across the river floor at every narrowing until we got stuck. We were only four people in the boat, the boatsman, his wife, Jack and I, but we were too heavy for the boat to carry us over the shallow parts. So we all had to get off the boat and push. Standing in the river, pushing the boat with bare feed was quiet a challenge, it was slippy and the pointy stones pushed into our feed. Anyway, all of that was enjoyable enough until about 10 metres away from us something stormed out of the water and onto the shore. I gasped and turned around to see the boatman's happy face "Crocodile, haha." Haha? I didn't really find that funny at all. Fair enough it was only a small baby croc, but where there is a baby there is also a big mummy somewhere. 
For the rest of the boatride I prayed that the boat wouldn't get stuck anymore and that we didn't have to jump off again. Obviously that was not the case. But we survived without spotting any more of the huge reptiles.

After an hour we arrived at the longhouse where our guide was waiting for us. He had taken the van up to the tribe because our boat could not have taken any more weight. He told us that crocodiles loved that river but that they are not aggressive. That didn't make me feel much better about it though. Aggressive or not, I'd rather not meet a crocodile in the wild.

We were taken to the guesthouse where I suffered the second shock of the day. The "guesthouse" was nothing more than a long corridor, similar to a horse stable, with thin wooden walls separating the boxes to sleep. That would have been fine so far but the house was not completely closed, between the walls and the roof was a huge gap, to let enough air in I guess. That also would have been fine if it wasn't for the guide telling us about the cobras and poisonous spiders in the jungle, right on our doorstep. "No worries, the local people always clean out the house and they only find small snakes inside, nothing big." How reassuring. That night I slept about two hours.

I was a little disappointed that we only got to spend little time with the tribe people. Our guide showed and explained the longhouse to us and in the evening the local people entertained us with traditional dance. Then they disappeared. I had hoped for some more socialising but instead we had to empty two bottles of rice wine with our guide. Although that still didn't help me get to sleep, unfortunately rice wine only has 5% alcohol.

After a long, sleepless night our guide took us into the jungle, showed us an old cemetry, animal traps and the different trees and flowers that the tribe uses in their everyday life. At least now, if we ever get stuck in the jungle, we know which plant to use to wash our hair and which one to eat when we have high blood pressure or headaches. 
 
The chief of the tribe brought out his blowpipe and let us shoot some arrows (I did much better than Jack). The tribe still hunts in the jungle for monkeys and pythons to eat. On the one hand they live like they had done before colonian times, they hunt, they collect, they produce. On the other hand they are enjoying the pleasures of the 21st century, drive cars and watch satelite TV. As their traditional festival entertainment they gamble on cock fights, of which we also got a little demonstration. It only lasted a minute, there were no razor blades included so no one got hurt!

After that it was time for us to get back on the boat in the crocodile river. Luckily it had rained at night and the water level was high enough that we did not have to get off and push.

xxx

 

 

 
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Comments

Claire on

Everyone I know who's been loved borneo. Seems like I def have to do a little trip some time :)
Gla you guys are enjoying yoirselves. Can't wait to see you again. X

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