Crazy Borneo Man

Trip Start Feb 23, 2006
1
134
168
Trip End Jun 24, 2009


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Where I stayed
Belaga Hotel

Flag of Malaysia  ,
Friday, July 25, 2008

Deeper in to the heart of Borneo, I landed in the sleepy little village of Belaga. Only when I arrived, the town wasn't so sleepy. I arrived in the middle of the Regatta and Rainforest Challenge weekend. Just about every long house in the area was in town for the dragon boat racing, the 20Km race through the jungle, little tykes body building competition, Miss Belaga 2008 beauty pageant and of course community karaoke. We got a room described as "no aircon broken fan" at the Hotel Belaga for 20RM en suite. Fortunately, the fan worked and only the aircon was broken. It seemed like a great deal until our first morning that started at 4.45am when the roosters decided that it was dawn already. Unlike in the movies, the 20 or so cocks directly outside our window didn't only crow at dawn and then shut up, but continued well into the afternoon. Sleeping in was not an option at this place regardless of what time you rolled in from the festivities or how much lang cow you had the night before. When we finally gave up trying to sleep through the cocks, I tried to get a spot on one of the long house dragon boat teams, but there was a considerable amount of prize money at stake not to mention the side betting so it wasn't possible to hop on a team during the final day even though I have experience paddling.

After doing some research online, I found a guide named Andreas Bato. There are 2 different camps in town for the random tourists that arrive in Belaga, Daniel, who's listed in the LP, and Andreas, who's a regular poster on thorn tree. For me, if you are listed in the LP it's a strike against you already, but to give him a fair shake, I stopped by his place for a beer, something to eat and to get some information about what he had to offer. Daniel's English is quite good and he obviously knows the area, but there's just something that I wasn't quite sure about. Gill didn't like him much, but I figured that he was just a business man trying to make a buck. That coupled with the fact that everyone you ask in town about activities points you to Daniel was enough for me to steer clear of him. I don't much like doing what everyone else does. He does have a big fan in a very friendly local deaf mute. She is very good at miming things and breaks through all language barriers with her gesticulations. For example, her description of people is very clear although a bit politically incorrect. When she was speaking about an Indian girl, the mute pointed a finger to the center of her forehead, circular hand gestures around her breasts, squeezed her arms close together around her waist and did some dancing motions with her arms and hands ala a belly dancer. I took this to mean: dot head, woman, skinny, Bollywood. When referring to me, she smashed her nose in, rubbed her head, squeezed her arms together, circled 2 fingers around her eyes and extended her forefinger under her nose. I instantly knew that was me: Chinese, bald head, skinny, glasses, Hitler or (mustache). She will reference Daniel with a big belly and a thumbs up and Andreas with a body builders pose, gruff face and shake her hands as a NO. Go find him at Borneo B&B.

I kept looking for Andreas despite the warnings. He was quite difficult to find since he was very busy racing, partying and entertaining journalists covering the festivities. I finally ran into him by accident later on our second night and he invited us to join him for dinner and drinks. His team had won the boat race and thus he was very much in to celebration mode. The next day he invited us to his long house for lunch and later took us to a local waterfall. The only problem was that in order to get to the waterfall, you had to trek thru the jungle barefoot as the mud was so deep that you'd most likely lose your shoes in the mud if you tried. Now remember that 3 weeks ago, I had the revelation that I was now the crazy guy trekking across the jungle in flip flops. Now, I was trekking to a waterfall an unknown distance away in nothing but bare feet thru mud that quite possibly was full of leeches. Somehow I managed to not get any on me, but when Gill found one it caused an immediate body check to see if anything was sucking the life out of me. The waterfall was great! A sheer rock face about 20-30 meters high and a steady stream of water pounding out a small swimming hole that you could dive into from the surrounding rocks (if you are crazy enough to do it). Andreas (aka Crazy Borneo Man) climbed up and dove head first into what I thought was a far too shallow a pool. There was no blood and he emerged unscathed. Unfortunately, for me, I was not so lucky. Now I know what you're thinking, but I'm not dumb enough (or at least too old) to dive into a shallow pool. How did I get hurt then, you ask? Well Crazy Borneo Man (CBM), spent most of the afternoon indiscriminately dunking anyone that looked to be too dry. It didn't matter if you were young or old, man or woman. If you were relatively dry, you were in danger of being thrown in. One old man actually ran away up the path to get away from him. I knew CBM was pretty drunk from copious amounts of lang cow, so I knew better than to struggle when I had dried sufficiently enough to warrant being dunked. Unfortunately, even though he didn't drop anyone else all day, he managed to slip and dropped me on my back as I curled up tight to avoid smashing my head on the rocks. It didn't hurt too much at the time, but this morning I'm quite stiff and can feel a bruise uncomfortably close to my spine. I really am too damn old for this sh*t. I'm going to have to get this fixed at the Spa.

Although I fell into the river with my bum bag on which soaked everything including my camera, nearly got dropped on my head, got minor cuts and bruises from walking bare foot in the jungle and getting into and out of a very narrow long boat, it was a fun filled day that I enjoyed more than any tour I could have booked from Daniel. The price tag was the kicker, FREE, all compliments of CBM! His generosity was even more amazing in light of the fact that his long house burned down about 3 weeks before and he lost almost everything except his backpack. 1/3 of his village has had to move in with other family members in the other 2 long houses in his village. Sorta sounds a bit like me after my flood destroying everything I own. Of course, your mileage may vary, but if you are up for some adventurous trekking, good times and aren't too squeamish, I'd have no problem recommending Andreas Bato as your guide in Belaga and all around Borneo. We rode out on the logging road with him the next morning as he was heading to meet some tourists that had booked him as their guide for Mulu National Park. Thanks Andreas, Jumpa Lagi.

Traveler's Tips: Andreas' phone number 019 372 2972 You can email him at niestabato@gmail.com, but he may not answer for weeks or months at a time as he's most likely in the bush. If you plan to come this far out into the middle of nowhere, get a Celcom SIM card as Maxis and Digi are worthless.
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