Nanga nowhere, Jeremy, Too much Tuak.

Trip Start Dec 12, 2012
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Trip End Jan 03, 2013


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Where I stayed
Nanga Ngemah Longhouse

Flag of Malaysia  , Sarawak,
Friday, December 14, 2012



Standing at the front of Lime Tree our tour can hasn’t
arrived yet…I joke with J-she that it will never arrive, we’ll go back to
OooHaa tour office and it will be stripped bare. No tour guides in sight.

3 minutes later a van turns up driven by Mr. Mawi, our tour
guide for the next 3 days. Inside a are a quietly spoken young American, Mike, and his
Canadian/Taiwanese girlfriend, Mary. They seem awkward? Relaxed? Shy? We aren’t sure.
It makes me quickly reflect on how outgoing and forthright us Aussies are.

Stop at Semenggoh for our first Orangutan search, one of the
primary reasons we came to Sarawak. The tour groups, about 40 people in all, are advised by the rangers to be quiet, not to use camera flash and to listen to their orders in case there is any serious monkey trouble. Most of them don’t listen cause they’re too busy chatting amongst
themselves.

On the photo wall there are named oranguratings, one of them is called Ritchie, well of course. What a great name for a cheeky big monkey. Maybe my mother knew something after all?

No sooner do we enter the trail to the feeding area, the tour groups are (still) making noise, taking mobile calls and photos with flash. I’m feeling very annoyed.

We get to the feeding area and the ranger calls to the Orangutangs, there is muttering among the crowd. He calls again a few times over the next few minutes and…..nothing. The impatient crowd becomes increasingly bored and noisy. The ranger calls again…nothing.

I’m scanning the treetops seeking the elusive beast and I spy some rustling ! Ohh, squirrel. Poo.

It’s been about 5 minutes and the crowd are now chatting and joking freely amongst themselves, as if orangutangs should be wearing watches and show up on time...how dare these wild creatures not adhere to the agreed schedule. So who are the real monkeys? I think to myself watching the restless crowd.

Alas, we are Pongo-less. Not today. There’s plenty of Durian and other fruit in the forest for them to eat during this season so they are not so inclined to come in for a feed.

Off up the road, the usual market stop in Serian and then to the ‘you must buy gifts’ stand at a row of shops in a dusty little town. So we wander off to scan the other shops. Ohno, not only must you buy gifts, you must buy gifts from this shop only. What? Noone told us about this 'traditional' requirement. Ah well. At least Mawi is good enough to suggest we don’t buy complete crap, but useful thing like salt for drying fish and soap.

We buy 37 gifts each, one for each family, and a few extra snacks and things. “How much?” “1 Ringitt”. OK. How much for this little packet? “1 Ringitt.” Oh, ok. And this? 1 Ringitt. And this tiny little snack packet here with 6 dried plums in it? 1 Ringitt. A little too conveniently, everything was 1 Ringgit (or more) it seemed. This guy was really good at rounding up to the nearest whole
dollar. Maybe he's not too good with arithmetic.

Mawi had also told us these people were quite poor and not touristy, so our kind and thoughtful gifts would be highly appreciated (maybe a bit less so by us as we had discovered they were nearly twice the price than all the other shops in the row, but this was 'the deal')

We get to the riverbank and we are met by a longboat and the rambunctious young boatman, Jeremy. He’s quite noisy, excited and energetic. It’s not exactly what we expected, no chillaxed jungle hippy, but then we don’t know exactly what to expect.

So we are off up the Lemanak river..”into the wilds”. A charming and uneventful 45 minute ride later we pull up at the longhouse "Nanga Ngemah". Jeremy unloads our bags along with much chatter to the locals on the riverbank, he's very much the chatterer.


Greeted up the main stairs with our first taste of Tuak, the local rice wine. It is quite sweet. We meet the chief Mr. Aloo and shake hands with nearly everyone in the longhouse, all 417 of them it seemed (even though there are only 120 people or so in this longhouse), shown to our room where we will eat and store our bags and are free to ‘mingle with the locals’. They completely ignore us and speak in Iban. Mmm, ok.

We mosey around and are offered some food, corn on the cob. We like. Retire to our designated room where ‘Lucy’ helps Mawi cook us some dinner, we sit on the woven mats and are fed way too much food. Jeremy and a few mates wander in and sit down an offer us more Tuak. Jeremy welcomes us again with great enthusiasm and tries to ply us to buy some Tuak. "5 Ringitt, one bottle" he exhorts excitedly. We begin our traditional Iban debauchery. People wander in and out of our room, it’s plainly open house all the time here.

Out on the rouai (the main floor which runs the length of the rooms) A few more Tuaks, some speeches from the chief and a bit of a traditional dance, which is quite charming but noone explains to us what it all means.

More tuak, more beer, and we all loosen up enough to try and communicate with the locals as we sit in the middle of the longhouse. It’s not hugely successful, but it’s amusing. They are all shirtless and tattooed, Mike is hot so he rips his shirt off and sits with brown skinned tattooed locals with his pale and skinny Western frame a great contrast. There's some great traditional tattoos on show, and some really awful simplistic 'jail tatts'. Badly drawn naked women and odd sayings adorn some of the young guys arms.

More beer, more Tuak. Jeremy by this stage is completely legless, talking half stilted English and amusing us all. He’s plainly the ‘party animal’. We try to make conversation but many of the younger men really don't speak much English at all. It makes for an hilarious, if disjointed conversation.Jeremy jokes with us and the other guys mostly sit quietly and talk amongst themselves. He offers endless rounds of Tuak and we begin to enjoy it, well I do..don't know about the others. We've been warned of it's after effects and the ensuing headaches, so I show some caution despite my natural tendencies.

More beer, more Tuak. Bed.

No Pongos. And we forgot to eat any Durian.
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