Staying with ex-headhunters in the Borneo Jungle

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September 17th 2009
Published: September 17th 2009
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Since I last blogged we have been back to Kuala Lumpur to catch a flight to Borneo. We landed in the city Kuching in the province of Sarawak. It was here that we were going to try and stay with a village tribe in the Borneo jungle. We had booked in to a certain hostel that had offered better and cheaper tours into the jungle and it was highly recommended by others. When we arrived they told us the guy who ran them was gone to Kuala Lumpur and didn’t know when he would be back! Great. We had a walk through the town but all the tours they offered were €50 each more expensive and as that is our daily budget we decided to try something else. We went online and the No.1 activity in Kuching from the Tripadvisor website was Annah Rais longhouse stay. We originally wanted to do a 3 day 2 night stay but they had a 2 day 1 night stay which suited us better, both in the pocket and time wise. A few emails later and we were booked in to go there on Wednesday.

We were picked up to go there at 8am. It would take over and hours drive to reach it where we would be right beside the border with Indonesia Borneo. When we got there we were greeted by Mr. Edward and Rambo, our jungle guide. I wasn’t sure whether it was a good thing or not to be going into the jungle with a guy who looked like Rambo never mind called Rambo. We left our bags to our room, got some water and started our trek. We were told it would take 2 hours 40 minutes to get there and it was all uphill. That also meant 2hrs 40mins down hill, which we now know is as hard as going up hill. Not long into the trek, Rambo who was in front, put his arm out to tell us to go no further. He had spotted a snake on our path way, which although small, he said it was very dangerous. Queue reversing motion. Then we saw it and it was real small but I didn’t fancy my chances messing with it. He gave it a little tip on the tail, it moved on and so did we. The walking sticks we had, now became searching sticks before each footstep!

In the middle of the trek we stopped for a 10min break. Rambo, who’s English was poor, said we wouldn’t arrive until 1pm. It was now 10:30am. Jesus I thought to myself, I didn’t think we were going that slow. The weather was hot, humid and very unforgiving. Both of us were drenched with sweat. I thought as we trekked why the hell am I putting myself through this. We had said no more after South America and here we were torturing ourselves again. If it was cold it wouldn’t of been half as hard, but the sun was just breaking through the heavy clouds and the air was very humid. Back walking again we arrived at a waterfall at 11am. Rambo said ‘go swim’ and we looked at each other confused. Are we here? He didn’t understand. ‘More walking I said?’. He looked at me confused. He said ‘you want more walking’ with a look of despair in his eyes. We said no we were fine when it dawned on us that he confused 1pm with 11am! We were actually at the end of the trek and had completed it in 1hr 30mins. We sighed with relief that it was over.

Unfortunately it hasn’t rained here properly in a while. This meant the three tier waterfall resembled a tap left on to long rather than gushing waterfall. Swimming wasn’t really and option. I would call it more like dipping! While we dipped, Rambo cooked us our lunch. Bamboo chicken. Here lit a small fire and then wrapped the chicken in leaves before placing it in a bamboo shoot to cook over the flames. What we were treated to was one of the nicest dinners we have had. The flavours and juices from the chicken add with a lemon grass broth and some bamboo cooked rice and we were in heaven. We both had a second helping it was that good. Afterwards we sat and rested for awhile. It’s then you realise why you’ve gone through all the pain to get there. Absolutely amazing scenery and a fantastic dinner cooked by a guy called Rambo in the middle of the Borneo jungle. I think that says it all.

After resting we made our return to the village, again losing fluids faster than we could replace them. We eventually made it back a were seated beside a fan and handed a cool drink. Mr. Edward, as everyone called him, was the owner of the house. He had told us that morning that we were part of his family now and to treat the place like home. Don’t ask for something he said, just take it. He also gave us some of his home made rice wine, which was sweet and not very strong like some home brews. We talked to him for awhile before he gave us a tour of the village. He explained everything from their way of life to how they earn a living. A long house is, a length of houses all under one roof. Generally everyone is related in some way. The village we were in had a population of nearly 1000 but only about 20% live there permanently as most have to leave to the city to find work. The eldest person there is a lady of 109 years and the oldest man is 102 years. The still have three shamanic doctors there but they are very old. We visited some houses that were used for things in the past that might cause concern if still in use now. One was where the rituals were held to call the spirits of the past. Here they used the heads of other tribes in the rituals and skulls still remain in the centre of the room. When we were finished we had to have a wash in the river as there wasn’t enough water pressure for a shower. It was funny the two of us down in the river with our soap washing ourselves. It was a lovely freshwater river that was also drying up because of the lack of recent rainfall.

When we got back we slept for an hour before dinner. We were given all sorts of food and really there was enough for more than five people. Afterwards we sat and talked to Mr. Edward for the night, drinking his rice wine into the wee hours. While there he explained all the different types of weapons and tools used by his people. First he showed us the technique of how to use a blow gun. They used snake poison on the arrows so that the target would be dead in less than ten minutes. The arrow would go fully inside the target and if they tried to pull it out it would break inside them. Next he pulled out a case that looked like an African drum and explained that it was for carrying the heads of other tribes after a battle. He said it was over three hundred years old. He also took out his grandfathers large machete, which he said had taken the heads of 4 men, or so his grandfather had told him! We talked all night and it was interesting to listen to Mr. Edward. He was a very intelligent and wise man and he knew a lot about everything. He gave us a gift of a bottle of his wine and also tea made from the bark of a tree which he says is excellent for cleaning out toxins and improving circulation.

Next morning we had another huge feast for breakfast before our lift arrived to take us back to the city. It had rained very heavily over night and by now the river was gushing down stream. We could only imagine what the water fall would look like. Altogether it was an amazing experience and the hospitality we received was second to none. Some people he had told us ended up staying for months and worked in return for food and accommodation. We wished we could have stayed maybe another night but we are really rushing through Borneo.

In a bit. DH

Song of the blog: The Verve - Sonnet

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