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Kim’s Travel Diary

Friday, 28 Dec 2007

Location: Kuching, Malaysia

MapWell, here I am back in the land of the living or at least the land of computers and working phones. We left on Sunday at silly o'clock in the morning for the trip to Batang Ai and the rain forest region. The bus took ages with stops for loo breaks, food and christmas shopping for the Iban Tribe. We are staying in a long house that is near their village and although they are no longer headhunters - best to be safe than sorry. There are several small children in the village, so the presents ranged from clothes to toys and then adult gifts, once again cigarettes speak a universal language. At least the bus was comfortable and gave me a chance to sleep the remains of my headache off. I still don't really feel 100%, not sure if it is the miserable and humid weather or the oppressive feel of this region but I have to push onwards. Once at Batang Ai, all change - from coach to hand cut, carved long boats that only appear to be sitting 6 inches above the water. The boats are extremely shallow to allow them to get through the small channels and backwaters but this does nothing for your sense of safety - wobble factor was very strong and only one movement at a time was advised - breathing even become shared. The journey from the quay to the long house was over an hour in length - talk about numb bum and legs that had gone to sleep and yes, it does rain in the rain forest a lot and yes, you get wet!!! but we made to the long house as a complete party and once changed and dry with the strongest coffee I have ever drunk inside - welcome to home for Christmas.
The first full day was a treck, looking for nests. It is almost unheard of to see the beasts in the forest as they live in the tree tops but there is that outside chance. From the moment we left the long house, it was all up hill and not at a gentle pace - full on steep - man does walk better when clinging onto the ground for dear life and I can tell you for a fact that the vines you all see hanging from the trees, Tarzan never swung on as they break!! or did when I tried to use one for support. Mud wrestling here could catch on in a big way. The walk was interesting but a rain forest does not really do much for me. There is very little animal life to be seen and flowers etc are once again at the top of the canopy. Back home by boat and a chance to change into something that was not mud covered. A quiet evening at home - after all it is Christmas Eve and I feel I should be wrapping presents or peeling sprouts!!!
Christmas Day is here and there is a sense of something wrong - no tree!!! The morning was spent quietly and then a visit to the Long House in the afternoon to learn how to weave grass mats. The things that I am learning that will not help with the CV at all are amazing. There are several families here at the moment, they do move from area to area on a whim and although our presents are not taken today, they still make everyone welcome. They drink a terrible brew called Lancow, made from rice - a stronger version of rice wine and the bottles never seem to stop appearing. I managed one sip but have to decline after that as it is truely horrible but just about everyone else manages several drinks. The taxi appears to take us back - just a slightly dangerous mission as the bodies are now swaying and so is the boat!
Boxing Day and another treck - I decide to stay behind and look after the bodies that are suffering from yesterday, nothing to do with the rice wine (or so they say) and it is pouring, not just raining but inches falling by the second. The river is flowing very fast and several trees have fallen down during the night. This treck is supposed to take several hours but the gang is back within 3 - too muddy and slippery, the nearest hospital is some distance away. I have not had the quiet few moments as I thought I would, the boys from the Long House came to play cards and Connect 4. Tomorrow is return to civilisation day and I personally cannot wait, I think I will have to scratch rain forests from my list of places to stay. Everyone is going back to the Long House tonight for more wine and to hand out the presents. Stevie, one of the girls has decided to stay behind and so have I, so in true fashion, boxing day has been a quiet affair.
Today is the 27th and return home. It has rained all night as well as all day and the river is flooding as well as moving at a considerable speed - the journey back to main land proved to be as interesting as I though with one large section of the river totally covered with logs and debris swept down with the rain. As you can see from the pictures, a lot of stuff. I have to admit that this was the scariest part of trip as the boat guy headed straight for the log jam and then started leaping on and off the boat moving logs. I can say that I have seen someone with my own eyes run up a floating log and not fall off. All that I could think of, would someone take my camera as I slid under the water. Like the sword in the lake, the only thing to be seen, would have been my hand holding it but we made it back almost dry and back to Kuching. Hot water, clean clothes and no more rice!!!
I am catching a plane shortly to KL and staying in the nearby airport hotel before going back to Thailand so I must go and pack -just hope the clothes and things I have left behind will have made a weight difference.