Sunday, 11 May 2014

Day 3 - Off to visit the famous Rayban tribes of Nanga Sumpa..

An after breakfast start to get on a boat to visit the Iban tribe  (not rayban) via the man-made hydro-power reservoir.
History tells of a tribe of head-hunters called Iban who took over a large portion of Borneo due to there aggressive negotiation tactics with the endogenous tribes of the region some 4-5 hundred years ago. The Iban took the heads of the villagers they stole the land from, as trophies enslaving their women ....  A technique now used by the shopping channel .. well at least the enslaving the women part !!! 
The tribes would look for weaker tribes to attack and this is symbolised by how many skulls your warriors had hanging in their long houses. One skull means a pretty much a pansy .. 10 skulls mean one of the lads...100 skulls is just showing off... Anyway ..  A practise replaced by modern suburban living by how many hanging baskets you have in your outside wall !!!
Not true of course - but if you live in Surrey you can be forgiven for thinking so..
The trip to the reservoir is about 4 hours with a short break for lunch.. followed by a 2 hour boat ride.
The 4 hours in a small mini bus is a long time .. so our guide John was kind enough to give us a detailed back ground on the history of the country and for the rest of the 3 hours 40 mins we enjoyed the scenery.
A boat ride across a recently man engineered reservoir was stunning jungle scenery a proportion of which was left in the water, which made for a ride broken up by a lot of dodging and weaving between the tops of trees left mostly hidden beneath meters of water. A few huts / farm
sheds dotted on bits of land too high for the water to consume , and an occasional piece  of drifting wood gave  hope that maybe one of them is a croc to give a token representation of local wildlife.
Wildlife tally on the reservoir - birds 2 crocs and other animals nil. Another huge hall for the holiday check list !!
After about an hour we came to the start of the river
The boats used by the iban is a flat fronted shallow running .. much more like match sticks glued together.. is the best description I can come up with... And it was a bit of a mystery why ... Until I got to the river.... The river is just a big stream, wide and shallow in most parts .. with large stones / rocks and another huge collection of half hidden trees.
We were going up stream through a number of grade 1 and  2 rapids .. And none were deep enough to use a motor on .. so in shallow water and up these rapids the chap who was squatted in the front on the boat was no longer a mystery either .. he would try to punt us along, and when this failed - he would pop out of the boat and try to drag us along. This also solved the mystery of why we were not allowed heavy bags on the trip.
When we were picked up, there we were suitcases packed, Sat in the hotel lobby ready to go. Our guide John did his best to tactfully tell us that the trip would not be possible with our normal luggage and we needed to just pack essentials. It was a panic rush in the lobby as we got out what we thought may be needed, and as a consequence we packed virtually nothing to wear for the trip - but had a large selection of the best shower accessories and personal cosmetics ever seen in a village on the river.
The stream was very hard going and for most of the time we barely made it up the shallow bits of the the
river... I imagine - on normal trips - this would be hard going but do-able ... However I am no slip of a lad ... And our guide John is of a similar build .... So at regular intervals out of the boat pops the chap at the front .. still the floating matchstick  sits stuck on the bottom - John the guide pops out - still we are stuck .. I pop out - and the boat floats gently over the rocks and is dragged up stream ... Suffice to say both John and I walked most of the time.
We got to the village - eventually - and whilst I have stayed at worse places with less facilities, less privacy , and less mod-cons ... Even the monastery at mount St Bernard where I used to go to purge the soul of all post 1930 trappings was more advanced. The check list..  
No hot water.
No power after 10 pm or before 7
3 shared toilets
3 shared showers
Rooms with a just over head hight wall with the rest open to the roof
No cold drinks No beer wine etc.
Insects of every size, colour, and shape - most with teeth !!!

Of course - you were allowed a taste of the local brewed rice wine .. in the evening when you visit the chief in his long house.  Wooppie - warm rice wine - but to say no is not so much an offence but more a missed opportunity.

So after dinner we are told the chief may say no to visitors - he may have had a bad dream or such... Well OK - bad dream or not he had better cough up with the wine or head hunting maybe back on the agenda !!!!
We were walked into a long wooden hut with a shared corridor and about 10 to 12 large rooms off. Each room has a family in residence and each residence  builds their new home attached to the corridor , once approved by the chief , after years of integration. So sit crossed legged - pointing your feet at the chief is offensive ( probably due to the lack of washing facilities ) and chat for a while ... Then some rice wine.. not very strong - warm and tastes like a weak Sakai .. but I am going to drink it ..... Chatting over ... It's off back to the living area before 10 pm ... As at 10 the generator goes off and  no lights ....
Guess that's the signal for an early night then...

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