Tuesday, August 24, 2010


Bario sits at the base of the Kelabit Highlands, a highland plateau found in the interior of Sarawak and within a stone's throw of the Indonesian border. To call it isolated wouldn't do the place or the word justice. Curiously the village itself is artificially created, the result of the evacuation of several Kelabit villages during the 1960's Konfrontasi (link for Fonz because no doubt you'll google it) with Indonesia. It's quite the culture shock reaching it after the urban sprawl of Kuching and, to a lesser extent, Miri (possibly the world's most pointless city). Getting to Bario is an experience in itself as there are two daily flights aboard an 18-seater Twin Otter which is small enough for you to shout forward to the pilot that you'd like to land for a toilet stop. The flight takes an hour and deposits you in the land time hasn't quite forgotten but has tried very hard to.
The dirt roads are pockmarked enough to make a young Stephen Hendry blush and consequently cars are utterly useless here. It's a beautiful area though, with a cathedral-like quiet about the place and the fringes of distant jungle dotted here and there. Base for my first night here is with Stephen Baya and his wife Tine in their beautiful homestay Jungle Blues Dream. In the unlikely event anyone reading this is heading this way (or indeed in the unlikely event that anyone is reading this, period), their homestay is an oasis in an otherwise pretty primitive environment. Immaculately clean, Stephen and Tine create spectacular meals, sitting with their guests telling them about the area and advising on the best treks to take based on your fitness levels.
Based on Stephen's advice - he spent 5 years as a guide in the highlands and it was as a guide that he met his wife (that's a pretty impressive tip) I decide to to trek from Bario to Pa' Lungan, a neighbouring village (well, when I saw 'neighbouring', I mean 4 hours away) and from there on to a jungle shelter at Long Repbun, deep in the jungle and back again. The whole thing will take 4 days and 3 nights and it's the best I can do in the time I have. It'll mean missing out on the longhouse experience but it will throw me into the heart of the jungle which is compensation enough for me.

No comments:

Post a Comment