August 23, 2005

Kenyah Longhouse Part 1

I just came back from an incredible excursion within the interior jungle of Sarawak. So much has happened, I'm filled with so many thoughts and events, I'm not sure it will all fit into this entry.

I was gratiously accepted to join a group that had arranged a trip to visit a traditional Kenyah tribe. A dozen of us packed into three 4x4's to drive a full day along the rough, twisting, mountainous, dirt road. Beautiful black and green Rajah Brooks fluttered past (Malaysia's national butterfly). The perfectly straight, tall Tualang trees (I think I got this right!) loomed above the main forest canopy. A man posed for our photographs with his freshly hunted wild boar. A happy couple stood with one of his arms around her and the other holding a blow pipe. The smiling woman sentimentally shook my hand and motioned "from my heart to yours".

The main highway deviates from all rules of driving. Left and right applies when the hand painted arrows direct which side of the road you need to drive on when ascending a hill or turning a bend. Sometimes there is only one track when the mud is too slippery. Or a stop to wait for a logging truck to pass by. The ends of the bridges had stacked tires on each side to bump into if the car happens to sway. Fortunately the road were in good condition (considering) for us!

After an evening longboat ride from Long San to Long Moh, we arrived in the small village Usun grew up in. We entered her longhouse that she had not seen in six years. We were greeted with introductions, delicious food, traditional songs and dances, and A LOT of highly alcoholic rice wine! The girls were invited to wrap rice in banana leaves which is so much harder then it looks. Everyone went to bed drunk and slept soundly until the early cockling of the screetching chickens.

The day started with a trip to the newly cleared rice paddy. The trees are burned down which left the steep slope covered in fallen, charred logs. The men start at the bottom poking holes in the ground with their sticks and the women follow, baskets of rice on their backs, precisely throwing several grains into each hole. The sun was hot, the bees swarmed and we were accidently and purposefully covered black in soot. After a well deserved wash in the rapids, roasted chicken scewered and set upon on a BBQ constructed with slats of bamboo, and boar steamed inside a hollow section of bamboo, we were happily content and satisfied! To be continued... P


  1. Hey Pam,
    You really know how to make the most of your travels. By the end of your year long tour, you'll have more interesting worldly stories than most people acquire in a life time. The more I get to know you, the more I think that you are a really cool person. I am looking forward to our art days when you return. Kym

  2. K: you know, I can't wait to hang out with you cool people who know me more than as an aquaintance!