Monday, February 03, 2014

Something the Locals Won't Tell You: Kuching is a Hiker's Paradise

We boarded bus K21 in the Kuching City Center ($1.33) and rode out to Kubah National Park, arriving about an hour and a half after the gates opened at 9:30 a.m. When we approached the hut at the gate to pay the entry fee (approximately $6) and were asked to sign in, we noticed that our name was the only one on the sign-in sheet.

An avid hiker, this couldn't have pleased us more, the thought of having the whole park to ourselves. We went off into the jungle wilderness for the next few hours, hiking to and swimming under waterfalls, spotting pitcher plants, ekor buaya palm trees (which are used to make roofs), and stingless bees.

But the biggest surprise came when we exited the park later at 2 p.m. -- we were still the only person in the park!

As you can see on the map, there are about a half dozen parks within a two hour drive of Kuching, yet, when we were meeting locals throughout the town, everyone seemed to be confused about our jaunts into the jungle outside the city limits.

No one seemed to know what we were talking about. Finally, after several days of watching people draw blanks, we pressed for an answer: Do locals really not like to hike?

It was the waitress at a restaurant that finally set us straight, confirming that, for the most part, locals indeed do not take advantage of the wilderness that surrounds the city and engulfs Borneo. Why? Because their families -- aka their parents and grandparents, and, in some cases, themselves -- came from the jungle.

Borneo has a long history of jungle tribes, including the Iban who still live in longhouses today, and now that this generation has moved into the modern world, there's "no reason to go back."