Tuesday, June 03, 2014

A Jewel in Rural Borneo


Blue skies stretched out as far as our eyes could see, decorated by clusters of clouds floating around nonchalantly. The extremely bumpy ride at the back of a pickup was giving us sore bottoms but for the nature around us and the refreshingly cool breezes, it was worth it.

It was Labour’s Day afternoon in the gateway to Kelabit HighlandsBario. Sitting at around 3,500 feet above sea level in Northern Sarawak near Kalimantan, the Kelabit Highlands consist of quite some rural villages, all well-preserved and isolated from modern day civilisation.

The best way to get to Bario is by plane, either from Miri or Marudi. Not on a Boeing, mind you, but a Twin Otter so tiny you can’t stand straight in the plane.

The flight to Bario from Miri proved amazing as the little plane propelled over changing landscape below – from the seaside city to the oil palm plantations to the tropical rainforests and rugged mountains including Mulu National Park.

If you’re sitting on the left side of the plane and the weather is clear, you might catch a lucky glimpse of the Pinnacles. Keep a lookout for Batu Lawi as the plane approaches Bario – a set of twin peaks with cultural myths in the ancient days.

Tourists are picked up by their respective homestay owners from the airport. Homestay is the only accommodation option in this village, normally with full meal provision during your stay. As most of my colleagues in our travel party are Muslims, we settled for the only homestay with halal food – Pak Mus’.

The rooms are much nicer than I thought and we even had the living room to ourselves as no one else was there. We spent the afternoon touring the village on a Proton-converted pickup, walking around a bit in search of viewpoints.

Dinner, like lunch, was served with the infamous Bario rice, fish, curry, plenty of vege and delicious sambal. Sometimes, you never know how hungry you are until you start digging in. That night we turned in to bed early as we needed energy the next day…

…and the next morning I realized seems like I was the only one who slept peacefully XD. Praise God for my super sleeping-ability! After breakfast, we hopped on the pickup again – heypresto! Guide Halim made us benches out of planks and bricks..so touched! A 15 mins drive took us near to Pa’Ukat where it was time to get on our feet and start our trek to Pa’Lungan, a small village roughly 4 hrs away on foot.

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