Thursday, June 11, 2015

Three very different days meeting the IBAN


The dinner on Monday night was the first time we were all together as a group.

Gary hails from Lamertville Michigan and has undertaken 10 tours with Toto tours;
Bill is from New York and Palm Springs, a retired advertising executive, and Vietnam vet;
Tesh is from Hawaii, living 25 km from the volcano on the big island;
Steve from San Diego taking his second Toto tour; and
Steve M from New York, a retired banker, taking his 14th Toto tour.

We went to a local food hawker market for a typical local Malay meal and turned in early as we had a few very big days ahead.

We left early, travelling through the usual peak hour traffic in a small bus, cosy and intimate. We stopped to spend 45 minutes at a market in a regional town, an hour from Kuching. Not much for a tourist to buy.

On our way again, we travelled through rural Sarawak, passing pepper gardens, cocoa and rubber plantations, lunching at a roadside 'diner'.

We arrived at Batang Ai Lake at about 1430 to board our Longboats to the lodge, a journey of 90 minutes. The Lake was created to provide hydro power and opened in 1985.

We were well prepared for the fierce sun, wearing long sleeve shirts, hats and covering ourselves in block out. The Longboat journey took us across the lake and up one of the estuaries feeding into the lake.

We went from calm water to small rapids in a strongly  flowing river; crossing the rapids showed how skilful our boatmen were, although our guy had to stop to change the propeller .

Arriving at the lodge (1 star), we settled into our very basic accommodation (we were warned this would be the worst we would stay in). We had to bring our own towels, soap, torch and  electricity was only available between 1830-2230.

We had to leave our main luggage in Kuching, so we had very little in the way of changes of clothes etc. Some of us (me) had a room without a bathroom and had to use a communal set up, which was like being back at boarding school, only with cold showers.

The lodge is part of a local IBAN longhouse ( Nanga  Sumpa ) community of 23 families. The longhouse is situated across a small bridge. It burnt down 12 months ago and is now being rebuilt.

The meals are prepared by the women of the Longhouse, and dinner is served around 1900. On the way up we stocked up on gin and lime (no tonic) and so settled for a few cocktails before dinner. Steve M (NYC) had his trusty iPod with every US top 100 from 1960 so we more mature lads had a very nice time reminiscing.

Dinner was really good, fresh local produce skilfully prepared. We were hit by a powerful tropical downpour which was over in 30 minutes.Off to bed early, covered in mosquito repellent, the tropical cologne.

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