Bario, on the Kelabit Highlands of Sarawak, is more than 1000 feet above sea level. Unless you want to go for a few-day-hike through the rain forest, else the only way to access Bario is with MasWings Twin Otter from Miri or Marudi.
Look at it! It is the smallest plane that I have ever taken.
The plane was so small that they needed to control the load. I was asked to weigh myself, together with my hand luggages. 51.3kg. (My bag was so heavy. :p) On the plane, I counted. Yes, I really counted. 12 passengers excluding the 2 pilots. In that case, of course, there was no pretty stewardess to perform a safety demonstration or to serve me a drink. (Sigh! I was thinking of free drinks had decided on twhat to drink even before I went aboard.)
Spotted a village from the air
I didn't manage to link up with anyone in Bario. Thus, there was no concrete plan for the accomodation and activities as compared to my previos trips. But I had a feeling that the trip would be fun.
After an hour or less, we landed safely on a very small airstrip. The airport building was small and there was no tar road to the town center. I was so glad that luck was always on my side. Nancy, a lodge owner took the same flight with her husband, Harris who approached us and offered us to a stay at their place. The airport was not far from Nancy's place. But due to the muddy and bumpy road, the journey in the four wheel drive took longer time than it should.
We met Nancy's sister, Freda and her husband from New York at Nancy's place. After a good lunch(with Bario rice of course), we followed Freda and her husband to the Penan Village. But before that, we stopped at SMK Bario. We walked up to a small hill to enjoy the beautiful green landscape. The flaunting green leaves swayed in the breeze over acres of green field. All the little wooden houses, especially in white, decorated the green perfectly. We spent quite some time enjoying the cool weather and posing in front of the nice view.
The school entrance
Three different views from the hill
walking hard to the Penan Village
Before we could reach the Penan Village, it started to rain. No, we wouldn't want to head back without visiting the Penan. So, we put on our rain coat and started to run on the wet and muddy roads. It was not long before we reached these little huts occupied with adults and children. At first, I thought these little huts are the temporary rest house. But I was wrong.
"Is the Penan place still far from here?" I asked, hoping that I don't need to walk too far.
"This is their house." Freda replied.
"What?" My jaw dropped.
It was just a little hut with no walls or doors, but it was the home to a family of 4 or 5 or even more. Later I found out that Penan are Nomads that move from one place to another place, rather than settling down at a permanent location. Penan here is hunter-gatherers type, where they will leave and look for a new place when the wild plants are finished. We chatted with them for a while and left before it was dark.
The cooking place
The temperature dropped at night and to make it worst I didn't bring any jacket or trouser. I covered myself with blankets on the bed and refused to go out of the room. And it was only 8pm. Anyway, there is nothing much you can do here at night. Furthermore, the electricity is supplied through generators(each houses have their own generators) and the generators will be turned off around 10pm.
When we were having breakfast the next morning, Nancy told us that there is a morning market in the central of Bario every Saturday morning. Bario people will come from their villages(and that easily takes a few hours) with food and souveniors. And guess what, it was a Saturday morning. I was smiling happily, thinking that I could shop in Bario. I started to picture the morning market. 20 stalls? Let's be a bit realistic, 10 stalls. Ok. We'd better start walking now, or else they might have gone home.
Passed by the fire scene(A fire burnt the Bario Police Station to ground the night before we arrived)
We reached the morning market. The cresecent shaped shop houses were not all opened. In fact, less than half is opened. And, there were only 2 extra stalls selling few packs of wild vegetables for the morning market. It was definitely smaller than I had expected. While the guys marked a pork porridge stall, I sticked to my own plan - shopping. I walked from the first shop to the last shop, checking at the goods and price. Before leaving, we bought some Bario rice at RM18/3kg. (Bario rice is regarded as one of the finest rice grains in the world. And when I am writing this post, my Bario rice is running out of stock. :< )
Local convenience store
This is how Belin looks like
I took picture with Jeannette,who runs a lodge and a shop in Bario
Later in the afternoon, Nancy sent Lian to bring us to the salt spring. I like Lian very much as he is very simple and friendly guy. Salt spring is located ~7km away from Nancy's place. Again, it was walking time. I guess I never have walked so much in my life time.
I walked, walked and walked.
Met a working woman
If you are not paying attention to the sign board, you might end up in Indonesia.
Finally, we reached the salt spring. The salt spring looks just like an ordinary spring. The only difference is the water from the spring is salty. The salt spring water will be boiled until the all the water has vaporized and that takes about 12 hours. The end product is the Bario Salt that will later be wrapped nicely with leaves into cyclinder-shaped.
The salt spring
where they boil the salt spring water
On the way back, we visited Pa Umor Long House. The long house is long. (Ha. What am I saying?) The long house was empty as most of the young people have married and left the long house. There was this old couple in the long house. The old lady was making some handicrafts. I bought a 'tikar' from her at RM20(Lian helped me to carry the tikar.Thanks Lian.)
There were two new visitors when we reached home. One is a young man aged about 20 from Switzerland. This is his 2nd trip to Bario. He had stayed with Penan during his last trip and this trip he was going to stay with them again for a couple of days. Think about it! What have brought this young man to travel all the way from Europe to Bario. Just the experience of staying with the Penan? I am sure there is more than that. Perhaps I can figure it out myself one of the day. :) The 2nd visitor was also a young man from KL. He was backpacking alone for 1.5 months. He reached Mulu the day we were leaving Mulu. What a coincident.
We left Bario the next day. It was a short trip but it really has a big impact to me. The way I view and I think.