Saturday, 6 March 2010

Shooting (Rapids and Targets…)

Are you ready to get wet? Well in the hot, humid and steamy climate of this rainforest, it’s a terrific idea. There are seven rapids to shoot right upstream from the village here at Kuala Tahan, and doing it in the longtails will mean a fair amount of water sloshing around all over us. And then to recover, we’ll visit a small settlement of the Batek people (only 3,000 remain), a tribe of the Orang Asli (this term simply means original people, the aboriginal tribes of peninsula Malaysia) where more shooting is going to take place, this time involving Jon and a very long blowpipe.
But before we went off to get a soaking, we bumped into a chap from St. Austell. Small world, isn’t it? And it’s shortly about to get even smaller…

The rapids shouldn’t really be compared to the grade 5 rapids we encountered up at the Last Resort in Nepal, or to the wonderful kayaking experience we’ve recently had on the Nam Ou up in Laos. Here the encounter with water involved a motor, but much, much more water. It didn’t last nearly long enough, but long enough for us to wish that we could do it all over again. Fast running water always appears to be freezing, but putting your hand into this river is quite a different experience. It’s very shallow and as the rapids woosh over the stones, it appears that the river is boiling. The temperature is more akin to a Jacuzzi, though! The wooden longtail in which we were seated had to almost come to a complete halt before the captain steered harshly from side to side to create the large sprays that completely drenched us.

Visiting the Orang Asli settlement seemed slightly staged, but in any event gave us quite a good insight into the life of this semi-nomadic people, deep in the heart of the forest. Firstly, we witnessed the making of fire. They really are skilled at this technique, and try as he might, Jon didn’t quite manage to get the wood to smoke.

Leave it to the pros and you can guarantee that the leaves will burst into flames. But then there was the blowpipe demonstration. These blowpipes are much, much longer than you might imagine, and the poison darts are skilfully made on the spot. It takes a considerable amount of puff to get your dart out of the blowpipe, let alone hit the target. Here we weren’t aiming at the monkeys, but at a target closely resembling a dartboard, but with the names of animals inscribed around the concentric circles. Whmmmmmph! On his very first attempt, Jon hit the target! An elephant. Great shot! Not as good as our new friend, Caroline, who hit a deer (that’s two rings in towards the bulls-eye, which resembled a human).

Meanwhile, back at the floating restaurant in Kuala Tahan, it was time to chill out for the evening over food and liquid refreshment (being a Muslim restaurant, there’s absolutely NO alcohol, but nevermind because they always manage to rustle up a tasty juice, tonight’s involving rosewater. It was at this point that we discovered than Jon’s new friend was actually his long-lost school friend from Berrycombe school, Simon Welch: they haven’t seen each other since they were five, and now here they are, reunited up the jungle on the other side of the world! Plus, it turns out they both recited the same poem in a festival competition at St Austell’s Methodist Church (next to the fire station and Ozzel Bowl, for those of you who are familiar).

“A little sardine saw its first submarine,
It was scared and watched through the peep-hole,
Come Come Come, said the Sardine’s mum,
It’s only a tin full of people”

He’s just spent a whole year teaching Maths and IT on Vanuatu, and is now heading home to Cornwall. Talking of which, we’ll shortly be heading home too!

But first, here’s an idea of just what might be lying in store for us in the next few weeks: something for you to look forward to! Coming up in the next few days will be the glories of Malacca. No, not the old Portuguese quarter; not the colonial Dutch architecture; not the historical museums, of course not. What will be interesting us on our visit to this sultry city? Well, the answer can be found in the name ‘Baba Nonya’, but you’ll have to keep on reading to find out exactly WHAT we’re on the trail of! And then the best part of two weeks in Sri Lanka, whale watching amongst other things. Which brings us to out traditional Middle East stopover on the way back home. Not Jordan this time, but something much more mysterious: the frankincense trail in Oman. Finally, would you like to know what Dubai is like? Well, we’re going to find out on your behalf, but just for an afternoon.


  1. I wish I was where you are

  2. Not that I'm at all jealous

  3. Your blog is brilliant and very much appreciated. I really think you should transfer it to a book format somehow so more people can share it and you both can make some money.