Last week WOW Borneo (KTD) arranged our trip and accompanied by our wonderful Dayak guide Dodi (and ’trainee’ guide Jonathan) we travelled upto see the long house (*betang*) at a little village called Tumbang Gagu, right up in the headwaters of the Sampit (or Mentaya) River. In part, that’s because it’s a bit of a nature’s trek journey to get there: a three hour drive to Tumbang Samba on the Katingan River, a six hour journey up river from there via *kelotok* (motorized canoe’ like the one above), and then atwo hour walk through the forest to Tumbang Gagu. The walk through the forest was pleasant, and there was a chorus of birds all the way.
In Tumbang Samba we stayed overnight in the *LosmenItah* – the best (well the only) accommodation in town. We stayed there four nights, and that’s our sleeping quarters in the photo above. Only Lery (who as a trained nurse is the only medical care for five villages in the region) and her mother Ibu Silei live permanently in the *betang*. Out in front of the *betang *are several beautifully weathered wooden statues. Each one is about four metres high. These *sapundu* were constructed for some long-ago *tiwah *funeral ceremonies. They now stand with an austere grace like guardians watching over the river.
We had some really interesting excursions over the days we were there. One day we went out into a trackless part of the forest to check on several traps set for wild pigs (*babihutan*). Didn’t get any, but we did learn how to make simple (but very effective!) animal traps. And on the way we got to sample some wild jungle fruits. We spent a couple of hours with a gentle man who wanted to show and explain his prized collection of Dayak weaponry, including a spectacular
*mandau* (sword) and various spears and a blowpipe and poison dart container. The *mandau* was particularly interesting. The various objects that hang off it give the wearer special powers and protections (including, handily, making you invisible to your enemies). One day was spent going by canoe (*klotok*) for two hours up the Kalang River past the last village of Jembatan Kalang as far as can be navigated to the cascades at Maraku. There is some real Jurassic Park forest on the way up there, and we saw proboscis monkeys and hornbills in the trees above us. So we had wonderful time in the entire journey and it was all wow.