Blogging 101: Be inspired by the community.
Looking through the kaleidoscope of blogs on WordPress some beautiful photographs of Sarawak caught my eye. http://seeingthrough35mm.wordpress.com
Seeingthrough35mm takes fantastic photos, but this post reminded me of my own visit to Sarawak a few years ago, and I was inspired to dig out our photos and see if there was any worth posting myself.
First I searched on the hard drive where our photos have been backed up since we got our first digital camera, but with no luck, so maybe we made our trip in the days before digital. I searched the heavy albums that fill our shelves, but again, no sign of any Sarawak pictures and no sign of my travel logbook either. Where have they gone? It’s as though all traces of our visit have been wiped from the face of the earth. Yet, I remember going there and the more I think about it, the more memories come flooding back to me. Have I been imagining it all?
Deep in the rainforest, we stayed at a resort where our wooden cottages were only accessible via boardwalks winding their way above the undergrowth.
In the jungle, it is easier to travel by water than road, so we took a trip in a typical long narrow canoe, along a river the colour of milk chocolate, to visit a traditional tribal longhouse. Entire communities live together under one roof, and while there are separate rooms inside, they share a single communal veranda. Here we met old ladies whose ear-lobes dangled below their shoulders, who offered to sell us examples of their intricately woven basket ware and carved wooden bowls.
One afternoon we hiked through the rainforest to explore a cave big enough for several jumbo jets to fit inside. A deep carpet of guano confirmed that the cave was home to millions of bats. Our guide explained to us the differences between the twenty seven species of bat, some who preferred living in the lighter conditions near the entrance, and those who live deep in the dark, cool, dampness of the interior. The last species to leave the cave every evening is called the ‘Knackered Bat’, he told us. Some kind of joke on the part of the biologists we thought, of course they’re knackered, they have the furthest to fly every night. It was some time before we realised he was telling us about the hairless ‘Naked Bat’. After exploring the caves, and scaring ourselves with tales of Orcs and Trolls, we waited outside for dusk to fall, in order to watch the bats emerge for their evening flight. We were not disappointed; the seemingly endless stream of creatures poured from the mouth of the cave, swirling like plumes of smoke in the sky, and consuming several tons of flies and mosquitoes as they do every night. As we watched, an eagle appeared in the sky making an easy meal of the swarming bats.
On the hike back to the resort, we became aware of a strange rumbling noise in the trees. Our guide urged us to hurry but the sound got louder as the rainstorm approached and soon we were overtaken by a wall of water, drenching us to the skin despite the vast green plastic capes we had bought at the resort.
Another afternoon was spent rock climbing on the vertical cliff face that lined the banks of the river and one evening, after dinner, were entertained by local tribesmen, skilfully popping balloons with darts from their traditional blow-pipes.
We visited Kuching, the ‘Cat City’, where Chinese shop-houses line the streets, filled with a mixture of tourist tat, snack bars and everyday local shops selling plastic bowls, buckets and fly swats. I ducked into a dimly lit junk shop, filled with old ornaments, furniture, wooden carvings and woven baskets. One of the baskets was filled with the heavy brass earrings that the native tribes people use to stretch their earlobes.
We saw Chinese temples, filled with smoking incense burners, the giant statues of cats which decorate the city and I’m sure we saw Fort Margherita, built by Charles Brooke, the second of three ‘white raja’ who ruled Sarawak between 1839 and 1945. The autobiography of his wife, The Rani Margaret, (after whom the fort is named) is a strangely soulless story of a woman who suffered years of ill health, almost dying of malaria, and who lost at least one child during the journey from England to the Far East.
So I didn’t dream it, all the evidence is there. An intricately woven handbag made from grass and leaves, is in the cupboard. A green plastic poncho is stuffed at the back of my wardrobe. My tooth is chipped and a scar on the inside of my lip confirms my only ever attempt at rock climbing. A small blowpipe, complete with a supply of darts sits on our shelves, and two framed pairs of heavy brass earrings hang on the sitting room wall.
We really did visit Sarawak, the great hard drive crash of 2011 may have deleted the photos, but hasn’t wiped our memories, and we still have the souvenirs’.