Sunday, October 30, 2016

On the River

Animals out of the way, for now, it was time to explore the local area. What better way than by boat - up the Megkabong River into the Mangrove forests and on into the local fishing community. This was a great opportunity to see how the local population live and earn their living.

Puttering up the river, after checking out a soaring sea eagle (too far away to photograph), we got an amazing view of Mount Kinabalu with a glorious coronet of clouds. I could see why the locals are proud of their mountain, a 4,000m World Heritage site which attracts climbers and hikers from around the world.

Then we had an up close and personal trip through the mangroves, seeing the unique flora that grows in the tidal brackish waters. Malaysia is the third biggest mangrove holding country in the world, with Sabah holding half of that record - and we only saw a tiny, tiny part of it.

I was holding out for a mangrove crocodile (and Nasim did his best to spot one for me) - but had to settle for white cranes and macaques...neither of which stayed still long enough for photos.

After this fun trip through the maze of mangroves to the soundtrack of cicadas and diesel engines, we stopped at a village of Malay stilt houses to visit with the locals. As we debarked we noticed local women gutting the morning catch ready for home and market, these people redefined 'upcycling' - everything they use is in a second or third existence. 

I thought I saw lots of waste plastic in the water, and after thinking 'what a shame', I realised they made brilliant free buoys for the fishing spots. Tied together, milk bottles jostling with coke bottles and random plastic containers were unique markers for each fisherman.
The government built new stilt housing for the fisherfolk, but only 75% of the populations took up the option, so there is an anachronistic display of old and new houses.

Pandan coconut and sweet coffee awaited us, with a local cake called penjaram - a sweet cakey pancake made of rice flour, flour and sugar. 

The stilt house was obviously the centre of the community, being larger than most with thrones set out for elders and a bonang ready to play. 

A display of local weaving was laid out for us to see and, of course, their prized possesssions - from the shells of enormous mangrove horseshoe crabs, elderly bonang to the remnants of an ornate old school telephone and a battered typewriter.

Sitting on the floor seeing the water through the gaps was a weird sensation and after our coffee break we peered out of the window flap to see catfish frolicking under the house enjoying the penjaram scraps thrown by Nasim. While looking out the window, Nasim pointed out a neighbouring stilt house where he was born and grew up. A quick hello to hissing feral kittens and it was time to say goodbye to the local woman hosting us.

On our way back we pootled past an island that is the burial ground of the Sama-Bajau people; a race found across South East Asia. While they were historically involved in two uprisings against the North Borneo Chartered Company they are now peaceful people trying to follow their fishing traditions in a quickly changing modern world. 
Tied to branches of trees jutting out of the rock were cloths of yellow, red and white. These were gifts to the spirits whenever a wish was granted. Nasim pointed this out very proudly, as he is descended from the very people buried on this island.

Then a gentle trundle back to the mooring and we were whisked back to the hotel, hot, speechless and overawed.


CyberKitten said...

Sounds like you're building quite a memory store!

craziequeen said...

Yep - but already debating returning... :-)