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You Can Do It Part I – Bario to Pa Lungan and Back

September 22, 2010

Yes, you can do it, if you have a map.

first page of You Can Do It map

I took photos of this lovely hand drawn map of the “Buffalo Trail” at my guesthouse in Bario so I could walk myself to the remote village of Pa Lungan, without hiring a guide. And I deleted the second page because it was blurry, without thinking to retake the shot. A 5 page map with the 2nd page missing is not very useful. That 2nd page had the critical information about which path to take past Pa Ukat village. It was Sunday and absolutely everyone in the village was in church, so I couldn’t ask directions. I took a wrong turn resulting in an hour long detour until I finally met a boy skipping out on church who set me right.

Pa Ukat and rice paddies

dried fern and flower

On the 4 hour walk I passed through jungle, swap, rice paddies, stream crossings and clearings filled with ferns taller than me. After the boy who gave me directions, I saw nobody on the trail for 2 hours. Then a small group of people with a buffalo pulling a load passed me, and I didn’t see anyone else until I got to Pa Lungan. There had been a torrential rain the day before and parts of the trail were so muddy that my shoe got sucked off twice. I arrived encrusted in mud.

the trail through giant ferns

the only sign on the trail between Pa Ukat and Pa Lungan

I stayed a night in Pa Lungan with Mado who taught me some interesting things about the jungle which I’ll post about in a few days.

rather aggressive looking buffalo blocking my way

Pa Lungan

On the walk back to Bario I got a nasty leech bite next to my belly button. Leech bites aren’t usually a big deal – they bleed for a long time like maybe 8 hours because the leech injects an anticoagulant, but they don’t hurt. You don’t even feel the bite. I’d had several previous leech bites and they weren’t even visible once they stopped bleeding. But this one was different.

When I untucked my shirt I saw the dark iron colored grapefruit diameter stain on my shirt in the belly button area. Then I saw the puncture wound – dark black and the size of a mechanical pencil eraser, and a 2” long thread of partially congealed blood. I saw with relief that the leech wasn’t still hanging around inside my shirt or belly button. It must have dropped away bloated with its fill of my blood. More worrisome than the bite was the red ring that encircled it like a bull’s-eye. That’s what made me think it might be infected. After 4 or 5 days the bull’s-eye started to fade and I stopped obsessing about it.

Leaving Bario my flight was delayed for 2 hours and a friendly local woman with a group of teenagers asked me to join them for lunch. I thought how nice. We chatted for a few minutes about where I was traveling and then she asked me if I was a Christian. Turns out she’s a church youth group leader.

In 1973, a spiritual revival took place in Bario and the Kelabit as a community embraced Christianity wholeheartedly, becoming actively involved in spreading the revival to other parts of Sarawak.*

I said, “I’m not religious.”

“But you know there is heaven and hell.”

“I don’t believe in hell.”

“There is a hell.” This was followed by a monologue on the revival and her faith in Jesus.

Finally I said, “I know you believe that, but I don’t.” The monologue ended and praise Jesus, I had a non-religious conversation with her less-fervent daughter for the rest of the meal.

Other details I learned about the church are that they believe in the speaking of tongues, and that going to church in Bario is considered by some to be a tourist attraction (not one I’m ever going to witness) because it’s so intense.

Despite the attempted conversion, the vampire leech bite, a diversion on the wrong trail, and the Rob Snyder** “You Can Do It” earworm, my walk in the beautiful countryside around Bario was the highlight of 3 weeks in Sarawak province.

*Note 1: source http://www.unimas.my/ebario/paperwork2.html

**Note 2: I’m very disturbed by the earworm I got of the craptastic Rob Snyder saying You Can Do It from The Waterboy.

Rob Snyder is the worst successful actor I can think of. One of my heroes, Roger Ebert, agrees. His “Your Movie Sucks” reviews and book were started with the hilarious Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo 0 stars review.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. September 22, 2010 6:21 pm

    Well dear Sariah now I know why I am sitting at my desk neatly typing this message and
    you are out in deserted areas full of leaches, animals and ferns bigger that you. Wow, I have to say that so far I haven’t been worried about you but my auntie protectiveness did get challenged this morning!!!
    Thank goodness you are safe and leach free and have had another amazing experience!!!! I also hate leaches and had several attached to me when I was about eight years. I thought it would be cool to retreive some bull rushes from a swampy lake. Bad decision and I looked liked Medusa when I brought my trophy rushes to the shore.The same trip I was chased by a rather nasty big
    bear. Everyone said bears don’t exist on the Gulf islands!!! My experience was otherwise.
    Have fun and stay safe. Really miss you. Lauren xoxoxo

  2. September 24, 2010 6:22 pm

    Rob Snyder is the ugliest movie star I can think of bar none. Well, perhaps not ugly so much as unpleasant looking, but I singularly fail to see his appeal. But anyway, you didn’t write all this to have a discussion about him, I don’t think. I’ve been back at work for 2 weeks now, and it sucks. You should know that because you should enjoy every second of the freedom you have left to you. I’m sure you already know that, but it can’t hurt to remind you, right?
    Glad you’re well (vampire leeches aside) and very jealous of your ongoing travels.
    T.

    • September 24, 2010 10:26 pm

      Ice – I welcome any and all discussion panning a crappy and undeservedly successful actor. Yes, I am a lucky girl, still about 7 more months of “freedom”. Is C back at work too now?

  3. Sheila permalink
    October 8, 2010 6:53 pm

    you are a total STUD! miss you and amazed by you.

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