Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The road to Kampong Giam

It was 3 o'clock on a Saturday afternoon when I happened to bump into an old buddy Francis. Just when I thought I could slinker down on the kopitiam plastic chair for a nice cuppa when this kayaking crazy guy sweet talked me to joining him on a reconnoitre mission to an obscure sounding place...kampong Giam or something, for his next kayaking expedition.

The afternoon thunderstorm had just passed and the air was quite cool, I thought I could badger him for a quick plate of kolo mee before I went along with his plan but this old fox would have none of it, citing that time was of the essence. After much howling on my part, he finally relented but only for a cuppa.

It was already 3.30 when we set off. That the sky was still grey with menacing storm clouds did not worry this intrepid adventurer a tiny bit as he stepped on the pedal. Less than an hour later we were on the countryside along Jalan Padawan. Turning into a side road, we came to what passed as a Sarawak-style postcard picture of a lovely countryside. Francis, thanks to his keen eye for a nice picture dutifully enquire whether he need to stop the car by the road side for me to take a shot. Well, am I glad I did take the trouble to get out of the comfy car seat to squat on the grass and take the picture!




In short while, we reached what looked like a school with a large compound. As it was just after the rain, the sound of rushing water was getting closer and closer. We were near a river! Indeed, there it was just several feet down the road slope was a gushing stream. We got out of the car and carefully descent the slippery rock steps leading to the edge of the river which was only about twenty feet wide at the most. At 4.30pm in the afternoon with a heavy overcast, hope for taking great pictures faded as we both took out our cameras. But surprisingly it turned out to be acceptable. After a few more shots I made a mental note to come back again when the sun is shining for more dramatic photos.




Turning a few corners from this school, we finally arrived at Kpg Giam, a decrepit collection of wooden houses against the backdrop of a massive limestone hill. The villagers cast some curious glances at our direction as we parked our car nearby, otherwise everything seemed to be in order. No horde of kids running after us tugging our pants, the women folks didn't even smile at us. What happened to the stereotyped friendly Sarawakian? Our only inference was that maybe stranger in this village is not a very rare commodity after all. Whatever. (To quote a familiar word I'd often heard).



Farther down the road there was a newly built suspension bridge, much bigger and sturdier than the old one that gave way earlier. We crossed it over a swift flowing river, which Francis claimed to be Sarawak Kiri, the same river that finally flows pass Kuching's Main Bazaar before it empties itself to the sea. Another 10 minutes' walk pass some houses, we finally reached the bank of a wider river, presumably the same one that we saw while on the suspension bridge.

Again the current was rather swift, and the roaring waves crashed against the exposed rocks with great splashes. Some part of the river bank was sandy, not unlike a small beach, but most of it were rocky. There was a landing point where colourful longboats were tied up which provided great opportunity for self acclaimed accomplished photographers like yours truly. I suspect Francis was also of the same genre.



Suddenly out of the corner of his eye, he spied a piece of drift wood, marooned on a rock. Now it again takes the eyes of an art connoisseur like Francis to recognise that some drift wood are not just drift wood but nature's work of art, and indeed this curiously shaped piece of wood could pass off as coffee table sculptured by Henry Moore as commission by Picasso!

Only trouble is hauling a piece of 30 something kilograms of dead wood for quarter of a mile through a heavily populated kampong may make us look like bounty hunters, knowing that claiming that we want it for firewood does not hold water. What if the locals demanded a royalty payment? Worse, we could get a proper hiding for stealing their property.

Luckily a villager who had been observing us from a distance seemed to sense our predicament. We decided a careful approach so as not to raise an unduly alarm while balancing that with the look of casual disinterest at what we were carrying, each at one end of the wood. Our plan was to get as close to him as possible and then get pass him, now if he did not stop us, then we could assume that we were clear to go. Grunting audibly and grimacing pitifully we both managed a pained smile at the chap, who by now was looking elsewhere. Either he approved our souvenir hunting or he was sending a secret signal for fellow villagers hiding behind the bushes to help him nab us.

Fortunately it was a no-show. But the accursed piece of wood was too damn heavy to haul in one go. Even the euphoria of getting pass the "sentry" wouldn't power us all the way to the car, as we panted and panted like dogs after chasing cats. Occasionally we had to stop for rest in full views of many locals, while watching out for the imaginary pack of angry stick-wielding villagers to appear and apprehend us.


Mercifully after what seemed like tortuous hours of hauling we reached the car. We still had to stealthily lifted and plonked it into the boot. Finally after checking all the coast were clear, we both jumped into the car and roared off as if we'd just robbed the bank. I looked at my watch. It was almost six but the sky was darker than usual.

It certainly was a profitable outing for Francis and more so for me. I had gotten to see some of the more picturesque villages in their pristine state, waded knee deep in swift flowing river, picked up fist-size stones and shot putt them back into the waters. It was a childhood deja vu for me. While Francis got himself only a questionable "work of art" which detractors would only view as a piece of glorified firewood.

4 comments:

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blackwatertown said...

Great pictures and good stories on your blog.

blackwatertown said...

Great pictures and good stories on your blog.

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