Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Longhouse by 4WD adventure

Go back in time with us to see a traditional Dayak longhouse. Driving the rain muddied roads in comfortable, new 4 WD vehicles, it can take about 6 hours, depending on the weather.

Along the route we stopped at a riverside village where we saw several canoes being built in the traditional way. First, the craftsman finds the right tree and hollows it out, then forms and burnishes the keel, later adding planks to the side. Finally, it is brightly painted.

After our long trip on muddy roads, the longhouse village put on a welcome ceremony, and later sang and danced. Climbing up the notched tree trunk, which serves as the staircase, we found our simple rooms and strung up mosquito nets. The longhouse is made of huge ulin or ironwood posts, and the walls of bark. Power is limited to a few hours at night.

While our cook prepared supper, we enjoyed animated conversations with the local people, keen to get to know more about their guests.

Early morning our local guide arranged a trek through a rubber jungle, including wading through peat coloured streams, and watching as the latex oozed out of the bark into bamboo sections.

Exploring the village's outstanding carvings and sandungs, or bone houses, and then visiting the kaharingan, or traditional religion temple, was a unique experience. Invited by locals to attend a ceremony to send some children off to the capital for higher education, we had truly engaged in their lives.

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