On the trail of the headhunters in Sarawak

How about this for the entrance to a national park?

We arrived by boat, and waded from the shallows up to the beach in gloriously warm water

I couldn’t understand why nobody was swimming, until our guide explained that the waters here are home to crocodiles – and the saltwater crocodile is the largest living reptile and most aggressive of all crocodiles.  Suddenly I understood very clearly why all the beautiful little bays along the coast-

– are utterly deserted.

There are some amazing rock formations.  This one is the snakeshead rock –

which looks as though it’s been created by some giant who’s heavily into the latest stone balancing craze.

And this one looked just like a giant piece of driftwood –

– well, it looked like that to me, anyway.

There are more than forty indigenous ethnic groups in Sarawak, including the Iban, who were the original headhunters of Borneo.  Our guide was an Iban –

– and he was a formidable animal and plant hunter, but luckily showed no interest in detaching anyone’s head from their shoulders.

The Iban and several of the other tribes live in longhouses and the Sarawak cultural village has brought a whole variety of them together.

Some are short –

– note the staircase, made of a single tree trunk, which can be pulled up into the house if invaders threaten.

Some are tall –

– the narrow, single-trunk staircase up to this one was terrifyingly tortuous to climb.

And some are round and rather gloomy inside –

 

They all seem to be full of beautiful girls

who obviously have access to modern dentistry.

These two are engaged in the traditional age-old practices –

– of embroidery and texting.

The witch doctor has a surgery in one of the longhouses –

If you’re ill, he takes your illness and transfers it to one of the dolls –

which is then floated down the river in a special boat –

We were warned never to touch one of the dolls or one of the boats, if we see them on a river somewhere.  Apparently the illness will transfer to you if you touch it … scary stuff.

The village puts on performances of traditional dances, but unfortunately the dance of their fearless warriors put me in mind of Widow Twanky –

and I couldn’t take them seriously at all.

 

 

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