This was my first experience seeing the Ibans bush skills in the jungle. We have walked a good 3 hours to our campsite, along one of the local Iban’s usual hunting grounds. With our packs down on the ground, our guides started to scan the area for a good spot to build shelter and kitchen areas. The chief guide then gathered the rest of the guides…murmurs a few words and they all disappears.
From a distance, we could hear chopping and crashing towering bamboo bowing down to the ground. One by one the guides came back to the camp area with materials to build shelter. Some had logs for fire, bamboo for shelter, Y shaped branches for erecting supports, leaves for cooking and tree vines for cordage. All in a matter of minutes.
Bamboo of course was the main material used. Guide Sabang expertly cut sections of the bamboo to cook rice and meat inside for our dinner. He then washes them in the stream to rid off the hairy and itchy tiny hairs on the bamboo using a leaf to rub them off.
While the kitchen was on the way, a few of the guides started to clear a small area to build a raised platform for sleeping. Bamboo and Y shaped wood was fetched for this purpose while guide Ujin harvested some jungle vines to use as cordage. Strangely, when I first say him stripping the bark off the vine, my initial thought was he will be using the bark for cordage. Instead, it is the inner part of the vine that he is after. With the barks stripped, Ujin used a stone to separate the inner fibers.
There were a total of 7 outsiders. Myself and Vincent brought our own hammocks and we were already putting up our hammocks as shelter building by the Ibans got on the way. It was an elevated sleeping platform for the visitors. Rather elaborate for a two nights stay but I guess they wanted us to be as comfortable as we can.
None of the Iban guides were sitting around resting. Everyone was busy with something. It was like watching a play. Everyone was doing their own things, all different from the other yet they were in sync in terms of what the final outcome needs to be.
It is true that bamboo has many uses. The Iban knows this very well. From cooking to shelter building, they also prepared us some ‘jungle’ cups. The outer green shell of the bamboo were removed to avoid getting the small hairy hairs into our drinks.
We were given one cup each but there was one particular cup that no one ones and it kept coming around. The guides brought with them a few bottles of what looks like crystal clear water. But this is no ordinary drinking water. It is the famous Langkau. A local favorite brew. I noticed my friend Jan’s face lit up whenever the small ‘cup’ was passed around.
It was the first day of our jungle trip in Batang Ai. So far, the experience has been nothing short of amazing. And while we visitors retreated to the comforts of our inflatable mats, sleeping bags and hammocks, we can hear from a distance the chatters of our Iban guide. What are they up to I wonder.