Travel Features > Up the Ulu
Day 3 - Kapit to Long Murum
(Saturday 22nd August 1998)
Having been told to meet in the hotel lobby at 6.30 am, I crawled
out of bed at a ridiculously early hour and went in search of
breakfast. Kapit was starting to wake up and I quickly found a
coffee shop and a bowl of noodles. At 6.30 I sat in the hotel
lobby, alone. Thirty minutes later a couple of people emerged
but by this time it was quite clear that we would not be leaving
anyway near on time. A few die-hard party-goers were suffering
from an overdose of tuak the night before and were in no mood
to get up. One guy was dead to the world and another had opted
to sleep in the bath tub rather than his bed. This strategic move
allowed him to vomit at will without the need to crawl from the
bed to the bathroom. It took an hour so to wake the living dead.
We finally left Kapit around 8.30 am. After a short bus ride,
some waiting around and a short longboat ride we arrived at a
logging camp on the Balleh River where the vehicles had been unloaded
the night before.
The driver of this logging truck had to slide his vehicle into
the ditch to avoid hitting the lead vehicle or going off a cliff.
At 10 am we set off for the first off-road stage of the expedition,
which turned out to be one very long day. The initial buzz of
finally starting the journey soon wore off as the convoy ground
to a halt every hour or so for frequent stops for a cigarette,
a pee or a chat. Further down the track these stops became longer
as one vehicle was cursed with a number of mechanical problems.
Thankfully the rainforest scenery of the Hose Mountains lived
up to exceptions so time passed by quickly. Day quickly became
night but we still had a considerable distance left to cover.
© Wayne Tarman, 1998
Around 10 pm we came to a river crossing. A bridge had collapsed
and the logging company's road crew had yet to complete a new
one. This meant driving across the remains of the old bridge that
was now covered by a few meters of mud. The lead vehicle boldly
gave its all in an attempt to cross but was soon bogged down in
the mud. The logging company's road and bridge work crew came
to the rescue and bulldozed a path. Even then most cars had to
be winched out and some had to be dragged out by a bulldozer.
It took an hour to clear the river crossing, the convoy's first
experience of a real off-road obstacle, and another 4 hours to
reach our destination.
Kayan lady at Long Murum.
We arrived at the river crossing point for Long Murum, a Kayan
Longhouse, around 2.30 in the morning, 9 hours behind schedule.
Everyone was knackered. Wilfred Gomez, the event director, announced
that we would leave the next day at the previously scheduled time
of 4.30 am. This didn't go down too well. I tried to speak to
Gomez, talk some sense, and explain that the drivers needed more
rest. 'This is nothing, in the Trans-Borneo we travelled non-stop
for 36 hours. 4WD is an endurance test,' was his reply. Too tired
to argue and aware of my virgin off-roader status, and thoroughly
fed up the situation I lay down in the mud to ponder life. Meanwhile,
the Kuching contingent of off-roaders took up an appeal with the
© Wayne Tarman, 1998
Eventually after a heated debate, a decision was made to cross
the river to the longhouse, stay there and leave at 6.00 am the
next morning. We were ferried across the river in a longboat and
despite our late arrival received a fantastic welcome from the
longhouse community who had stayed up to great us. After a mandatory
welcome glass of tuak and the introductions and warm greetings
were over, a spread of food was laid out before us. The food and
warmth of the Kayan community at Long Murum gave everyone a boost
of energy and despite being exhausted most of the Sarawak Safari
crew stayed up for some longhouse-style entertainment of traditional
dances, conversation and naturally the odd glass of tuak. I crashed
at 4 am. 16 hours on the road and the odd biscuit for lunch followed
by a hearty meal of chicken, fish and jungle vegetables and some
soothing rice wine resulted in me sleeping soundly.
Downing a welcoming glass of tuak at Long Murum.
© Wayne Tarman, 1998