An oasis of tranquillity and nature

Trip Start Feb 01, 2011
Trip End Mar 31, 2011

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Flag of Malaysia  , Sarawak,
Saturday, March 19, 2011

19th - 23rd March

Bareo (or Bario as we know it) is a 50 min flight from Miri in a twin-otter plane which holds 18 people.  You are weighed with your bags BEFORE you get on the plane - say no more!!  I flew over acres and acres of Palm Oil plantations and then jungle with brown winding rivers among this jungle area.  We stopped at Marudi on the way - deposited some people and picked up a refrigerator, a bed, an outboard motor, lots of foodstuffs and other packages.  The human cargo had to sit in the front of the plane and all the rest were put on the floor and seats behind us!!  It was a sight to behold - the only things missing were the farm animals!  The pilot and co-pilot chatted to us from the cockpit as we flew - they had the connecting door between the flight deck and passenger area open all the time!!  Anyway, we all arrived safely and had a smooth flight.

The airport at Bario is just a tiny strip and the plane looked like a child's toy as the pilot swung it around on this strip.  When I got off, no one checks anything and my hosts were there to meet me in the proverbial 4WD - again lots of unmade roads to come.  However, the government are in the process of making a sealed road through the small town to the airport - it should be finished by next year, with lots of luck.  The town of Bario is set in a valley surrounded by the Kelabit mountains.  The race are also called Kelabit people and they are a very friendly, gently, softly-spoken people - many of them have never been outside their own town or surrounding area but they seem to be very contented. 

In 1973 the Evangelical Missions came to this region and converted them all to Christianity.  I went to a service on Sunday and it was a really happy occasion with lots of singing and tambourines and a LOOOONG sermon!!  The services usually last abut 3 hours so those of you who complain about the length of our services, should give this one a try.  I left after one and three quarter hours, mainly because I could not understand one word of their language.  Many of these people attend a service every morning at 5.30 before they start work - a gong is rang to call people to prayer - this woke me up but I remained in bed!

The place where I stayed was beautiful - it was a converted longhouse and my bedroom was in the art gallery - how cool is that!  The owner (Stephen) is an artist and has exhibited in Cambridge, UK as well as selling many of his paintings to the university there.  All the food was cooked and prepared by Stephen and his wife - Stephen is Kelabit born and his wife is Danish.  They are the most perfect hosts and the food was fantastic - all home-cooked with fresh vegetables, wild boar and fish.  All standard foodstuffs has to be air shipped from Miri as there is no other form of transport - it would take 22 hours to drive through the jungle to the nearest big town and this would be over mountain terrain!!

There is no TV - no Internet access (only at the airport), no wi-fi and up until this year there was only one wind-up telephone in the grounds of the school, where the locals had to queue up and wait their turn to use this really old-fashioned phone!!  Now there is a mobile phone connection but still no land lines - so they all have mobile phones - the first sign of ruining this peaceful and nomadic region of people.  I suppose it had to come sometime - I am just glad I went there now because in another year the roads will be all sealed and concrete - no doubt there will be wi-fi and satellite TV and junk food - what a shame.

The first afternoon Stephen took me for an orientation of the area - saw the local school (where the children eat, sleep and learn and go home at week-ends to far away villages.  He took me to a high viewing point which had fantastic far-reaching scenery.  I went to see a longhouse and each village has it's own church as well as the big one I went to in the main area.  People here do not smoke or drink - except some who do so on the quiet.  It was a very good introduction to the local area.

I had 4 nights in Bario and it was the most peaceful place I have been to - I could have stayed another few nights - it had a most magical atmosphere and so laid-back.  There are 4 rooms here for accommodation and at the time I was there, the visitors were from Kuala Lumpur, Brunei and Argentina - we all had dinner together in the evening - together with our hosts.  On one of the days I went for a trek with the girl from Argentina (who lives in Japan) - the countryside is beautiful and you can hear a pin drop - it is that quiet - apart from the beautiful birds.  It is amazing - not having the shackles of a western  life-style - how contented these people are - it reminded me of my youth in Ireland, when you did not have a care in the world.  It also reminded me of the very first time I visited Lourdes, (where Our Lady appeared to St Bernadette) - the serenity was so unexpected and quite surprising.

There is one very long hike one can do - by boat and foot - but the weather forecast was too unpredictable and it would mean fording rivers on foot, if the rains were very heavy - so, I decided to be sensible and just enjoy my immediate surroundings!

When Stephen and Tine (his wife) took me to the airport when I was due to leave, I felt quite sad to be saying good-bye to them and Bario - I had a most wonderful time there and am honoured to be part of that place for 4 days.
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