Jungle trekking at Bario

First off, I must congratulate this group of adventurers who braved the tropical rainforests of Sarawak in a 4-day 3-night jungle trekking trip to Bario and Pa Lungan.

Proud Johoreans who conquered
Bario's Prayer Hill
Well done, everyone!  The group, made up mainly of Johoreans included my brother, Kenneth and his wife, Veronica, and their son, Brendon, along with our eldest sister, Ruby, and our Aunty Sylvia, as well as several of their former colleagues in Johor Baru.  Cousin Yeen, a keen bush-walker, joined the group from Sydney, Australia.

While I’ve had my share of outdoor adventures like whitewater rafting and cross-island trekking, hiking is not one of my favourite things to do.  So I decided to sit out of this one and just be remotely involved – by phone updates and photos.

But why go all the way to Bario?  Now that this group has returned – complete with bruises, grass cuts, sun-burn and leech bites – we know that a trek around Bario, home of the Kelabit people, is the ultimate tropical adventure for any true-blue hiker. 

Since they moved to live and work in the capital city, my brother and his wife discovered that the high-pressure work environment and city lifestyle was taking a heavy toll on their health.  They certainly needed to have more outdoor physical exercise and when their hiker-colleagues invited them along for weekend hill treks, they soon got hooked on hiking.

Jungle trekkers arrive at Miri Airport
I’m told that this plan to go jungle trekking in Sarawak was hatched among the regular hikers, months ago.  It all started when colleagues of my brother and his wife encouraged them to take up hiking as a hobby and they joined this group of hikers to trek up and down the many hills in and around the Klang Valley.

After getting into this sport, my brother and his wife were often joined by Brendon for weekend hill climbs.  As they gained confidence, they also took our aunts and uncles (AKA That Seventies Group!) along for the experience.

Sign on the weighing scale in Miri Airport
With the encouragement of cousin Shaun (Aunty Sylvia’s son!) who recently enjoyed a similar Bario experience, my brother and his wife were motivated to take up the challenge and join the group for this jungle trek.

Shaun was however, rather reluctant for his mother to join because while she was a former sportswoman and remains physically fit, she recently underwent surgery on her hip.  Of course, she is well now but with his own experience of the jungle trek, Shaun was still concerned.

But I must give a special commendation to Aunty and Ruby who certainly did very well throughout because some of the jungle trails were rather, (to put it mildly) challenging.  

Yeen was clearly more physically fit from her regular bush-walking hobby Down Under but she was apprehensive about the jungle trekking in Sarawak because she was not used to the tropical heat and humidity.  It turned out that she did remarkably well, mostly taking the lead as the group made their way along the jungle trails!

Inside the light aircraft from Miri to Bario
Nevertheless, this motley crew showed true grit and strong camaraderie as they braved the treacherous tracks that were loamy from three consecutive nights of tropical rains!

Yeen arrived in KL a day ahead of the departure date while participants based in JB, made their way to KLIA where they would fly to Miri.

From the photos and messages that flooded our phones, the excitement at every stage was palpable from the very start.  They shared shots of their group queuing to check in their luggage, eating fresh fruits while waiting and then seated on board. 

Arrived, checked into their
homestay and hit the trail up!
Then their safe arrival at Miri airport with everyone looking pumped up.  From there, they would catch an internal flight into Bario.  Just then Veronica sent an update that their first adventure just happened: The flight was rescheduled due to bad weather!

I agreed with them that there was no better way to take advantage of the waiting but to go in search of some local food in the nearby shops.  And they enjoyed some Sarawak noodles.

The next update were a series of shots that showed Aunty stretched out on the seats in the airport for a snooze (why not?) and then the check-in for their internal flight by a light aircraft.  It was a pleasant surprise to discover that each passenger was required to weigh themselves with their hand luggage to ascertain the total weight on board and ensure that the flight was not (ahem!) overweight!

I was concerned that we were going to be hit by a deluge of photo updates over the next few days but Shaun assured me that it will be for only a few more hours until they reached Bario.

Brendon doing a somersault in sheer joy!
He said there would be hardly any contact in the next few days because there is zero telephone reception in the jungles with only a small area in the village where there is limited Wifi and just two square meters in Bario airport with Wifi!

He warned that the floodgates would open as soon as they returned to Miri and civilization and to expect photos and updates to pour in!  And Shaun was right.

The silence was somewhat harrowing too but we were assured that they were in good hands with accommodation arranged at homestays with an itinerary that included hikes up Bario’s Prayer Mountain, up another Prayer Mountain at Pa Lungan and a longboat ride.  I learnt that Ruby and Aunty Sylvia would sit out of the more challenging track and instead be ferried to the next destination by a 4WD vehicle.

I imagined how the torrential rain that caused the reschedule of their internal flight, would have turned soil into mud and footpaths into streams!  And it was so.

Bravely picking their way along the swishy mud trails
Ruby later told the tale of their off-road adventure where the skillful driver, named Jolly, maneuvered the 4WD vehicle – slipping and sliding – often losing traction on the muddy trails. 

Part of the route was carved out from the hillsides and even as she sent out arrow prayers, she trusted the experienced driver to take them safely on even when out of the corner of her eye, she saw how the other edge of the road bordered ravines with sheer drops into the tropical rainforests!

Steep climbs too!
The first message I received again from Veronica two days later said they were all ready to board the “little mossie” from Bario back to Miri.  They were just waiting for the pilot who was having his breakfast!

Later back in Miri, while waiting for the connecting flight back to KLIA, the group explored the nearby streets and my brother was quick to spot a young man wearing the popular JDT sports jersey!  He sent the shot to me captioned: Hidup Demi Johor!

I’ve yet to hear the full story but from the snippets and shots I’ve collected, there is more than enough evidence to proof that this group has much to be proud of, especially in completing such a grueling adventure.

These city-slickers have shown a side that belie their usual form so if you should meet any one of them in the mall, bank, office or uni, do commend them for their courage in accomplishing such a challenging feat!  Congratulations!

View from inside the 4WD vehicle;
Check out the sheer drop [Left] on the left side of this track carved out from the hillside!
Tired by happy trekkers at Pa Lungan
The group in Bario with homestay hosts, Stephen, his wife Tina and son, Noah
The group at Pa Lungan with homestay hosts, Philip and Pauline
A picture tells a thousand words so let’s leave the photos to tell the story of their exciting achievements at Bario and Pa Lungan in Sarawak.  Who knows?  Maybe this will inspire more people to take up hiking as a hobby and develop a healthier respect for Nature.

Check out this link: https://quik.gopro.com/v/j9D0GEIiSx/ for a video of the Bario-Pa Lungan Adventure and see for yourselves that jungle trekking is not for the faint-hearted!

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