Saturday, 5 June 2010

Borneo River Action

Our Caribe "car" with a load of Iban visitors
We always think of our inflatable dinghy as our "car".  Here in Borneo, on the river Sungai Tulai, it is the quickest way for us to get to town, and really the only way to move around - visiting the long houses or bringing visitors to our boat.  Built by Caribe in Venezuela, it's now ten years old and still going strong.  On our last visit here the Caribe carried a mother in labour to hospital - and that child was named after Ley.  Last week it carried a badly injured young man to the same hospital, after he was involved in an accident in the longhouse.  Bleeding badly, he was carried from the longhouse in a woven sling under a stout pole and loaded onto the floor.  We hear that he survived, but may not have use of his fingers.

Local Boats 
Our Iban friend Jampie made his own boat 5 years ago.  He went into the jungle, cut the tree down and then cut the timber into long planks.  These were left to dry out and then he built his boat.  That tradition continues, though this year we were surprised to see new styles emerging - boats clearly built for speed.  This year, the young men are building small racing boats, practicing for a competitive regatta to be held on the river in July.  Though the designs are new, they're assembled with the same skills used by their fathers.  
 Each boat uses a small (standard) chinese manufactured petrol engine, air cooled with a single cylinder. Propeller selection and hull shape seems to be up to the builder.  Every day this week they've been carried down to the river and tested, sometimes with dramatic results. Iban boats are usually steered by a single paddle, held over the side.  These new boats have rudimentary rudders with a basic rope steering system.  These afternoon practice sessions are great entertainment for the locals - big and small, old and young, the community crowds the dock, offering words of encouragement and helpful suggestions. There is always alot of laughter. Neil uses our dinghy as the "crash" boat.  He has towed a few boats back to the dock and was instrumental in one rescue where the driver flew out of his boat whilst turning too sharply.  The boat sped off into the jungle along the riverbank.  It was totally hidden in the undergrowth and a machete was called for to hack a path into it.  All the time the engine was roaring away - no safety cut out switches here. 

Glamour For The Girls
There are three yachts now visiting the longhouses here on Sungai Tulai for the Gawai festival.  Yesterday afternoon the three cruising women decided to add a bit of glamour for the local girls.  They gathered up nail files, polish, polish remover and a splash of perfume, and headed into the long house.                                                                        
Ley gave a quick talk on  manicure and nail polishing techniques.  Nails were cleaned and filed, cuticles pushed down and then the painting began. One coat of clear base, two coats of colour and then two top protective coats - all in fairly rapid succession.  Extreme speed nail painting followed, but we all had a great time and many beautifully manicured hands were seen in the long house that evening. Many thanks to Kikki from SV Endelig and Christina from SV Roxy for helping hands and the perfume.

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