|Our Caribe "car" with a load of Iban visitors|
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.